California invented the concept of varietally labeled wine; for years it used generic French terms such as 'Chablis' to describe its wines but, spurred on by objection from Europe and a desire to make wine more accessible for the US market, wineries started putting the names of the grapes on the wine labels. This, of course, has become a worldwide phenomenon with consumers more often than not identifying the types of grapes they like rather than the area it is from.
California is, by a long way, the most important wine producing state. The industry not only has giant conglomerates producing branded wine for sale worldwide, but also many small wineries making high quality wine in areas such as the Napa and Sonoma Valleys and Santa Barbara.
After California the three most important wine producing areas are Oregon, Washington and New York State.
Oregon has been hailed as America's answer to Burgundy and has seen considerable investment from Burgundian wine makers. Like most marginal climates there are considerable differences in quality, vintage to vintage. However some of America's most exciting Pinot Noirs are now coming from Oregon, as well as high quality Chardonnay and Pinot Gris.
Washington is Oregon's larger more northerly neighbour, producing higher volumes of wines from an area of semi-irrigated desert, inland from the Pacific. Production is mainly of red wines, mostly supple and intensely fruity Merlot and Cabernet with some notable success with Syrah.
New York's industry is centered on the Finger Lakes, which are situated north of New York City towards the border with Canada. It is still a small industry, but worth trying if you are ever in New York. Very little is exported.