The Best Wine Regions in the United States to Check Out Right Now
There has never been a better time to be a wine lover in the United States. From famous wineries in California producing world class wine to smaller boutique vineyards that are a bit off the beaten path chances are you can sample some great American wine no matter where you travel throughout the country. I asked a few of my favorite travel blogging pals where their favorite wineries are and while traditional wine regions like California and Virginia are well represented there are a few surprises here as well. Here are the best wine regions in the United States that you need to check out right now.
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Finger Lakes, New York
The Finger Lakes region in New York State is the second largest wine-producing region in the United States. In fact, the region has been producing wine for over 150 years and is home to over 100 wineries and vineyards. We love visiting the Finger Lakes because not only has the wine become world-class, especially its German-style Riesling, but it is also a gorgeous area to visit. There are countless lake activities (like wine tasting by water taxi), hiking in beautiful state parks, the impressive Corning Museum of Glass, and even glider plane rides. Dr. Konstantin Frank Wine Cellars is the pioneer in this region and his wines continue to receive awards and accolades. In 2016, Dr. Frank’s was named one of Wine & Spirit Magazine’s 2016 “Top 100 Wineries.” In an area known for its Rieslings, Dr. Frank’s Gewurztraminer also stands out.My personal favorite is Ravines Wine Cellars. Ravines has two tasting rooms, one in Seneca Lake and the other in Geneva. They do a terrific job pairing wine with local cheese and hand-crafted chocolates, and they also offer a farm-to-table, wine-centric restaurant.
Tamara Gruber of We3Travel
Loudon County, Virginia
As a Southerner, I surprisingly didn’t make it to Charlottesville’s wine country until my 30s. But I loved it so much on that inaugural visit that I found myself back there three times in two years. The Monticello Wine Trail comprises 33 wineries, but there’s more than 200 in the surrounding region in northern Virginia—in other words, something for everybody. I’m a fan of some of the more “celebrity vineyards” like Blenheim (owned by Dave Matthews) but I also like the little guys as well. Michael Shaps is putting out some of the most interesting wines of anybody in the region, and in my household we’re big fans of his viognier. For groups or those who prefer their tastings outdoors, Keswick Vineyards occupies a lovely slice of real estate, complete with picnic tables and lawn games (oh, and their wine is delightful, too!). And for those who need a break from wine, there are breweries in the area, too—in fact, Crozet is home to Starr Hill Brewery, a must visit for any beer lover passing through.
Kristin Luna of Camels and Chocolate
Visitors have long flocked to Williamsburg to walk in the footsteps of American history or for the theme park thrills of Busch Gardens. However, Coastal Virginia is fast becoming known for its emerging wine scene. The Colonial Wine Trail near Williamsburg is home to a handful of beautiful vineyards making some of Virginia’s most creative wine. Williamsburg Winery offers up a touch of European luxury in the heart of Colonial Williamsburg, is my favorite winery in the area. Sip their award winning Adagio ( a blend of Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc and Merlot) in the shaded patio at the Gabriel Archer Tavern or indulge in a Reserve Tasting in the winery’s private cellar.
Yours truly, Brianna of the Casual Travelist
Henderson and Polk Counties, North Carolina
Tucked away in the mountains of Western North Carolina, lies one of the more historic grape growing regions in the country. Here, vineyards mix with mountain peaks, waterfalls, hiking trails, and rolling hills. In the highlands and foothills, European grapes reign. Long hot days and chill mountain nights are perfect for the development of European grapes like Chardonnay, Riesling, and Merlot. French-American hybrids like Chambourcin, Seyval Blanc, and Vidal Blanc, have also found a home in these rainy mountains, producing full wines that have all the qualities of a European variety but yield to the area’s unique climate. It was here in Polk County where the first Chardonnay Rosso was produced. Green Creek Winery was the first in the world to produce this revolutionary wine in 2007. The Chardonnay Rosso is made with Chardonnay juices fermented on the skins of Chambourcin grapes, which gives the wine its red color. In Henderson, Burnshirt Vineyards are known for their award winning Grüner Veltliner, an Austrian varietal rarely grown in the United States, at their high altitude vineyards (3,400 feet). This is wine with altitude.
