West Virginia is an eastern state of the US, bordered by Pennsylvania and Ohio to the north and Virginia and Maryland to the east. The state, whose capital and largest city is Charleston, covers a modest 24,250 square miles (62,750 square km) of mountainous terrain in the Appalachian Mountains. This relatively small size is due to the state being carved out of Virginia in 1863, when the Wheeling Convention marked the formation of 48 Virginia counties into the new independent state of West Virginia.
Montani semper liberi (mountaineers are always free) is the state motto, and West Virginia has adopted the moniker ‘The Mountain State’ – not to be confused with the mountain states of the western USA, such as Montana and Colorado. 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: vinifera, rotundifolia and hybrid types. 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 its Riesling. Although not a recognized AVA, the Highlands have excellent viticultural potential, one key element being the dry climate; rainfall levels here are one half of the state average.
West Virginia is home to three AVAs in total, namely the eastern portion of the vast Ohio River Valley, the upper, northern section of the Shenandoah Valley, and the majority of the Kanawha River Valley.