Calling all wine lovers: When it comes to U.S. wine regions, Sonoma and Napa Valley aren’t the only spots worth visiting—although they should definitely be on your list.
Historically, wine regions like Napa and Sonoma have dominated the conversation about wine in the U.S. However, the United States is massive, and with all that space comes a lot of regional variances, weather patterns, and a diversity of soils—many of which combine to provide ideal conditions for growing a wide range of wines.
Check out these can’t-miss wine regions for the chance to tour gorgeous vineyards, meet local winemakers and sip award-winning whites and reds.
Willamette Valley, Oregon
As one of the world’s premier Pinot Noir producing regions, Willamette Valley should be on your radar. Stretching from the Columbia River in the north to just beyond Eugene in the south, Oregon’s Willamette Valley has established itself as one of the most renowned wine regions in the world. It is home to over 500 wineries, encompassing over two-thirds of the state’s wineries. With its cool, wet winters and warm, dry summers, the Willamette Valley offers an ideal setting for wine grape production. Best known for producing world class Pinot Noir, neighboring wineries also produce Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Merlot and Syrah. Sparkling wines produced in Champagne style are also celebrated as some of the best in America. In 2016, Willamette Valley was named wine region of the year by Wine Enthusiast magazine.
- The Eyrie Vineyards: No Oregon wine country trip is complete without a stop at this iconic winery in the Willamette Valley. In the winter of 1965, David Lett moved to Oregon and became the first to plant Pinot Noir and related varieties in the Willamette Valley, and the first Pinot Gris in America. Over the following decades, The Eyrie Vineyards established a reputation for elegant wines that are true expressions of variety and place and possess legendary aging abilities.
- Lenné Estate: It’s all about location here. This 20 acre Pinot Noir vineyard sits on a steep, south facing slope just east of the town of Yamhill. Scenery, outstanding wines, and guided tasting tours among the vines are all hallmarks of Lenné. The shallow sedimentary soil and spacing produce dense Pinot Noir with black fruit and mocha aromatics.
- Alloro Vineyard: A small production (3,000 cases annually) winery producing 100% estate-grown Pinot Noir. Alloro also farms produce and raises Heritage sheep and Hereford cattle, employing sustainable, organic, and LIVE certified (a high level sustainability certification that includes every aspect of winemaking, including the vineyards) principles in all aspects of viticulture and farming. They host farm-to-table dinners where 80% of the food is produced right there at Alloro.
Finger Lakes, New York
Located five hours outside New York City, sits the most exciting wine region on the East Coast, the Finger Lakes. Named one of the top wine regions in the U.S., the Finger Lakes wine region is home to more than 120 wineries and is the biggest producer of wine in New York State. The Finger Lakes wine country is centered around four main lakes: Keuka, Seneca, Canandaigua, and Cayuga and play a major role in the area’s renown cool climate wines, especially its varietal whites like Riesling and Gewurztraminer. The terroir of the Finger Lakes is special because of the microclimate created by the lakes–extreme cold weather in the winter is avoided and warm, breezy days during the summer help ripen the grapes. But the region is also famed for its red varieties such as Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot, as well as other popular white varieties such as Chardonnay and Pinot Gris.
- Keuka Spring Vineyards: Location, view and taste are the top reasons why visitors love Finger Lakes wine tastings–and at Keuka Spring Vineyards, you can enjoy them all at once. What began as a family dream has evolved into one of the most highly regarded wineries in the Finger Lakes. Keuka Spring Vineyards has consistently been recognized for the vines that were planted in 1981, and continue to bear delicious, mature fruit. Original varieties include Chardonnay, Seyval Blanc, Riesling, and Vignoles while additional plantings include Lemberger and Cabernet Franc.
- Boundary Breaks Vineyard: Located just north of Lodi Point State Park on the east side of Seneca Lake. Head to this off the beaten path winery for cool-climate varieties including Riesling, Gewurztraminer and Cabernet Franc and stunning views of Seneca Lake from the Tasting Room. This is a spot not to miss!
- Heron Hill Winery: Heron Hill Winery is nestled into a hill overlooking scenic Keuka Lake. The winery’s mission is to produce cool-climate wines that reflect the Finger Lakes region and pair well with food. The winery was also chosen as one of the 10 most spectacular tasting rooms in the world by Travel + Leisure Magazine.
