7 American Wineries Mixing Tradition And Innovation

Winemaking has existed for thousands of years, its traditions entrenched in cultures from France to China. It's not until relatively recently that the United States has emerged as a viticultural powerhouse, with the majority of attention focused on growing regions in California and the Pacific Northwest. Most people are familiar with Napa and Sonoma, but American vino has far more to offer beyond these eminent areas. The wineries included here attest to that, mixing up tradition with innovative approaches in states from Virginia to Montana. This video was made with Ezvid Wikimaker.

7 Wineries in the US Combining Traditional and Modern Methods

Name Location
Flora Springs Winery St. Helena, California
Billsboro Winery Geneva, New York
Tongue River Winery Miles City, Montana
New Kent Winery New Kent, Virginia
The Carlton Winemakers Studio Carlton, Oregon
Messina Hof Bryan, Fredericksburg, and Grapevine, Texas
Cameron Winery Dundee, Oregon

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In Depth

While countries like France and Italy are steeped in the age-old tradition of winemaking, vineyards all over the United States have managed to rise to the forefront of what it now means to be a successful winery. Whether it's through the types of grapes they use, the processes in which they produce their wine, or the ways that they have integrated winemaking into the 21st century, here are seven American wineries, in no particular order, that are mixing tradition and innovation.

First up, at #1 on this list is the Flora Springs family estate in Napa Valley, California. Flora Springs is deeply entrenched in Napa Valley history. In fact, the vineyard itself was first erected in 1885 as the Rennie Brothers Winery. Then, in the late 20th century, that vineyard fell into disrepair due to a destructive combination of the vine disease phylloxera, the Great Depression, and of course, Prohibition.

A new era began in 1977 when Jerry and Flora Komes purchased the old Rennie property including 325 acres of land, 60 of which were planted to vineyard. Now, Flora Springs creates a number of different wines, highlighted by their Trilogy wine, which brings together their Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot and Malbec. This winery also practices sustainable farming. They do this by building healthy soils rich in beneficial microorganisms and organic matter, building blue bird and owl nesting boxes as well as raptor perches to control pests, mechanically tilling their soils instead of spraying, and using drip irrigation to carefully control their water usage.

Now, Flora Springs creates a number of different wines, highlighted by their Trilogy wine, which brings together their Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot and Malbec.

Coming in at #2 is the Billsboro Winery. Overlooking the northern end of Seneca Lake, in the Finger Lakes region of New York, their century old barn serves as home to their main tasting room. Surrounded by 100-year-old walnut trees, terraced fields and a deep wooded ravine, the property reminds visitors just how historic this part of the United States is.

Co-owner Vinny Aliperti has worked as a winemaker for over 20 years. Along with his wife Kim Aliperti, the two have created wines that have earned praise from "Wine Spectator," "The Washington Post," "Wine and Spirits," and more. Vinny has also worked with the startup, Atwater Estate Vineyards, where he has helped head up winemaking operations of over 15 different varieties, bringing the economics of winemaking into the 21st century.

At the #3 spot is Tongue River Winery in Miles City, Montana. While most people think of warm and dry locations when it comes to vineyards and wineries, Tongue River Winery has managed to turn Montana into a winemaking haven. Rather than focusing on traditional wine grapes that would surely die in Montana's cold climate, they have instead opted to focus on fruit exclusively from the Northern Plains.

Rather than focusing on traditional wine grapes that would surely die in Montana's cold climate, they have instead opted to focus on fruit exclusively from the Northern Plains.

Tongue River Winery's grapes, such as Frontenac Gris, Frontenac Blanc and La Crescent, are hybrid crosses between European and wild native American grapes. These fruits can tolerate winter temps from negative 25 degrees Fahrenheit all the way to negative 45 degrees Fahrenheit. On top of using grape cultivars from North Dakota State University, they also use common prairie fruits such as apples, plums, cherries, raspberries, currants, rosehips and edible honeysuckle.

Next up, at the #4 spot, is the New Kent Winery at Dombroski Vineyards in Virginia. The winery itself was built using materials reclaimed from several century-old structures. For example, its heart-pine trusses came from a Richmond Railroad Depot that dates back to 1901. The building's structural and floor timbers were recovered from a warehouse built in the mid-19th century, and the exterior facade was made from pre-Civil War era bricks. Finally, the siding and roof shingles came from cypress logs that had been submerged in Florida rivers for more than 150 years prior to extraction.

However, that's about all that's traditional about New Kent Winery. Winemaker Tom Payette pairs state-of-the-art equipment with his own vast knowledge to create the vineyard's many wine options. Beyond that, New Kent Winery is part of the private community called Viniterra which allows residents outside the Dombroski family to feel a sense of symbolic ownership of the vineyard.

Beyond that, New Kent Winery is part of the private community called Viniterra which allows residents outside the Dombroski family to feel a sense of symbolic ownership of the vineyard.

Coming in at the #5 spot is the Carlton Winemakers Studio in Oregon. While the Carlton Winemakers Studio offers traditional wines like Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris, the structure of this establishment is anything but traditional.

Carlton Winemakers Studio is an eco-friendly, recycled-material-using, cooperative winemaking facility. There, a large number of experienced and award-winning Oregon winemakers all share equipment to develop and produce a number of different varietals, including sparkling wines and dessert wines. On top of that, all the wineries that call the studio home pour their bottles in a shared tasting room that is open to the public.

For the #6 spot is Messina Hof in Bryan, Texas. This winery and resort first began in 1977, when a Texas A&M graduate student studying grape feasibility in the Lone Star State encouraged Paul Vincent and Merrill Bonarrigo to plant their first vineyard. The one-acre experimental vineyard consisted of fifty varietals including Cabernet Sauvignon, Chenin Blanc and more.

The one-acre experimental vineyard consisted of fifty varietals including Cabernet Sauvignon, Chenin Blanc and more.

Just a few years later, Messina Hof won a medal in the State Fair for their Black Spanish-Cabernet blend. In 1990, it created the first Texas wine to score a ninety in "Wine Spectator" magazine. More recently, Messina Hof became the first Texas winery to win Top Overall at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. Now, the winery is at the forefront of the state's industry and has produced up to 130,000 gallons of product in a single year.

Finally, at the #7 spot, is Cameron Winery in Dundee, Oregon. This winery was founded in 1984 by winemaker John Paul who has a PhD in Marine Biochemistry. Cameron started as a four acre dry-farmed vineyard that included Pinot noir and Chardonnay. Their Clos Electrique was planted in a traditional Burgundian manner. Over the years, the vineyard has expanded to seven acres.

What makes Cameron truly innovative is Paul's dedication to conservation and a focus on the health of the surrounding ecosystem. Animals are a critical part of their equation. Chickens eat grubs and kitchen waste, while nourishing the soil and occasionally providing meals to the local raptor population. Goats eat down and eliminate blackberries, poison oak and other plant pests, eliminating the use of herbicides and providing manure for the compost pile. Cameron Winery was also the very first certified salmon-Safe vineyard in Oregon, primarily because it has rejected the use of irrigation in its winemaking process.