Americans drink millions of gallons of wine every year. In fact, the act of wine drinking has become an art all its own. The history of American wine stretches back to 1629 when the first grapes were planted in what is now present day San Antonio, New Mexico. Today, there are now over 8,000 wineries in North America producing hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of gallons of wine every year. But what led up to this point, and where did wine production begin in the U.S.?
In the beginning there was wine..
Believe it or not, but the first American wineries were established by Spanish missionaries in 1769. These missionaries started out with what we call the ‘Mission grape’ but they knew it by the name Criolla or “Colonized European”. Grape connoisseurs are well aware of the poor quality of these first wineries. It wasn’t until the first official commercial winery was tilled from the dirt of California’s northern region that North American wine took off.
Sonoma’s Incredible Climate
It wasn’t long before commercial wineries recognized that the climate in northern California was much more suitable for growing superior quality grapes. It was then that General Mariano Vallejo became the first major winegrower in the region. Following his success in Sonoma the father of modern viticulture in California, Agoston Haraszthy, became a leading wine maker and cultivator. His manual, “Report on Grapes and wines in California” encouraged experimentation with different soils and dry cultivation. This revolutionized the way wineries grew their crop and is still the best known method for grape production.
After the country went through prohibition, wine production was of extremely poor quality. It wasn’t until the 1970s that wine production took off and America regained its place as a superior wine maker on the world scene. Today, some of the best wines in the world are cultivated in Napa Valley and Sonoma California. Through years of experimentation and proper cultivation methods, an incredibly diverse North American wine selection has been born.