West Virginia is an eastern state of the US, located entirely within the Appalachian mountain chain. The rugged, varied topography of the region provides a huge array of terroir within the state, and a range of vinifera, native and hybrid grape varieties can be found in the small number of vineyards. The best wines are produced from the Riesling grape, but Seyval Blanc, Marechal Foch and various fruit wines are also made in the state.
West Virginia covers a modest 24,250 square miles (62,750 sq km) of terrain, bordered by Pennsylvania and Ohio to the north and Virginia and Maryland to the east. This relatively small size is due to the state being carved out of Virginia during the Civil War (1861–65) when 48 counties whose landowners owned few if any slaves broke away and formed their own independent state.
Montani semper liberi (mountaineers are always free) is the state motto, and West Virginia is one of several states which has adopted the moniker "The Mountain State". The importance of the Appalachian Mountains here is hard to over-emphasize. The state's many rivers are also a vital part of West Virginia's geography, combining with the hillsides to create varied mesoclimates where grape vines can thrive.
West Virginia's wine industry is far from prolific, but there are a small number of devoted winemakers operating here. The mountainous topography and the varying altitudes it creates mean that various vine species are able to thrive. In general, hybrids are dominant in West Virginia vineyards, except in the cool Potomac Highlands in the state's eastern 'panhandle', where Riesling holds sway.
The topography and cool climate in the Potomacs are often compared to those of the wine regions of western Germany, which goes some way to explaining the success of the Highlands' Riesling. Although not a recognized American Viticultural Area (AVA), the Potomacs have excellent viticultural potential, one key element being the dry climate; rainfall levels here are one-half of the state average.
Spirits and Beer
The state is home to just a handful of distilleries. However Bourbon whiskey accounts for the most-searched-for products on the Wine Searcher database. As of 2018 there were around 22 breweries operating in the state, though there seems to be little West Virginian beer sold in other states.