Utah is a state in the American West, bordering Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, Wyoming and Arizona. It has a small winegrowing industry, and higher-profile distilleries and breweries. Utah is often portrayed in the media as one of the least liquor-friendly states in the United States. This largely reflects the Mormon faith's position on abstinence through the late 19th and 20th centuries. All wine, spirits and beers above 4 percent abv must be sold in state liquor stores, and other means of sale and consumption are tightly controlled.
Currently Utah is much better known in other markets for its whiskeys and beers. There are now a handful of distilleries, and over two dozen craft breweries, collectively employing around 5000 people. High West Distillery in Park City was founded in 2006, becoming Utah's first legal still since 1870. In the 1860s there had been 37 distilleries in the state, all owned by Mormons, including one by Brigham Young himself.
The state's cold, dry climate – along with some of the most restrictive alcohol laws in the United States – is not particularly hospitable to vines, but a small wine industry has been built up here since the late 1980s. Classic vinifera varieties such as Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Riesling and Muscat Blanc are the most commonly used grapes here.
Vines were first planted in Utah in the 1860s by Mormon settlers who hoped to use the grapes to make sacramental wine. A sizable but short-lived wine industry sprang up in southern Utah in this time near the town of Toquerville, where the Mormon Wine Mission began producing wine to be shipped to the rest of the state. The spread of Mormonism (a religion that practices temperance) led to the abandonment of this industry, which was not to be revived until the 1980s.
The state covers just under 85,000 square miles (220,000 sq km) of high-altitude land within the Rocky Mountain range. Many of the state's wineries can be found along the southern border with Arizona, around Moab and Cedar City. Reaching altitudes as high as 6000ft (1800m) above sea level, these vineyards benefit from warm sunny days and much colder nights, leading to the development of varietal character along with acidity in the wines. Most of these mountain vineyards require irrigation during the dry growing season, and careful frost control due to the marginal climate here.
Currently, Utah has fewer than 10 wineries located within its boundaries. While the harsh terroir may have something to do with these low numbers, the restrictive laws surrounding the production and sale of alcohol have not helped matters.
The Hive winery is probably Utah's best known winery. It specializes in fruit wines and brandies, rather than grape wines.