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Independence Day seems the ideal time to reflect on America’s journey in wine.

When the first settlers arrived in the 16th century, they found an abundance of native vines. These indigenous grapes included concord, muscadine and the less known Cynthiana. The challenge for early American winemakers was not the lack of vines but in finding New World grapes that produced wines that met the expectations of their Old World palates.

In an effort to meet this challenge, around 1619, the first European vines were exported to Virginia. The plantings spread across much of the East Coast, but the transplants generally proved to be a poor match for the new terroir’s pests, diseases and climate.

The plantings of these imported vines failed for years until hybrids were created using the native American vines.

But it wasn’t until the late 18th century that America’s place in wine history was secured. That was when Spanish missionaries in California found that European vines could thrive in the region. If you fast forward through vine disease, Prohibition, the World Wars and market instability, it brings us today to a country ranked fourth in the world in wine production behind only France, Spain and Italy.

Today, vines flourish and wine is made in all 50 states. Explore and enjoy the wines of America. To get you started, here are some picks from California.


  • 2008 Cellar No. 8 Pinot Noir, California (about $12 retail)
  • 2007 Gallo Family Vineyards Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, California (about $12 retail)
  • 2008 Bonny Doon Big House White, California (about $12 retail)


  • 2007 Honig Cabernet Sauvignon, California (about $40 retail)
  • 2003 San Simeon Cabernet Sauvignon, California (about $26 retail)
  • 2006 Bell Chardonnay, California (about $30 retail)
  • 2008 Lot 1 Candor Merlot, California (about $23 retail)