While Napa Valley may be the first place you think of for a wine-focused vacation, there are four more regions you won’t want to miss. The unique terroir required for award-winning vineyards are found in Oregon, Michigan, New York and Texas. All the northern state vineyards lie along the 45th parallel, the same latitude as the great wine regions of the world including Bordeaux, France. The best time for a wine-lovers trip is during the fall harvest season, September – October.
Willamette Valley, Oregon
If you talk to a vintner, they’ll tell you it’s all about the location. Stretching from north of Portland to south Eugene, the Willamette Valley in Oregon has rich, dark soil and warm temperatures cooled by ocean winds, the perfect environment for producing world-class Pinot Noir as well as high-quality Pinot Gris, Riesling, and Chardonnay. Oregon is also popular for its more relaxed vibe for visitors.
This Pacific Northwest valley is bordered by three mountain ranges so it’s perfect for hiking, biking, and camping, and Silver Falls State Park is a must-see for its vivid waterfalls. For aviation buffs, the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum is home to Howard Hughes’ flying boat, it’s worth a visit.
Traverse City, MI
Projecting out into Lake Michigan in the northwest corner of the state, the Leelanau and Old Mission peninsulas flank Traverse City. They’re both picturesque and ideal for the cool-climate wineries that have taken root six hours northeast of Chicago. The two peninsulas are just three miles apart and home to 35 wineries that produce over half of the state’s grapes. You’ll find a nice variety of wines including Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Fumé Blanc, and the star, Riesling, as well as Brut Rosé, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc and Merlot.
Along the Sleeping Bear Loop wine trail, you’ll see 450-foot high sand dunes overlooking Lake Michigan at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Stop for lunch for fresh fish and see the quaint fisherman shacks at Fishtown, and then spend the afternoon sampling the wineries. You’ll also find spots to hike and picnic in Old Mission, at the decommissioned Lighthouse, as well as hilly orchards and farms that provide a bounty of fresh produce like cherries, apples, and pumpkins for sale at the many roadside stands along your drive.
Finger Lakes, New York
The rich soil and cool-climate of the 11 naturally-formed Finger Lakes in Upstate New York created the perfect viniculture environment. Not far from both Rochester and Syracuse, the Finger Lakes Wine (FLX) region is home to more than 120 wineries, breweries, cideries and distilleries. The gently sloping hills along Canandaigua, Keuka, Seneca and Cayuga lakes are the heart of this region, with picture-perfect vineyards stretching toward the water’s edge. Visitors adore the world-class Riesling, Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay, Rosé and Pinot Noir produced here.
Lodging options include centuries-old manors now converted into boutique inns, as well as a variety of waterfront B & B’s. Overlooking Canandaigua Lake, the Victorian era Sonnenburg Gardens & State Historic Park showcases a well-preserved Queen-Anne style mansion with lovely formal and informal gardens. Nearby, cooking classes, wine lectures and more can be enjoyed at the New York Wine & Culinary Center. Seneca Lake, the deepest lake and host of the National Lake Trout Derby, is a popular fishing spot. Active travelers will also enjoy hiking and waterfall viewing in Watkins Glenn, as well as boating and water sports along the lakes.
Not far from both Austin and San Antonio, a little town called Fredericksburg is known as the heart of Texas wine country. By raising grapes that grow well in the Mediterranean, local wineries created award-winning, primarily red wines such as Malbec, Petit Verdot, and Tempranillo, very similar to those produced in Spain and Portugal. It’s not surprising since Texas is one of the oldest wine-producing states in the country. Many of the wineries keep an upbeat atmosphere with live music, savory barbecue, culinary cook-offs and special events like wine seminars.
When you need to stretch your legs, take a hike on one of the 11-miles of scenic trails in Garner State Park, or grab your camera to photograph rock climbers scaling the 425-foot pink granite rock found at Enchanted Rock State Natural Area. Canoeing, fishing and tubing are a popular way to pass the afternoon at the Guadalupe River State Park or enjoy the emerald green waters of the Hamilton Pool Nature Preserve. At night, pull on your boots and kick up your heels at Gruene Hall, built in 1878 and known as the oldest continually operating (and most famous) dance hall in Texas.
Contact us when you are ready, we would love to help you plan the perfect vineyard vacation!