In the vast landscape of up-and-coming wine regions, the U.S. actually has quite a lot to brag about.
They're the kinds of places that in-the-know locals have long espoused, and ahead-of-the-curve enthusiasts have guarded and played strategically like a strong poker hand. It's a region like Temecula Valley in southern California, which is creating an identity for itself in a state already brimming with viticultural star power. Or perhaps it's the small wine trails of Old Mission Peninsula in Michigan or Arizona's Verde Valley, which are making big impressions with wines that are a truly unique reflection of place.
Read on for a look at six favorite up-and-comers in the world of wine.
Temecula Valley, Calif.
This southern California region has been gaining attention for its award-winning wines and is steadily stepping out of the shadow of the state's big-name wine regions. Situated about an hour outside San Diego, the area's vineyards benefit from a location that is both elevated (about 1,500) and naturally cooled by the Pacific air. Popular varietals from the region include Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, and Syrah, but some wineries also grow Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Sangiovese, among others. (Photo courtesy Wilson Creek Winery)
Names to know: Wilson Creek Winery, Falkner Winery (praised for its "soft, food-friendly style wines"), Thornton Winery, and South Coast Winery, which, in 2009, was named "Golden State Winery of the Year" for the second consecutive year.
Verde Valley, Ariz.
Given the growing interest in the Verde Valley over the last few years, this "under-discovered" wine region might soon have to lose the prefix. Woven between Sedona and three surrounding areas, the region boasts only a handful of small, family-owned vineyards and tasting rooms — four and five, respectively, to be exact. In terms of character, the wines of this region are heavily influenced by a microclimate that combines arid desert heat in the daytime, cool evenings, and volcanic soil. (Warning: If you're not a local, getting your hands on these bottles might be a bit of a challenge, although some are available online.)
Names to know: Considering that there are only four wineries, it's worth it to get to know all of them: Alcantara Vineyards (the first winery on the Verde River, it produces 12 different varietals), Javelina Leap (try their Zinfandels), Oak Creek Vineyards, and Page Springs Cellars (specializing in European-style wines that highlight the terroir).
Yadkin Valley, N.C.
In a landscape once dominated by tobacco and dairy farms, the Yandkin Valley is giving North Carolina something else besides barbecue to brag about. This rapidly developing wine region, the state's first AVA, grew from four wineries in 2001 to 35 in 2011. Located along the Blue Ridge Mountains, the area's temperate climate and clay soil make it a great venue for growing a number of European varietals (Chardonnay, Viognier, Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, and Cabernet Franc).