5 American Wine Regions Beyond Napa Valley
You don’t have to go all the way to Napa Valley to find great American wine regions. In fact, some of the country’s best vineyards are nestled amid hills in the South, near rivers in the Midwest, and between lakes in the Northeast. With tastings nestled between interesting excursions, trips to these destinations would make ideal gifts for wine lovers in your circle. We’ve listed five of our favorites below.
Shawnee Hills Wine Trail
Several winemakers migrated to southern Illinois after Napa Valley became commercialized in the 1980s. The 25-mile trail passes through a scenic part of Illinois that defies the state’s reputation for dull topography.
# of wineries: 12
Claim to fame: Table and dessert wines—think apple chambourcin and traminette spiced with orange blossoms
Our pick: Von Jakob Winery & Brewery, where you can buy a bottle of honey wine for less than $15.
Après-wine activity: Climb over, under, and through rock formations in the Little Grand Canyon, near Murphysboro. Its sandstone bluffs and waterfalls offer the perfect backdrop for selfies.
Where to stay: Rest up at the Train Inn in Carbondale, where you can wake up to a home-cooked breakfast and tinker around in a century-old Arts and Crafts bungalow.
Missouri Wine Country
You can explore the Missouri River Wine Trail, the Hermann Wine Trail, the Ozark Mountain Wine Trail, and the Weinstrasse (Wine Road), which reflects the influence of German immigrants who started winemaking here 180 years ago.
# of wineries: About 120
Claim to fame: Chardonnays and vignoles that flourish in Missouri’s ever-changing climate
Our pick: Stone Hill Winery in the Bavarian-style town of Hermann. It’s been in the winemaking biz since 1847.
Après-wine activity: Go antiquing and browse art galleries in Hermann.
Where to stay: Capitol Plaza Hotel Jefferson City. The AAA Three Diamond hotel is a scenic drive from the wine trails and close to the Governor’s Mansion.
Loudoun County’s vines grow just an hour from Capitol Hill, so it’s a great day-trip destination for wine lovers visiting DC.
# of wineries: More than 40
Claim to fame: Thomas Jefferson brought French varietals to Virginia during the 18th century; you can taste his influence in the region’s cabernet francs and viogniers.
Our pick: Breaux Vineyards. Its viognier was one of the only American wines to make Oz Clarke’s roundup of 2012’s best wines.
Après-wine activity: Visit the National Mall to see the breathtaking Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument after dark.
Where to stay: Hotel Madera, a Kimpton Hotel, is just a mile from the White House. After a day of tastings, indulge in an aromatherapy massage from the comfort of your guest room.
Texas Hill Country
Back in 2006, Southern Living hinted that Texas Hill Country was poised to become “the next Napa Valley.” It’s blossomed into a renowned American wine region infused with hints of the Old West.
# of wineries: More than 40
Claim to fame: Italian and Spanish varietals, especially full-bodied sangiovese and tempranillo.
Our pick: Family-owned Becker Vineyards, where you’ll find 50 acres of peach orchards, lavender fields, and of course, grapevines
Après-wine activity: Grab a bottle and a basket, and have picnic in a meadow of Texas bluebonnets.
Where to Stay: Hang your ten-gallon hat at the Inn of the Hills in Kerrville. The hotel has WiFi and an outdoor pool.
Finger Lakes Wine Region
The Finger Lakes wine region spans more than 11,000 acres in upstate New York. The vineyards are clustered alongside Keuka Lake, Seneca Lake, and Cayuga Lake.
# of wineries: More than 100
Claim to fame: The cool temperatures are reminiscent of Germany’s Rhineland region, meaning you’ll find lots of rieslings and sparkling wines.
Our pick: Dundee’s Fulkerson Winery has been around for six generations; the Huffington Post called it one of the must-see spots in Finger Lakes in 2014.
Après-wine activity: Check out the museums in Corning. You can catch a hot-glass show at the Corning Museum of Glass or admire Native American pottery at the Rockwell Museum.
Where to stay: Los Gatos Bed and Breakfast, situated between Seneca Lake and Keuka Lake, has private cabins and traditional B&B accommodations.
Wondering how to get all those wine bottles home in one piece? Use our handy travel hack.