Saturday, September 20, 2008

Project to promote wines outside the West Coast

Does American wine exist outside of California, Oregon and Washington, the accepted triad of states that make up what’s known as “wine country?”

Dave McIntyre would like to think so. Haven’t heard of him? Well, honestly, I hadn’t either until Thursday when I was directed to
Wine Line, an Internet column that McIntyre has used as a reservoir for his thoughts on wine since 1999. A wine columnist for The Washington Post, he has made an enormous contribution to the understanding and appreciation of wine. Don’t believe me? Just check the string of stories that are stored under his Archives link.

But this story doesn’t so much focus on McIntyre as the plan that he and Fort Worth Star-Telegram wine columnist Jeff Siegel are cooking up to bring the rest of America and its wine production out of the cellar, so to speak. Gathering commitments to contributions from wine bloggers and writers all over the country, they have created a Web site called (you can look, but there’s nothing but a title there yet) that will serve as the posting point for all these stories on the wines and wineries in most of the country’s 47 other states. The project will begin in earnest Oct. 6 and over the next couple weeks should pack the site with links to the various columnists and bloggers and their posts on several regional wines or wineries.

Asked in an e-mail what led them to plan this, McIntyre wrote back that “we were thinking that ‘American wine’ to most people means California, Oregon and Washington, and that local wines are still regarded as novelties, something to be enjoyed at a festival or on a weekend outing to a winery. We're making the argument that with wine produced in all 50 states and the growth the last few years being outside California, that it's time to look again at local wines.”

They’ll do that with writers posting stories to their individual blogs either before Oct. 6 or during that week, with wine columnists from several metros (Washington Post on Oct. 8), DC Examiner and Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Oct. 9, and Siegel on Oct. 15) mentioning this project and linking to the site.

The site will contain links not only to each of the posts and newspaper articles, but also to regional wine-related information like state wine boards and trade groups, and RSS feeds for regional wine blogs and Web sites. Among the states and regions to be included: Georgia, Virginia, Texas, Missouri, New York, Maryland, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Wisconsin, Ontario, British Columbia, Michigan, Kentucky and Ohio. Now that I’ve committed, you can add Pennsylvania to the list, which in McIntyre’s words will provide the kind of extensive coverage to help wine drinkers “overlook the hype and overkill that surrounds the wine business in the United States. Wine is made in all 50 U.S. states, and it’s about time wine drinkers knew that.

“The number of wineries in the United States has more than doubled in the last six years," he added, "with most of that growth coming outside California, in states like Colorado, Virginia and North Carolina. With quality improving as well, local wine is no longer a novelty.”

Adds Siegel, also an author of the blog The Wine Curmudgeon, in the news release: “If you’re in Burgundy, you don’t drink wine from Bordeaux. But Americans think that if it doesn’t come from California, it must be crap. And that is just plain wrong.”