Flickr/.Bala

What do you think of when wines from the United States come to mind? Our first guess is Napa Valley. But the North American wine industry is much more than just Northern California (some spots on our list even have more history). From New England, all the way south to Texas and west to Colorado, wine regions are popping up all over the place. If you’re looking to escape the crowds and the often-jaded (or is it stuck-up?) vibe present in some popular wine destinations, venture outside the box (ever been to an urban winery?) and step into one of these regions where it’s not uncommon for the winemaker to serve you him or herself.

Ron Bez Photography

Central Coast California


Advertisement

Why Go:

You’ve undoubtedly heard of Sonoma and Napa, but along the central coast of California, there’s a budding wine country that isn’t overrun with tourists (thank goodness). Paso Robles is actually the fastest growing wine region in California – today it’s home to over 200 wineries and the vineyard acres have increased more than five-fold over the last decade. Famous for its heritage variety Zinfandel, the area also produces some incredible Rhône, Bordeaux, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot. 


Advertisement

What to Do: 

A highlight of the Paso Robles region is the wine trail through the heart of its wine country, all the way to the coast on Highway 46 West. Drive the scenic route and hit a few vineyards along the way: A must-stop is the family-owned Gold Medal-winning Castoro Cellars. They’ve got picnic facilities and amazing gardens to stroll through while enjoying your flight. They have daily tastings (bonus: three are complimentary!) from 10am–5:30pm. Plus, during the summer they host musicians from around the world and they perform in the vineyard, which means you can enjoy amazing concerts al fresco. If you prefer to be active while enjoying your vino, stop by Donati Family Vineyard (tastings daily from 10am–5pm) for their incredible Bordeaux blends and some bocce ball on their outdoor courts. Or, if you want to experience multiple wineries’ offerings, check out the Paso Robles Annual Wine Festival May 17–19 held in Paso Robles’ downtown City Park. Maybe you want someone to take you around without worrying about driving: The Wine Line will take care of it with their “Hop On, Hop Off” wine shuttles (rates start at $59.95/person).

Amanda Black

ElaineMatthews.com

Colorado

Why Go: 

The home of the Rockies is also home to some of the highest elevation vineyards in the world, with grapes grown up to 7,000 feet above sea level. Colorado winemakers pride themselves on their individuality; they’re combining their grapes with apricots, peaches, cherries, and other locally-grown fruit to make a splash on the international scene. With 100 vineyards to choose from, set before a majestic mountainous backdrop, visitors will be delighted in everything Colorado’s wine country has to offer.

What to Do: 

Grand Valley is viewed as the Colorado wine country epicenter, and with good reason: More than 80 percent of the state’s grapes are grown here, and the region is home to more than 20 wineries and vineyards. Fortunately, you have plenty of options to get around to see them all. To enjoy the majestic scenery up close, take a spin on The Fruit and Wine Byway, a 25-mile bike and car loop that follows the Colorado River and allows stops at dozens of wineries. Start in Palisade and sample the newest Cabernet Sauvignon from Colterris Wines. Venture further to try Carlson Vineyards‘ Palisade Peach wine, and see why the town is known as the peach capitol of Colorado. The Palisade Bike Festival rolls into town June 8, and riders can take the 7-mile  “Bike and Wine” Tour. Rapid Creek Cycles offers wine tour rentals for the rest of the year (rates start at $36.15/day). But, if cycling’s not your thing, there are many car services to choose from: American Spirit Shuttle offers half-day tours, and even helps coordinate which wineries to choose. Or, treat yourself to some shopping on Main Street in Grand Junction. Packed with shops, cafes, street performers, and art, there is plenty to enjoy for all ages.

– Maryrose Mullen

Greenvale Vineyards

Coastal New England

Why Go:

Despite challenging climates and soils, New England has actually been producing wine for centuries (who knew?) and today the region is developing further by identifying stronger wine-growing conditions in micro-climates. This particular nine-winery Coastal Wine Trail winds from Cape Cod through the south coast of Massachusetts, down through Rhode Island, and Connecticut. If you’re a white wine lover, this trip is for you as these vineyards are especially known for their white and sparkling wines, due to the cool grape growing conditions. Enjoy this region and trail on a wine-focused road trip or dedicate stops along your way to another New England destination. 

What to Do: 

Truro Vineyards of Cape Cod is an ideal starting point where you can mix your mornings on the beach with afternoons at the vineyard. If you have the time to make it to multiple wineries, get each one to stamp your wine passport (you can pick one up at any of the wineries). Once you’re finished, send it in to the Coastal Wine Trail and you’ll be entered to win prizes like a 7-night cruise to Bermuda. Can’t make it the entire way down the route? Don’t worry – head to the Westport Fairgrounds in Connecticut for the 2nd Annual Wine, Cheese & Chocolate Festival (three of our favorite things) on June 22.

