For your next great wine tasting vacation, leave your passport at home and hit some of the best wine regions in the United States. While there are wineries in all fifty states, and throughout Canada, it's not snobbish to say that they're not all created equal.
You'll find the most wineries in California, Washington, Oregon, New York and Virginia, in that order. They offer a mix of quality wines, unique tasting experiences, interesting dining opportunities -- in other words, a good reason to designate a driver and start planning your sippin' trip.
California is top wine producing state in the United States -- in fact, its wine production rivals many entire countries. In fact, it's best to think of the state as a freestanding country when you're planning a California wine trip. Not only is there absolutely you're going to hit it all in a standard American-length vacation, but in many of the state's AVAs you'll only be able to check out a small share of the wineries. In California, planning ahead is key: pick your favorite varietal and take it from there.
If you haven't been to the two best known regions in California -- Napa and Sonoma -- you'll probably want to put those at the top of your list. There are great wineries in each, of course, but Napa Valley is a must-visit since pretty much every other wine region in North America compares itself to it. But if you've got those covered, branch out and also consider: Paso Robles, San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara.
The first of the "not California" wine regions, and a large producer in its own right, a tour through Washington's best wine regions will make you rethink your image of this state as "green and rainy". In the Columbia Valley, and especially Yakima and Walla Walla, the land is decidedly arid -- dry and hot. Look for big bold flavors in cabernet sauvignon, merlot and syrah.
isitors to Seattle will find the Puget Sound AVA the most convenient to visit, and while many of the state's big powerhouse wineries, like Château St. Michelle, have tasting rooms in the Woodinville area, grapes are mostly sourced from vineyards located to the east. For a base of operations in the eastern part of Washington wine country, the city of Walla Walla is a great choice, both for range of accommodations and terrific restaurants.
As neighboring states, Oregon and Washington also share one AVA, which stretches across the spectacularly scenic Columbia River Gorge
. In fact, if you stay in Hood River
, you can make easy forays into Washington for wine tasting while reserving the bulk of your time for Oregon's wineries.
That makes less sense if you're visiting Oregon's best known AVA, the Willamette Valley,and focusing on its premier (and pricey) varietal, pinot noir. In that case, you'll likely want to stay in Portland, which is hard to beat for dining options. For real street cred among Pacific Northwest wine aficionados, set your sights on the much less frequented, small production, very high quality wineries in the hotter and drier southern part of the state.
So yes, the west coast of the United States grows a lot of wine. But on the east coast, it's New York that's the wine leader. While you won't find acres of commercial vineyards inside the five boroughs of New York City, there is one vinyeard and several opportunities to play winemaker within city limits
. For a more traditional, and less urban wine weekend, it's an easy weekend getaway from the city to the state's best wine regions, whether you head north to the Finger Lakes
or east to Long Island
Virginia isn't the first state to leap to mind as a wine destination, but the state takes the grape pretty seriously: more than 130 wineries, organized into a number of wine trails. Among the most rewarding to visit is the Monticello Wine Trail
, near Charlottesville, which combines history, top notch restaurants and a not-to-be missed beer trail.
Another southern state with wineries worth a visit? North Carolina.