Grape lovers across America have every reason to raise their glasses. Today, every single U.S. state is home to wineries. Their labels and growing areas might be unfamiliar to many, but the output is continually improving in quality. As the 2017 vintage is harvested and bottled, here are five fine wine regions to travel to and clink glasses of red, white and rosé on a wine tour or wine tasting this season.
Willamette Valley, Oregon
Fifty years ago, this 100-mile-long, cool-weather area less than an hour southwest of Portland, Oregon, between the Cascade and Coast mountain ranges, was just starting to sprout vines. Today, there are more than 500 wineries on winding country roads, and the valley was named 2016 Wine Region of the Year by "Wine Enthusiast" magazine. In this verdant mecca for Pinot Noir afficionados, it's hard to find a lackluster bottle. Many vendors are small and offer tastings by appointment only. Sit around a simple dining room table at Patricia Green Cellars outside Newberg, Oregon, and indulge in heavenly vintages while dogs wag their tails at your feet. You may get the chance to watch winemakers at work. The large Erath Winery in Dundee, Oregon, has a walk-in tasting room, as does the Stoller Family Estate in Dayton, Oregon. The Allison Inn & Spa, with its guestrooms appointed with gas fireplaces and a wine list showcasing the valley's premier offerings, is the place to stay.
Loudoun County, Virginia
In recent years, this once-overlooked wine production center about 30 miles from the District of Columbia, has become a capital place for imbibers. It's now dotted with more than three dozen wineries and tasting rooms. Family-run Doukénie Winery, set by a lake amid rolling hills in Purcellville, hosts barrel tastings and blending classes. Its offerings include a Cabernet Franc melded with lesser-known Petit Verdot. Meanwhile, North Gate Vineyard features an attractive tasting room and regular live music. It sells unusual wines, such as the crisp, white Rkatsiteli, made from grapes that trace their origins to a historic and not well-known winemaking region: the Republic of Georgia. Bed down at the intimate and luxurious Goodstone Inn & Restaurant in Middleburg, Virginia.
The Central Valley, located to the south of Sacramento, California, began by supplying much of its grapes to Napa and Sonoma. Nowadays, the Lodi area has the most vineyard acreage of any California wine region and is home to more than 80 wineries. They're known for robust reds and light whites, as well as a friendly, small-town vibe that's hard to find in grape-growing areas where tourists cluster. Stop in at Klinker Brick Winery for a taste of its acclaimed Old Vine Zinfandels. Michael David Winery, named for brothers Michael and David Phillips, is known for its 7 Deadly Zins (Zinfandel, of course) and Freakshow Cabernet Sauvignon, worth buying if only for its eye-catching, circus poster label. Acquiesce Winery, started as a hobby by winemaker Susan Tipton, focuses on premium whites made from imported French vines, including award-winning Grenache Blancs and Viogniers. After a day of quaffing, slip away to Wine & Roses inn for a romantic retreat.
Walla Walla, Washington
Leonetti Cellars became the first commercial Walla Walla winery in 1974. Since then, the region in the shadow of the Blue Mountains in the state's southeast corner has become a magnet for Cabernet Sauvignon drinkers. You can sample the wares of more than 60 wineries in the Walla Walla Valley, which extends into neighboring Oregon. Taste just-harvested vintages during Fall Release Weekend (Nov. 3-5). June's Celebrate Walla Walla Wine event, featuring seminars, tastings and dinners with wine pairings, attracts more visitors every year. Interestingly, Walla Walla, takes its unusual moniker from the Native American tribe that settled in the area and whose name is often translated as "many waters."
Texas Hill Country, Texas
The Lone Star State is better known for cerveza than vino. But wine fanciers now pour in to the 50-plus vineyards within easy driving distance from San Antonio and Austin, Texas. At 200-acre Wildseed Farms in Fredericksburg, Texas, sample Tempranillo and Albariño from grapes grown on-site at its Wedding Hill Winery. Time your visit to gaze at 200 acres where poppies, sunflowers, zinnias and more bloom from spring through October. Fredericksburg is a hub for touring, with its upscale inns, bed-and-breakfasts and boutiques. At the adults-only Fredericksburg Herb Farm, stay in updated replicas of the "Sunday Haus" cottages where farmers of German descent used to stay when they brought produce to town on weekends, or book a massage in its intimate spa. Take a cooking class with wine pairings at the Fischer & Wieser gourmet food shop. In late October, crowds flock to Fredericksburg for the nearly three-decade-old Fredericksburg Food & Wine Fest, a celebration of Texas eats and quaffs. Elsewhere, Pedernales Cellars in Stonewall, Texas, keeps its fall calendar crammed with special tastings, a grape toss and entertainment.
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