Southern Indiana Wine Trail
When you talk about American wine, the Midwest is not the first place you think of. Yet Indiana boasts six official wine trails, and three of those meander through Southern Indiana. With mild winters and long growing seasons, the Indiana Uplands trail is sure to delight wine lovers year-round with the wide array of wines the fertile land can grow.Starting just east of college town Bloomington all the way down to the Kentucky border, nine wineries make up the Uplands Wine Trail. A few of the highlights along the trail include trying Vignoles, a notoriously difficult wine to grow considered one of the best kept secrets in the world at Oliver’s Winery, Indiana’s oldest winery. My favourite was the light, fragrant Creekbed Catawba. The winery also serves ice wine, notable because of it’s geographic location outside the usual growing region. Follow the trail through to Brown County’s biggest city, Nashville, an artist colony surrounded by the states largest parks. Brown County Winery is known for their dry, semi-sweet and dessert wines made from grapes and berries (be sure to check out their award winning plum wine).End your Upland Trail Experience by climbing the stairs to the Tasting Loft (yes, a hayloft tasting!) at Huber’s Orchard, Winery & Vineyards, the largest winery in the state, situated near the Louisville boarder and taste their award-winning strawberry wine.
Nicole Smith of Bitten By the Travel Bug
Texas Hill Country
The Texas Hill Country wine region is an up-and-coming destination for wine aficiandos. The region stretches north of San Antonio and west of Austin for a massive 15,000 square miles—the third-largest American Viticultural Area. While there are wineries throughout the sprawling area, many of them are concentrated around the town of Fredericksburg and its highway known as Wine Road 290. More than 30 vineyards and tasting rooms dot this stretch of road, which has become a favorite destination for people throughout the state and the region. Over the last decade, Texas Hill Country wineries have coming into their own by focusing on grapes that grow well in places like Spain, Italy, and southern France rather than trying to replicate California wines. The result is full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon, fruity Zinfandel, and excellent Sangiovese, among many other varietals. Luckily, visitors will find these stand-out wines paired with Texas hospitality—many of the wineries have on-site restaurants or host food trucks and live music most weekends.
Laura and Lance Longwell of Travel Addicts.
Nestled in a valley of rolling grass hills surrounded by soaring mountain ranges, is the serenely beautiful Sonoita/Elgin Wine Country. The Sonoita AVA is the first federally recognized wine growing region in the state of Arizona. It has also placed as one of the top ten wine trails in the country by USA Today. What makes this place so special? In the mid 70’s Dr. Gordon Dutt, a soil scientist from the University of Arizona, found that the soil in this area is similar to that of Burgundy, France. An anomoly for sure, considering this is hot, dry, Arizona. But the wineries here produce some award winning distinctive wines that rivals the best of the best this country has to offer.Be sure to bring a designated driver as there are ten tasting rooms to visit in the Sonita/Elgin Wine Trail. To start off with is Sonoita Vineyards, the original winery. Their Cabernet Sauvignon was chosen by national wine critics to serve at a Presidential Inauguration Gala. Then there’s Wilhelm Vineyards, Village Of Elgin Winery, Arizona Hops and Vines, just to name a few. Like us locals, you’ll want to visit over and over again!
Linda Edwards of Blossoming Window
Santa Ynez Valley, California
Sometimes referred to as the “new Napa,” the Santa Ynez Valley just north of Santa Barbara, California, is producing a range of varietals out of established legacy vineyards and newer boutique operations. Devoted fans of SYV wines cite the differences in microclimates arising out of transverse geography: running east and west from the Pacific Ocean inland, the valley subjects vines and fruit to entirely different climate stressors and terroir in the space of just a few miles. Charming small towns such as Solvang with a rich immigrant history, and other former stagecoach stops – Los Alamos, Santa Ynez, Ballard and Los Olivos – meld traditional Western ranch esthetic with contemporary sophistication. Hospitality is tempered by a friendly, approachable attitude from down-to-earth folks who appreciate the good things in life and are passionate about sharing with visitors. Easily reached within driving distance from both Los Angeles and San Francisco, this Central Coast location offers outstanding options in dining, shopping and accommodations for a unique and memorable wine country getaway in the American Riviera.