– Amanda Black

Two Mile Wines

East Bay California

Why Go:

It’s not every day that you can bike to countless wineries in an afternoon…in a city. Well in Oakland and Alameda you can hit 16 urban wineries, plus more in the surrounding East Bay area. But don’t let the city surroundings fool you: These wineries are pumping out award-winning sips in all kinds of varietals, from Malbec and Grenache Blanc to Nebbiolo and Cabernet Sauvignon. The winemakers source their fruit from Oregon and parts of California, and all the way to the Rhone Valley in France. If that doesn’t convince you to give these innovative wineries a shot, the leisurely bike route will sway you (in other words, forget about a designated driver, but be sure to pedal responsibly).

What to Do:

Take your own bike tour to a few of our favorite wineries like family-owned Cerruti Cellars, and Urban Legend, who pride themselves on making wine to be paired with food. You can also sit back and pedal to some pro-chosen destinations on East Bay Winery Bike Tours. They’ll bring you on a scenic route to three or four wineries with a stop in between for a picnic lunch. If you want to do more than just wine tasting, some of the wineries offer special events. For instance, members of Dashe Cellars‘ wine club can take trip to their vineyard in Sonoma mid June. Guests will enjoy a wine-paired picnic as well as a tour of the vines, and dessert!

– Amanda Black

Visit the Yadkin Valley

North Carolina

Why Go: 

North Carolina wine growers found success in the 1970s by cultivating the Muscadine grape, which is native to the present day southeastern parts of the United States. Today, the region specializes in the light, sweet, and highly antioxidant wines produced by that grape, but other blends are infused with the personality of the state, evoking trout fishing and backyard barbecues. Delicate notes of apricots, peaches or blueberries enhance the fruity flavor on a southern summer day. The rolling mountains, pleasant climate, and rich, varied vines make this region ideal for any wine getaway, while the charm, storied history, and southern hospitality are reason enough to visit North Carolina.

What To Do: 

The Yadkin Valley is nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and is considered to be the heart of North Carolina wine country. Naturally, the area hosts a plethora of tours throughout the year with a range of themes. Some of the Yadkin Valley Wine Tours coming up are the Mother’s Day Tour, when you can surprise mom with a picnic lunch and souvenir glasses ($115/person), and the Island Sangria Wine Tour in July; this particular event brings 10 gallons of sangria on the tour bus that takes riders to several area wineries ($125/person). Your ticket for the day includes tasting fees, Sangria, lunch, a guided tour with transportation, wine education, and souvenir wine glasses and red solo cups. Fans of extreme outdoor adventures can take part in the Annual Tour de Yadkin, a three-week, 165-mile kayaking voyage across the state.

Maryrose Mullen

Chateau de Leelanau

Northern Michigan

Why Go:

You’d be surprised to learn that Michigan is actually the fourth largest grape producer in the U.S. That fact coupled with ideal grape growing conditions (similar to those of Oregon and Washington) make Northern Michigan an incredible up-and-coming wine region. Madonna’s dad has even set up shop up north with his own Ciccone Vineyards, so you know the area has something special to offer. If that doesn’t give you enough reason to pay the region a visit, the spectacular weather during the summer and the numerous wine trails should add to the appeal. 

What to Do:

Create a customized tour to your specific tastes with Grand Traverse Wine Tours and their drivers will take you around for the day (rates start at $59/person). If you’re feeling more adventurous, pick from a list of 25 wineries on the Leelanau Peninsula, or tour all seven of the wineries in one day on the Old Mission Peninsula trail. A few of our favorites are Black Star Farms on Old Mission – their combination of amazing wines and farm-to-table fare make for an ideal afternoon or evening, and Chateau de Leelanau in Suttons Bay offers up incredible wines and ciders on their family-owned and farmed vineyard. When you’re not sipping on vino, explore the vineyards from above in a hot air balloon with Grand Traverse Balloons (rates start at $299/person)!

Amanda Black

HillCrest Vineyard

Southern Oregon

Why Go:

While Willamette Valley is well known in the wine world, Umpqua Valley and the Rogue River Valley, two wine regions farther south, are making names for themselves in the Oregon wine scene. Fewer crowds and diverse varietals offer enticing draws for oenophiles. Pinot may be the granddaddy of Oregon grapes, but these regions are pumping out award-winning bottles of Tempranillo, Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Pinot Gris. And even though you may not have heard of it, Umpqua is actually home to Oregon’s first winery, HillCrest Vineyard (founded in 1961). 

What to Do: 

Sit back and relax on a wine tour with Main Street Adventure Tours as they take you around to the wineries with a private car and guide. Our favorite part? They bring you to chocolate tasting rooms and creameries to create the perfect pairing with your wine experience. Their Winery and Artisan Food Tour also includes lunch (rates start at $84.50/person)! You can also go it alone and hit a few spots like multiple award-winning Abacela (also named 2013 Oregon Winery of the Year by Wine Press Northeast), small lot-focused Quady North (they’ve also won a number gold medal designations and much-coveted 90+ points from Wine Enthusiast), and RoxyAnn Winery – the young vineyard (founded in 2002) has made a name for itself with its gold medal Syrah and Claret.

