American Wine Tasting

Seven Regions Where Viticulture Reigns Supreme

If you think of wine tasting as a rarefied activity that’s just for fancy people in France, or those who can visit Italian vineyards in person, then tu n’es pas correct. The wine industry is booming in America. Wine is produced in all 50 States, on more than 10,000 wineries covering 700,000 acres of land, accounting for a million American jobs and $219 billion in revenue.

Tourism is the fastest growing sector of the wine industry, and each year nearly 50 million visitors make their way to vineyards around the country to taste the wines and see how the grapes are grown and processed. Napa and Sonoma Valley in California are the best known wine regions in America, producing millions of gallons of wine each year. But new vineyards are popping up all the time in every corner of the country, making it possible to have a wine tasting excursion within a few hours drive of your hometown. Here are seven of our favorite American Viticultural locations:

Monticello Wine Trail, Virginia

The central Virginia wine industry goes back to the days of Thomas Jefferson, and is considered the birthplace of the American Wine Industry. But Jefferson’s crops had major pest problems, and he was never able to fulfill his dream of raising a grape that rivaled the fruit produced in Europe. But where Jefferson failed in the late 1700s, wine growers have succeeded in the early 2000s. Wineries in the Blue Ridge Mountains have been booming since 2011, and there is no sign of a bust on the horizon.

The American Viticultural Area currently recognizes 33 member wineries on the Monticello Trail. Jefferson Vineyards was named in homage to the Founding Father and third president, but was founded and has been run by the Woodward family for three generations.  The vineyard is known for its exceptional Viogniers, and is open to visitors most weekends.

Given Jefferson’s problem with vine pests, it is admirable for a grape grower to forge ahead with an organic vineyard. Indeed, Loving Cup Vineyard & Winery is the only certified organic facility on the Monticello Trail. Best known for it’s peachy Cayuga White and its full-bodied Tellurian Red, the dog-friendly, picnic-welcoming vineyard is open for tastings from Fridays-Sundays.

When planning a trip to the home of the most notable Founding Father, it’s only appropriate that you immerse yourself in the rich, robust history that permeates Charlottesville, Virginia. Locust Grove Tavern is a historic home, equipped with all of the modern day amenities you’ve come to expect, or the Inn at Court Square (with suites named after historical figures) sits in the middle of downtown. Both boast a convenient less-than-ten-minute drive to the Wine Trail attractions.

Read Up

If you’re something of a history buff, you can read up on Thomas Jefferson’s affinity for fine wines in this critically acclaimed book by John Hailman.

Thomas Jefferson on Wine 

Old Mission Peninsula, Michigan

There’s a reason vineyards have a tendency to be clustered together. When the soil and the climate are right for wine, word has a way of getting around among aspiring grape growers. The Old Mission Peninsula in the northern stretch of Lake Michigan is on the 45th Parallel, the halfway mark between the equator and the North Pole, which happens to have the right amount of sunlight and warm temperatures to support lush vineyards, of which there are presently around thirty.

The Brys Estate Vineyard and Winery is one of the largest in the region, with a 40 acres of grapes, and a comprehensive portfolio of Chardonnays, Pinot Noirs, Rosés and Rieslings. It was established by Walt and Eileen Brys, a retired couple who traded in their relaxed Florida life to pursue their dream of running a vineyard.

Nor far from the Brys estate is the 20-acre Bowers Harbor Vineyards, established in 1991 by Linda Stegenga and her son, Spencer. The vineyard produces more than 30 wines and hard ciders, and is known for its exceptional Brut Rosé and sparkling Pinot Secco. The tasting menu includes locally crafted cheeses and hand-made spreads, and the facility is dog friendly.

While staying on the Old Mission Peninsula, there’s no shortage of beachfront lodging on the Grand Traverse Bay. When you come for the wine, you can stay on an actual farm, complete with vineyard and raspberry orchard. Or if you want the best of both worlds, try the Neahtawanta Inn, perched on the edge of the bay, complete with dock, and is only a short drive to the vineyards.

Read Up

This catch-all book about Michigan wines can guide you through the tasting rooms and help you understand how this region boomed into its own little wine country.

Up North Michigan Wines by the Bay: Leelanau and Old Mission Peninsulas Explored

Paso Robles, California

Napa and Sonoma are ne plus ultra when it comes to the California wine industry. But weekend tastings at the vineyards–not to mention the traffic in and around wine country–can get very congested. Paso Robles, an ascendant wine region approximately halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, is home to 200 makers of world-class wines, and yet the area has maintained a laid back agricultural vibe.

Gary Eberle established one of the region’s first wineries after receiving a degree in winemaking from U.C. Davis in 1971. Four decades later, Gary still greets guests at his vineyard’s popular tastings which include many award-winning wines including a Syrah, Cotes-du-Robles Blanc and a Zinfandel.

Not far from Eberle Winery is the Halter Ranch, a beautiful sustainable-farming facility which specializes in Bordeaux and Rhone-style wines. Occasionally, the ranch holds “wine camps,” all-day events which include in-depth instruction on wine production as well as gourmet food and wine tastings.

Forget the idea of California being all hustle-bustle. The agricultural tranquility of this little-known wine paradise really makes for a peaceful getaway. Stay in a beautiful tucked-away ranch, or if you’re in the mood for a little nightlife during your stay, this 13th St. Retreat is only a three-block walk from downtown.

Read More

Packed with photography and useful info, The Winemakers of Paso Robles gives an inside peak to this diverse group of vintners and how they bring magic to every glass.