Texas Hill Country, Texas
With more than 350 vineyards and wineries, Texas is a robust wine destination—and it was also the first state in the U.S. to establish a vineyard. The state’s most prominent wine zone is Hill Country, set in the rolling terrain of central Texas. It’s inviting terrain includes charming smaller towns like Fredericksburg, Johnson City, and Driftwood. Many wineries and vineyards dot the land along Highway 290 in the fertile agricultural stretch which parallels the Pedernales River and because of its variety of microclimates, the region is an ideal place to harvest a variety of grapes. The Texas Hill Country is home to over 100 wineries and vineyards and Fredericksburg is the epicenter of Texas Wine Country. There are more than 50 wineries and tasting rooms located in Fredericksburg and Gillespie County—not to mention dozens of wineries located within an hour or two drive of Fredericksburg. Each winery has its own personality, terroir and style of winemaking, yet all share a commitment to quality, hospitality and a passion for what they do.
- Lost Draw Cellars: Andy Timmons is known across the state for his grape growing abilities and is considered one of the pioneers for the exponential growth of vineyards in Texas over the past decade. Andy’s passion has led him to become the largest grape farmer in Texas, now managing over 500 acres and over 30 varieties. Lost Draw Cellars pride themselves on planting grapes that thrive in the semi-arid climate of the region and strive to continuously improve the growing process in a sustainable way.
- Grape Creek Winery: Enjoy award-winning wines amid beautifully landscaped patios, fountains and terraces. Taste wines in Grape Creek’s romantic Tuscan-style villa, where you can take a cellar tour and sample vintages right from the barrel. Dine at Stout’s Trattoria with sweeping views of the vineyard and embrace the feeling of “Tuscany in Texas.”
- William Chris Vineyards: Head to William Chris Vineyards for a full-on Texas wine experience. This vineyard crafts low impact 100% Texas-grown wine sourced from across the state and offers tours, barrel tastings, reserve tastings and even Texas cheese. The tasting room is a century old farm house remodeled with original and recycled materials with a focus on pinnacle quality wines made with old-world style.
Walla Walla Valley, Washington
Walla Walla represents the best of the Pacific Northwest wine industry and is the most remote of all Washington State wine regions. This Valley has been a regional agricultural hub for more than a century with nearly 3,000 acres of prime vineyards and more than 120 remarkable wineries. The area is home to some of Washington’s oldest wineries and vineyards can be found on either side of the border in the hills that surround the Walla Walla River, a tributary of the larger Columbia River. Grape production is dominated by red varieties. The sunny, dry climate of the valley is well suited to the Bordeaux Blend varieties Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, as well as Syrah. Syrahs from Walla Walla Valley, particularly the southern section of the valley, are notable for their distinctive savory profiles, full of earth, black olives, iodine, and smoked meat. Cabernet Sauvignon is the most planted variety and styles vary somewhat by site from more to less tannic.
- Garrison Creek Cellars: Located in the middle of Walla Walla Valley, the winery produces handcrafted wines in small lots, fewer than 100 cases of primarily Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. You’ll fall in love with rustic charm and beautiful architecture of the building that enhances the agricultural character of the area.
- Reininger Winery: This stunning winery specializes in crafting elegant and finely structured red wines from hand-harvested, ultra premium grapes. From their first release in 1997, Reininger wines have possessed a unique quality derived from the winemaker’s awareness of and passion for the natural elements that make great wines.
- Northstar Winery: Combines the art of old world wine-making with new world innovation to create Merlots that can be considered among the world’s best, from one of the world’s most acclaimed Merlot producing regions.
Paso Robles, California
Located halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles, Paso Robles mixes the fun-loving energy of Southern California with Northern California’s sophistication and innovation. Known as the land of “cowboys and wine,” Paso Robles charms with its stunning scenery, and wide range of wines suited for every taste and budget. Paso Robles grows over 40 different varieties and is home to some 200+ wineries (and counting), so it’s no wonder this Central Coast region is quickly becoming one of California’s most popular Wine Country destinations. While often compared to Napa, Paso Robles has its own sense of place and style, from the wine to the accommodations. In general, “Paso” a laid-back area with a wild west spirit, and while winemaking is taken seriously—Paso is known for its friendly, welcoming vibe.
- DAOU Vineyards & Winery: If stunning views is what you’re after, don’t miss DAOU Vineyards & Winery, a lavish, hill-top winery offering panoramic views as you taste. Experience an elevated wine tasting experience in Paso Robles wine country and enjoy award-winning DAOU wines expertly paired with a gourmet meal or in a tasting flight.
- Vina Robles Vineyard: Known primarily for their Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Sirah, the Vina Robles lineup includes small lots of a wide range of varieties and creative blends.
- Tablas Creek Winery: Recognized as one of the leaders in the California Rhône movement, Tablas Creek’s vineyards are certified organic and Biodynamic and largely dry-farmed, limiting yields naturally. Take advantage of the twice-daily tours to see the organic, estate vineyards and production facility before sampling some of their much-loved Rhône wines.
- Halter Ranch: Halter Ranch has a new state of the art winery and tasting room. Cross the quaint covered bridge onto this historic property and get ready to enjoy some of the best wine on the Central Coast. You’ll be welcomed by a large, renovated tasting room, but for a more unique experience, spring for the Excursion Tour to explore the picturesque property from a restored 1984 Land Rover Defender 110.