– Amanda Black

Austin City Entertainment

Texas Hill Country

Why Go: 

Deep in the heart of Texas, north of San Antonio and west of Austin, oenophiles can find the state’s largest wine trail with over 30 wineries to choose from. The warm, dry climate has been a boon for grape growers since as early as the 1650s, with most grape varietals originating from France, Italy, and Spain. Though Texas is home to one of the oldest wine-growing industries in the county – some vines here were planted 100 years before those in California – prohibition virtually wiped out the industry until the 1970s. The good news is business is booming today, from family-owned boutique wineries to sprawling estate cellars.

What to Do: 

Texas Wine Tours offers two options for thirsty visitors. Their flagship tour is a full-day affair that hits up some of the area’s best wineries, with a stop for lunch at a local restaurant. The trail selects five out of 19 potential wineries, so the journey varies each time ($165/person). Those who don’t wish to dedicate a full day to a wine adventure can look to the company’s short tour, lasting four hours and visiting three wineries ($109/person). Before the grape harvest kicks off in July, check out the Texas Hill Country Wine and Brew Festival on July 6. The event will feature samplings from seven wineries, including Dionision Winery and Flat Creek Estate, as well as a number of microbrews, food, musical performances, and more.  

Maryrose Mullen

Williamsburg Wine and Food Festival

Virginia

Why Go: 

Virginia’s wine region might not have flourished without the persistence of one of the state’s most famous residents. Attempts by early settlers to plant and grow vines proved unfruitful and interest waned; hoping to make the state a prime wine region, Thomas Jefferson cultivated European grapes on his estate at Monticello for 30 years, though he never produced a bottle of wine (George Washington faced similar hang-ups). The mid- and late-1800s brought some success, when a Virginia Norton was named the “best red wine of all nations” at the 1873 World’s Fair. Today, whites like Chardonnay and Vidal Blanc remain popular, while the rich, fruity Norton is one of the area’s signature wines. Virginia boastfully ranks fifth in the nation’s wineries. Not bad for a place with an unsuccessful history of growing grapes.

What to Do: 

Virginia’s lavish scenery and historical sites make tours all the more charming. Most area wineries are small, family-owned businesses, and the region is reliant on wine tours to bring in revenue. Thankfully, visitors have plenty to choose from: Virginia Wine Tours provides a variety of options, from the classic choice that explores four area wineries, to the bridal party tour on which brides ride for free (costs vary based on winery and size of group). Take a look at Jefferson’s legacy on the Monticello Wine Tour, featuring a cluster of 31 central Virginia wineries. Virginia is one of the only places where visitors can kayak along a wine tour. Enjoy one of the many summer wine and music festivals, such as the Blue Ridge Music Festival in June or partake in a wine-growing course to learn how to start your own winery.

Maryrose Mullen

Washington Wine Tours

Washington

Why Go: 

The Pacific Northwest is home to a bevy of excellent wine regions, but the Evergreen State, in particular, has an impressively diverse collection of vineyards, winemaking styles, and grape varieties. The earliest plantings were by Italian, French, and German immigrants, who benefitted from the rich soil and cool runoff from the melting snowcaps of the nearby Cascade Mountains. The industry rallied following the hit of prohibition thanks to the efforts of a handful of home winemakers. Today, the area has expanded into a production powerhouse, ranking second in the nation for wine production. Business in Washington is so good, a new winery opens approximately every 15 days.  

What to Do: 

If you’re staying in or around Seattle in western Washington, your best bet is to visit the Cadence, Cairdeas, or Eight Bells Winery. Some wineries require appointments so be sure to call and schedule one in advance. Other nearby vineyards can be found in the Puget Sound area, though because the area is so large, it’s difficult to reach multiple places in one day. Book a hotel along the Olympian Peninsula, home to six wineries and in close proximity to Bainbridge Island Vineyards & Winery and Whidbey Island Winery. Visitors can move between spots by taking the ferry, a scenic ride that grants amazing views of distant Mount Rainier on a clear day. If you’re up for a more entertaining wine experience, head down to Elliot Hall at Bell Harbor for the Wine Rocks event on July 11 from 6pm–10pm. Local winemakers and brewers gather to showcase the unique flavors of Seattle wine country as you rock out to live music (rates start at $35/person).

Maryrose Mullen

Search Hotels in Alameda

Search For Best Hotel Deals

Search For Best Flight Deals

Search For Best Hotel Deals

Search For Best Vacation Deals

Search For Best Cruise Deals


View Another Post