American Wine: Jancis Robinson and Linda Murphy at the Commonwealth Club

It was just a short time ago that all the good wine made in the U.S. came from California, Oregon, Washington and the Finger Lakes area of New York. That has changed dramatically with every state in the Union producing wine. There are now 7000 wineries in the U.S. In a new wine book, “American Wine: The Ultimate Companion to the Wines and Wineries of the United States,” Jancis Robinson and Linda Murphy have collaborated to give a complete picture of wine across the country.

On Monday evening, March 18, we attended a meeting of the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco at which Jancis Robinson and Linda Murphy discussed their book and answered questions from the audience.

image American wine authors

American Wine at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco

Jancis Robinson has been listed as the most powerful woman in wine and is a wine writer and wine critic based in London. Linda Murphy is the former editor of the San Francisco Chronicle Wine section and writes about wine from her home in the heart of wine country in Sonoma County. Leslie Sbracco, wine writer and television host of “Check, Please,” moderated this lively and informative event.

Most of the discussion came from questions posed by the audience. I’ve paraphrased the most important and relevant topics mentioned by the two speakers.

From Jancis Robinson

  • California is the only wine region where big wines are popular. Fresher and lighter is the norm in the rest of the world, including Australia. There is a worldwide shift to fresher and lighter.
  • Global warming is most evident in the Australian wine industry with lack of water and heat waves. Global warming is showing up in many other geographic areas in various forms.
  • The older the vines, the more interesting the wines. In areas of France they are ripping out vines. In California there are many vineyards that are over 100 years old.
  • When asked what wines in other states surprised Jancis, she responded that she liked the sparkling wine made by the New Mexico winery Gruet. She thought the wine to be very similar to French Champagne.

From Linda Murphy

  • The three-tier system in the United States makes it harder for small wineries to compete. It is difficult to change because of the lobbyists, they are very influential.
  • Sustainable farming is the right thing to do. It is getting to the point that wineries stick out if they are not sustainable. We see fewer pesticides and more cover crops these days.
  • Wine making is improving throughout America. Take New Jersey. There are 50 wineries there and ten are very good. The others are trying hard to improve.
  • Wherever there is good wine made, good food follows.
  • Texas is producing many great wines in the high plains areas. Tempranillo is just one example.
  • When asked where she found a surprise wine: Near Traverse City, New Jersey, there is a long peninsula that stretches up to the north. The Riesling wines there are fantastic.

The Commonwealth Club will post a podcast of this event within a few days. Check for it
at Click on the menu item “Multimedia.”

The book “American Wine: The Ultimate Companion to the Wines and Wineries of the United States” is $50 and is available at Amazon for a significant discount.