Charlottesville makes a great starting point for a tour of the Monticello Wine Trail, which will lead you to some of the area’s most renowned vineyards. The Monticello Wine Trail is a network of more than 30 wineries that are part of Virginia’s American Viticultural Area. Its moniker is an ode to former president Thomas Jefferson, who lived in Charlottesville in his now iconic home of Monticello. It was Jefferson’s dream for many years to position Virginia as a winemaking region and grow grapes that would rival the best Old World wines. Though he tried several times with colleagues at the time, obstacles like the American Revolution seemed to always get in his way. Several of these wineries, which sit within a 30-mile radius of Charlottesville, also offer luxury accommodations and excellent restaurants on-site. With the dramatic backdrop of the Blue Ridge Mountains and top-notch wines and cuisine, central Virginia should be your next wine getaway.
- King Family Vineyards: David and Ellen King planted the original grapes at King Estate in 1996. The winery, located approximately 18 miles west of Charlottesville, is managed by the Kings and their three sons. Plan your trip around polo season (late spring through early fall), so you can sip your wine while watching a polo game.
- Veritas Vineyard & Winery: Andrew and Patricia Hodson began Veritas Vineyard with 5 acres of vines in 1999. The family-owned estate and farm now stretches across more than 50 acres. The property also offers accommodations at The Farmhouse at Veritas, a luxury eight-bedroom bed-and-breakfast that hosts four-course Farmhouse Dinners paired with Veritas wines Tuesday through Saturday evenings.
- Barboursville Vineyards: Situated on an 18th-century estate, approximately 16 miles northeast of Charlottesville. Italian winemaker Gianni Zonin purchased the property in 1976 to bring European viticulture to Virginia. Together with winemaker Luca Paschina, Barboursville consistently produces award-winning vintages recognized by the prestigious Virginia Governor’s Cup.
Verde Valley, Arizona
When it comes to wine country, Arizona doesn’t usually come to mind. If you’re a nature lover but also know how to appreciate a good glass of wine, look no further than Arizona’s Sedona Verde Valley for your next tasting adventure. When making wine, it is essential to have a microclimate that allows the grapes to deliver their best juice after the harvest. The Verde Valley’s combination of a dry, arid climate, along with drastic temperature changes like warm days and cool nights, is similar to some of the best wine-producing regions around the world. As a result, boutique wineries have been starting to pop-up all over Oak Creek and the Verde River regions. Spend a couple days in the Verde Valley’s intimate wine country and you start to feel like a local. If you’re a lover of vino, consider taking a day to follow the Verde Valley Wine Trail. Known for Old World-style wines served along the Verde Valley Wine Trail, a loose, sprawling collection of tasting rooms and wineries that span Cottonwood, Clarkdale, Cornville, Jerome and Sedona. Cottonwood calls itself the heart of the wine trail, with several tasting rooms on Main Street.
- Alcantara Vineyard & Winery: The first winery on the Verde River is one of the largest vineyards in Central and Northern Arizona. What started as a dream venture created by Barbara and husband Bob, Alcantara Vineyards has grown to over 20,000 vines and an offering of 17 different varietals. Sip wine and enjoy the peaceful surroundings, including the vineyards, a grassy picnic area, the Verde River and bald eagles flying overhead.
- Oak Creek Vineyards & Winery: Grapes don’t usually grow in the desert’s dry heat, but the owners of Oak Creek Vineyard and Winery found a way. They nourish vines of Syrah, Merlot, Zinfandel, and Chardonnay grapes with pure water from an aquifer 425 feet beneath the earth’s surface. Enjoy drinking wine against the backdrop of Sedona’s stunning red rocks to end a perfect day.
- D.A. Ranch: The estate-grown wines from this tiny, family-owned winery are worth the 11-mile drive to Cornville and the lodge setting and beautiful grounds are a bonus. The D.A. Ranch and its 100-year-old red barn mixes past and new family traditions and is representative of a new contemporary sensibility towards the land and its use. Their limited production allows the wines to be a unique and special experience for each and every wine lover.
From the East Coast to the Midwest, pockets of excellent vineyards are continuing to grow in popularity and production, giving the beloved Napa Valley wineries some much-needed rivalry.
Whether you’re looking to travel off-the-beaten-path or an enthusiast looking to experience a familiar region you may have only explored via a bottle at home, let our guide be an inspiration to help you plan a great trip (where wine tours and tastings are just the start). Gorgeous vineyards, delectable food and (of course) top-notch vino—these are the essentials of a wine vacation. Whether you’re a local—or a first-time visitor—you’re going to want to raise a glass in these swirling centers of viticulture.