Betsy Wuebker of Passing Thru
San Luis Obispo, California
While San Luis Obispo often gets overshadowed by its big brothers to the North, Napa Valley, and its even closer sibling Paso Robles, it’s still every bit as worthy of a stop for a fun wine-soaked weekend. San Luis Obispo wine country, or SLO as they call it, has approximately 35 wineries spread across 5,000 acres on California’s Central Coast. The coastal climate brings mild sunny days and cool nights, making ideal growing conditions for the delicate Pinot Noir grape and cool loving Chardonnay and Alsatian varietals. Look for biodynamic producer Sinor – LaVallee, pinot noir pro Stephen Ross, and Alsatian specialists Claiborne & Churchill. When you need a wine break, downtown San Luis Obispo offers boutique shops, artisanal restaurants and even cultural experiences that run the gamut from a bubble gum alley to a 1772 mission. It’s a charming town and great base for a fabulous food and wine weekend.
Kelly Page of Tasting Page
Napa Valley, California
Napa Valley deserves a place on any list of wine regions in the U.S. After all, its excellent wineries and restaurants make it one of the premiere wine destinations in the world. What makes Napa Valley special to me, though, is the people. You might expect all pretension but instead will find hard-working, passionate people who are proud of their home and happy to share it with visitors. For the best experiences, try small boutique wineries where you can have an intimate tour, visit the estate vineyards, and maybe even meet the winemaker. Another reason to love Napa Valley is that it’s so much more than wine. Home to farms, culinary schools, and eleven Michelin starred restaurants, Napa is a culinary mecca for anyone who loves good food. Downtown Napa offers beautiful historic architecture and a small town atmosphere, perfect for walking from one wine tasting bar or restaurant to another. Napa Valley is also a land of incredible natural beauty with non-stop views, hiking, biking, and even volcanic hot springs to complement your wine-tasting itinerary. For all these reasons, in my mind Napa Valley earns its place as the best known wine destination in the country.
Jenna Francisco of This is My Happiness
Applegate Valley, Oregon
Although not the largest, the Applegate Valley in Southern Oregon is a true gem when it comes to undiscovered wine regions in the USA. It stretches a mere 50 miles from the California border along the clear waters of the Applegate River. Rugged forested hillsides frame this special 275,000 acre wine appellation known as the Applegate Valley AVA. Since the 1850s winemakers have taken advantage of the valley’s Goldilocks climate—just enough dryness and heat—and fertile soils to produce high quality and interesting wines from the region. The dominant varietals grown are Merlot and Cabernet, but you will find anything from Syrah, Chardonnay to Zinfandel growing here. Blessed with fresh mountain air, lingering warm summers, and surrounded by wilderness the valley has a rugged feel—you may even see bears snacking away at grapes. This also means you won’t see flocks of tourists and buses. If you’re after a wine region experience that mirrors what Sonoma was in the 1970’s, visiting one of the 17 unique wineries in the Applegate Valley will give you just that.
Rand Shoaf of the Well Traveled Mile
Williamette Valley, Oregon
Portland is definitely a coffee and beer town, but there are also great wine bars serving many of the 500 wineries just a little over an hour away in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Mainly known for its world-class pinot noirs, the region also hosts some amazing farm-to-table restaurants and adorable B&B’s. There are bike trails, art galleries, and hiking and that is just to visit wineries, the region also has great hot air balloon rides and tours, the pinot noir trail is a must. The wines are strong, the pinots hearty due to the volcanic soil they vines grow in, but what I love best is the down-to-earthiness of the proprietors. There is zero pretension, something I can’t say I miss about Napa Valley wineries. The vintners are approachable, friendly and proud of their creations and I enjoy every single drop that I imbibe! If you are visiting Portland, take the time to head out to Willamette Valley, stay, eat and drink in towns like McMinnville, you won’t be disappointed! But if you can’t make it, then head to Oregon Wines on Broadway in Portland and try the wines there!
Andi Fisher of Misadventures with Andi
Where are your favorite wine regions in the US? Share with me in the comments!