Fact is, the American wine industry offers a plethora of travel possibilities, with its vacation appeal hinging on three things. Terroir, for one; that’s the French word referring to specificity of place and to a destination’s unique weather and soil conditions that allow wine grapes to flourish.
Two? Talent, the men and women whose creativity, ingenuity and artistic knack allow for quality grapes to become delicious wine. And third is a supporting travel industry, a cohesive voice that effectively spreads the word to not just drive sales, but to lure thirsty and savvy travelers, too.
These factors all come together in Northern California, of course, which makes sense. The vast majority of the wine produced in the U.S. comes from Napa and Sonoma. But here’s a fact: wine is produced in every one of our 50 states, and discovering those buzzing areas can satisfy both your thirst and your wanderlust.
Here are a few of my favorite alternative wine destinations.
I have lived in Santa Barbara, and tracked its burgeoning wine region, for more than 15 years. Diversity is the calling card here: cool climate grapes like pinot noir flourish to the west while warm-weather fruit like cabernet sauvignon thrives in the east. Throw in a bevy of boutique towns, like Santa Ynez, Los Olivos and downtown Santa Barbara itself, and this region, less than two hours north of L.A., is a wine lover’s dream vacation. Andrew Murray Vineyards is worth a visit, especially with their sleek new visitor center. Rideau and Presidio, both in the Danish-inspired city of Solvang, are visitor favorites. Wineries in San Luis Obispo County, just north of here, offer a fantastic viticultural experience all their own.
As a geographical alternative to Northern California, wine country is also and well near popular spots like Los Angeles and San Diego. The recently-revamped region of Temecula, an hour outside L.A., is peppered with wine estates that double as resorts. To hone your tasting skills, sip and stay at the 4-star South Coast Winery, where behind-the-scenes tours take place daily; nearby Danza del Sol Winery, whose 40-acres vineyard grows grapes like syrah and tempranillo, offers classes. Closer to the Pacific, Malibu has recently won its own AVA , the federal distinction as a unique grape growing region; here, destination tasting rooms like Rosenthal allow you to sip with a view.
Wine production in the Empire State continues to garner industry recognition. Upstate, the Hudson Valley is known as the country’s oldest wine growing region, and scenery alone here is a draw. Wineries like Millbrook Vineyards, located just 90 minutes from New York City, produce Burgundian wines and put on festive summer events. East of the Big Apple, in the Hamptons, wineries are drawing tourists for day trips; companies like Hampton Luxury Liner offer day trips out of Manhattan and visits to vineyards like Pindar, Duck Walk and Baiting Hollow Farm for tastings, tours and live music.
This state is not just for lovers anymore, it caters to wine buffs, too. Virginia is home to more than 200 wineries, which have become a big part of the tourism story here. Northern Virginia’s Barrel Oak Winery has won dozens of industry medals for wines like cabernet franc and chardonnay. And at Little Washington Winery located 90 minutes outside Washington, DC, the focus is on making the wine experience snob-free through fun classes, like how to pair wine with chocolate and cheese.
The list goes on and on, of course, with remarkable winery stories to be told in states like Texas, Oregon, Washington, North Carolina and New Mexico. So on this National Wine Day, plan on hitting the road, with glass in hand (and responsibly, of course).