Lucky for us, scenic wine country can be found all over the U.S.A. It might just even be in your own backyard …
It’s not just Napa — the U.S. boasts thousands of wineries, and many of those are found outside of California (although we definitely love the idea of traveling for a good California wine). From the Great Lakes to the grass-covered mountains of Washington and all the way down to the heart of Texas and the hillsides of southern Arizona, you can find rustic countrysides, romantic locations, glamorous tasting rooms, and girlfriend getaways near and far. And what is better motivation to travel, than to travel for wine?
But wherever you go, make sure you visit with a good camera, a hat, comfortable footwear, and plenty of sunscreen. For the most part, visiting wineries is an outdoor activity, so bring shoes and clothing that can handle a little dust (and a splatter of wine or two). While a trip like this might seem fancy, it’s the laid-back atmosphere and casual tasting experiences that make wine trips the absolute best types of vacations to take, especially in the spring, summer, and during fall harvest season.
These states have some of the best wine trails to take with family and friends. So pick one that fits your budget, book your plane ticket ASAP, or hop in an RV, and try to see them all!
You might think of golf courses, pools, and winter getaways when you think of the great state of Arizona. Add wineries to the list! This state has over 120 wineries and tasting rooms, the most famous of which are found in southern Arizona — the Willcox and Sonoita regions. Thanks to the hot days, mild winters, and cold nights, the grapes here grow big and colorful, with thick skins and tons of flavor.
Arizona produces four main varietals including Sauvignon Blanc, Malbec, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon. These are the grapes that grow best with these dry conditions, and they also produce some of the most full-bodied wines around. But these two regions are more than just great wine — you can find wineries in unique locations such as along Oak Creek and near the now-busy (but still old-timey) Main Street of Old Town Cottonwood. Bonus if you keep track of the birds you see, as this region is a bird watcher’s paradise.
If you love wine, we’re betting Napa Valley is already on your travel bucket list. Both Napa and Sonoma counties are prolific in the wine world, and offer so much to do including in-depth winery tours, outdoor excursions, family friendly festivals during harvest season, day spas, and culinary experiences with top chefs. Take advantage of better travel rates during the low season (November-February). You might not see clusters of grapes hanging off the vines, but you’ll still get to drink delicious vino in an idyllic setting, and enjoy the tasting rooms without the crowds.
It’s no longer a secret — Texas produces really good wine, and the setting is just about perfect. That’s why Texas wine country has well over a million visitors each year between the Hill Country and the High Plains (two prominent regions). But don’t get it twisted — even though these areas are both in Texas, they are separated by over 300 miles. Unless you’re planning a full Texas road trip, we recommend picking one region and sticking to it during your stay.
Over 70% of the grapes grown in Texas are produced in the High Plains near towns like Lubbock and Amarillo. Even so, the wines produced in the Hill Country near Austin are also delicious, and there are an abundance of activities in and around the town of Fredericksburg (roughly 90 minutes away from Austin). Between both the Hill Country and the High Plains regions, you really can’t go wrong. Simply pack your boots and a big hat, and get ready to enjoy some Texas wine!
It might not be talked about too often, but the Lake Michigan Shore wine trail is a Midwest fan favorite. That’s because this wine trail is essentially an alliance of 15 wineries that all produce quality wines (90% of Michigan’s vineyards) and they are harvested late in the fall season. Plus, the setting is immaculate. With views of the water and the Michigan countryside, there are few places that produce wine quite like this one. With a total of six wine trails and five wine regions, Michigan is a surprising place to drink delicious vino. Take the family on a road trip, or simply fly into Chicago and see it for yourself.
New York has long been recognized as one of top spots to visit wineries on the East Coast. From the Finger Lakes region to the Hudson River, the Lake Erie region and the Champlain Valley … you’ll find dozens of wineries producing high-quality wines. A visit in the fall guarantees a good time, along with the vibrant fall colors this part of the country is famous for. And if you find yourself in New York City and don’t have time to visit the countryside, Red Hook Winery sits on the edge of Brooklyn and gets great reviews for year-round enjoyment. Taste delicious wines with a view of the Statue of Liberty just across the water.
Think of Oregon and visions of Portland and vegan restaurants might come to mind … but less than an hour away sits the Willamette Valley. Rich and ruby reds like Pinot Noir, Tempranillo, and Cabernet Sauvignon are found here, along with full-bodied Chardonnays and fruity Rieslings for white wine drinkers. The climate is characteristically cooler which makes for comfortable summertime sipping. Bring an umbrella, and a group of friends who enjoy quality wine, and your time in Oregon will be a wine-filled adventure.
Virginia isn’t a large state by any means (37th on the list), yet its wine country is sprawling and abundant. It all started in the 1970s when a handful of farmers decided to start producing wine. Today, there are nearly 300 wineries in Virginia, and the regions are in every direction of Richmond, the state’s capital. Since many of these wineries can be found in the mountains, consider booking a stay at a cabin, or relax at a campground and drink wine, while touring one of the many Virginia wine trails.
Right next to Oregon is Washington (and the Columbia Valley) where some of the world’s finest wines hail from. If you’re expecting rainforest scenery with the wet climate, you might be surprised. Many of the wineries in this area are surrounded by dramatic mountains, rocky terrain, and wheat farms. With the healthy soil and excessive rainfall, it's no wonder that some of the most popular wineries in the U.S.A. like Chateau Ste. Michelle and Seven Hills Winery call Washington home. Just don’t book your flight to Seattle! Pick a direct flight to Portland Airport (PDX) instead — a relatively short 50 mile drive.
Although these are some of the states with the largest wine regions, take a look at rural areas near you. You might be surprised how many wineries are within driving distance. Even better, see if there’s a shuttle, or find time to book a quick weekend stay, so you can stick around and enjoy all that the winery has to offer. Make sure you check about reservations, along with special tastings, and ticketed events. You would hate to go on a weekend only to find out that it’s booked for a private event (wedding season!) or closed for Covid protocols. Otherwise, enjoy everything the winery has to offer! From special wine flights to delicious bites and local goods, you might be surprised about the wines offered close to you where you live. Cheers to discovering it all!
Erin Hooker is a writer with experience creating wine, food, and interior design content. She began contributing to Graham + Fisk’s blog in 2021.