The Winemakers of Paso Robles

Fredericksburg, Texas

Texas is known more as cattle country than wine country, but give it time.Texas is now the nation’s fifth-largest grape-producing state and its burgeoning vineyards are quickly making a name for themselves. Back in the late 1970s, little was known about the feasibility of growing grapes in Texas, but Paul Vincent and his wife Merrill started planting test crops to see if they could make a go of it. Numerous awards and over a million gallons of wine later, Paul and Merrill run the Messina Hof Winery & Resort  with their son Paul Jr. and his wife, Karen. The estate includes a villa with ornate guest suites available as part of a wine-tasting package. –

If Tempranillos and Viogniers are your thing, Pedernales Cellars, is a boutique operation dedicated to making world-class wines that honor the local Texan terroir. Visitors can tour the underground wine cellars and relax with a glass of vino on the patio which features expansive views of the region’s rolling hills.

There is no lack of lodging along Fredericksburg’s carefree Main Street, and we want to point you towards the créme de la créme. The Emigrant’s Inn offers a lush king-size bed, patio and a wine-shuttle stop right outside. If you’re looking for luxurious privacy, The Hideaway modern farmhouse comes complete with a private hot tub to enjoy after a long, hard day of sipping wine.

Read Up

You can learn more about Paul and Merrill and their ability to transform cuisine in their book that highlights both recipes and secrets to a happy marriage.

Vineyard Cuisine: Meals & Memories from Messina Hof

North Georgia Mountains, Georgia

A Georgia peach is the state’s logo and its most popular crop, but the North Georgia Mountains, two hours outside Atlanta, is definitively grape territory. The wine industry goes back about 25 years, and has become a hearty growth industry where tourism is as popular as the fermented stuff itself. The Habersham Vineyards and Winery is one of Georgia’s most established producers and will be holding its annual Wine Fest on Saturday May 5, 2018 to celebrate the season with other Georgia wine makers.  The event will feature food, live music, and over 60 wines available for tasting. –

Wolf Mountain Winery is the region’s most acclaimed producer, having been awarded over 200 medals in major national competitions. Their vast portfolio includes Chardonnays, Delicieux, Brut Naturals and Syrah Bruts. The winery’s restaurant serves an elegant brunch on Sundays, and is open for lunch Thursdays-Saturdays.

Forget a standard hotel. When you go to the mountains, you stay in the mountains. Gear up your rough-terrain SUV to travel to this cabin aptly named Almost Heaven where a wine shuttle will pick you up and the views will leave you breathless. Or, if you’re planning a reunion or large get-together, this large cabin next to the river offers a relaxing trinkle of water, outdoor firepit and room enough for ten guests.

Read Up

This historical guide to Georgia wines can give you insight into how this deep-South state became home to 65 wineries.

Georgia Vineyards and Wineries: A Historical Guide to Modern Georgia Wines

Walla Walla, Washington

Picture a small town in a colorful valley where fruits and vegetables – fresh off the farm – are sold from small stands and lovingly prepared in local restaurants. Live bands perform in the town squares, and everyday life has an easygoing flair. It may sound like a scene from a 20th Century Norman Rockwell painting, but it also describes present-day Walla Walla. Agriculture has been good to Walla Walla, which has long been a leading producer of sweet onions, strawberries, asparagus, and wheat. But for the past few decades, wine makers have increasingly made Walla Walla their home, and there are now 120 wineries on 2800 acres across the Walla Walla Valley.

The Walla Faces company  includes a vineyard, an inn, a tasting room, and a wall of art featuring the faces of all the people who helped Debbie and Rick Johnson achieve their dream of living a wine-inspired life. If all of this sounds a bit folksy and eccentric, then you’ve hit upon the unique charm of the Walla Walla Wine Scene. Walla Faces is known for its Cabernet Sauvignons and Red blends, and the vineyard is open for tours every Saturday.

Reininger Winery is known for its award-winning Syrah, and the hosts are very knowledgeable about wine production and the subtleties or terroir and flavor. Open for tastings most weekends.

If you’re looking for lodging, Casita C’s Sip & Sleep is a home constructed circa 1910, sitting in the historic district of downtown Walla Walla. The wine-industry insider that owns the B&B can even give you some inside tips on the best way to go about your adventure. If you’re in for a cozy romantic retreat, try this Tiny House, also located in the historic district.

Read Up

This comprehensive history can give you even more insight about the transformation of this beautiful oasis.

Wines of Walla Walla Valley: A Deep-Rooted History

North Fork, Long Island, New York

The northeastern tip of Long Island is dotted with dozens of vineyards which specialize in Chardonnays, Merlots and Cabernet Francs. Given that you’ll be imbibing, a designated driver is a must, or why not hire a local tour operator? New Vine Wine Tours makes planning your trip smoother than an Argentine Rioja. They are intimately familiar with all of the wineries in the area, and will even make reservations for you at the sites that you select.

A visit to wine county will put you in close proximity to Long Island’s charming antique shops, vegetable stands, and unspoiled beaches, so you might want to spend more than a few hours on the wine trail. The Shinn Estate Vineyards and Farmhouse operates a beautiful bed and breakfast on the site of their working farm.

If you don’t feel like driving all the way to the East End of Long Island, you can stop at Harmony Vineyards in Stonybrook  which is only two hours from New York City and is known for its delectable Sunday brunch.

While vineyards and wine-tastings have you covered on entertainment during your Long Island sojourn, it, this private bungalow within a historic Tudor offers you the walking distance to town, the vineyards and surrounding farms. Or, if you’re going for a one-two punch of beach time and wine time, shack up in this modern beach house on Peconic Bay.

Read Up

You can pick your destinations in advance with this book on Long Island wine country, which showcases the best award-winning vineyards in the area.

Long Island Wine Country: Award-Winning Vineyards Of The North Fork And The Hamptons


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