Whether you are a football fan or not, you have to admit that the Super Bowl holds excitement for everyone. It is a chance to catch up with good friends, eat caloric foods that you had given up for the month of January, watch exciting new commercials, and pretend that you don’t really have to get up early the next morning. I just can’t wait.
Also, I do enjoy opening a nice wine, or two. Traditionally, I choose a wine from each of the competing team’s home states. When the teams come from California, Washington state or New York, it is an easy pick. But what about all of the others?
Wine is being made in all 50 American states. But it is awfully hard to find some of those wines on our local wine shelves. Long story, but suffice to say that it all started with the repeal of Prohibition in the second quarter of the last century, and the handing of the ball to the states to just run with it. In other words, each state was given complete control of their own individual wine laws.
Basically, it is like we are a country of 50 different countries, and we do not all play the same game.
This has been a hard problem to tackle when it comes to procuring wine from outside your home state. In the past, some states have allowed their wines to be shipped to eligible receiving states, but others have considered out-of-state shipping to be illegal procedure. As a consumer, it was just too confusing to try to scramble around it all.
“Free the Grapes!” was the chant that grew audible from the vineyards across America. A grass-roots organization was formed in 1998 (freethegrapes.org) with a mission to review the rules that prohibit consumers from purchasing wine directly from wineries and retailers, and help overturn any bad calls. Their goal was to ensure consumer choice in wine, and they have succeeded in gaining lots of yardage over the past few decades.
Since 1998, the number of states that were allowed to ship wine has increased from 17 to 43. We are now just seven states short of a first down, which will mean that we are officially a nation that can share its wines! However, there is much work still to do at state level, and we can thank the many dedicated players that have not given up.
For a game update, you can visit shipcompliant.com to see the amazing progress that has taken place, and to check out the latest 2016 DTC (Direct to Consumer) Wine Shipping Report. If reading numbers and statistics is not your gig, no worries. There are plenty of easy color-coded maps that helped me. I mean, that will help you.
As for the top wine-producing states in America, you may be surprised at who is holding best field position. States like Pennsylvania, Texas, Ohio, Missouri, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Arizona and Georgia are cranking out great stuff. Even if their football teams didn’t make it through the playoffs, there is still reason to celebrate.
Although my favorite football team will not be participating in this year’s festivities, I am thrilled to be able to honor the Super Bowl competitors by sipping on wines from their individual states. And fortunately, both states can ship without penalties!
North Carolina is no sloucher in the American wine league. Residents have been making wine since the early days of colonization. Back in the 17th century, they became famous for drafting a native American grape variety called Scuppernong which produces sweet wines. But since the year 2000, their special teams have focused on Vitis vinifera grapes (Chardonnay, Cabernet, Pinot noir, Syrah, etc.), which have quickly put them on the fine wine map.
The number of wineries in North Carolina has quadrupled in the past 15 years, and they now have 100 listed on their roster. There are three approved American Viticultural Areas (AVA) in North Carolina: Haw River Valley AVA, Swan Creek AVA and Yadkin Valley AVA. I have procured a lovely red from the Yadkin Valley called Raylen Category 5 Red 2013 ($20). It is a Cabernet-based red blend that is named after a hurricane, and it packs quite a punch from what I’ve heard. Let’s see if Cam Newton and his Panthers can follow suit.
Colorado may best be known for skiing, but there is a terroir of gold in those hills. Vines were first intentionally grounded here by miners back in the 19th century. Most of the vineyards are on the slopes of the Rocky Mountains. The state is home to two designated American Viticultural Areas: the Grand Valley AVA and the West Elks AVA. They have tied with North Carolina on number of wineries (about 100), but are at a much higher elevation, giving them a bit of an edge on endurance. For the vines that is.
I was able to get my hands on a double gold medal-winning Colorado wine at last year’s Finger Lakes International Wine Competition auction for Camp Good Days. Allis Ranch Reserve Syrah 2010 ($27) is produced by a winery that focuses on French Rhone varietals. I’ll be popping the cork on this one at kickoff, knowing that Syrah always gets better with age. As do some quarterbacks. All the best to Peyton Manning and the Broncos.
Wishing you all a happy Super Bowl, whatever you decide to sip on.