With every one of the 50 states in the United States producing wine, visiting wine country has never been easier. Napa Valley and Sonoma are easily two of the best wine destinations in the United States, and for good reason – the wines are amazing! But, there are many more U.S. wine regions worth visiting. Here are just a few must visit American wine regions to consider for your grape escape.
Finger Lakes, NY
Named by Wine Enthusiast as one of the Top 10 Worldwide Wine Destinations, along with countless other accolades, Finger Lakes wine country is more than just a grape growing area. Today, it’s making its mark as a popular, affordable, and beautiful wine country destination. With more than 100 wineries, the Finger Lakes wine region is not to miss.
Explore: The Seneca Lake Wine Trail starts at the north end of the lake in Geneva and winds around the perimeter with more than 30 member wineries serving wine – and mead (wine made from honey). Try it! Find out more about visiting the Finger Lakes wine country in our guide.
Finger Lakes Wine Region Grapes: A cool-climate wine region, Finger Lakes specializes in white wines, with Riesling its star. While New York’s climate is typically too cold for red wine grapes to fully ripen, find quality Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, and hybrid Baco Noir wines.
Arizona Wine Country
Don’t let the dry heat fool you. Arizona wine country has a rich wine history that dates back to the 16th century when Spanish Jesuit priests began producing wine for religious sacramental ceremonies. Of course, U.S. Prohibition shut it down, but today, more than 110 Arizona wineries, vineyards, and cellars make it a must visit United States wine destination.
Explore: Tasting rooms in Arizona are popping up all over Scottsdale and Tucson, creating the ultimate AZ Urban Wine Trails, but we know how much you love to sip among the vines for the ultimate wine country experience. Arizona wine country’s 110 wineries can be found in primary areas and we invite you to explore then all with our articles on wine tasting in Phoenix, Wilcox, Sonita, and the Verde Valley. Viva la vino!
Arizona Wine Country Grapes: Some of Arizona’s highest quality white wines include Viognier, Malvasia Bianca and Chenin Blanc. Varietals native to the Rhone Valley have also been widely successful in producing some of Arizona’s most popular reds.
Ohio Wine Country
As a US wine region, Ohio once held a top position in the country’s wine trade. Before Prohibition hit in the early 1900s, Ohio produced more wine than any state in the union.
But it’s not just Ohio’s storied vinous past that makes it a must visit wine destination in the United States.
Today award winning wines are coming out the state as the region replants its roots. Producing more than 1.1 million gallons of wine annually, Ohio is one of the top 10 wine producing states in the United States.
Don’t let Ohio’s frigid winters fool you. That cold is the cause for some the state’s top wine produced: Ice wine. Ice wine comes from grapes left to freeze on the vine, going through multiple freeze / thaw cycles.
Explore: The Ohio wine region has five recognized AVAs and six wine trails. We suggest starting your adventure along the southern shores of Lake Erie and into the Grand River Valley. This magical part of northeastern Ohio gives you access to the most wineries in Ohio per square mile. A few favorites include: Ficarra Cellars, Debonne Vineyards, Laurello Vineyards.
Ohio Wine Country Grapes: Each of Ohio’s wine trails are located in different parts of the state offering different grape varieties across the multitude of climates and rich soils.
The Snake River Valley, Idaho
Idaho is more than potatoes. With three official American Viticultural Areas (AVA – wine growing regions), 55 wineries, and over 1,600 acres of grapes planted, Idaho’s growth in the world of fine wines is booming…making it a must visit wine destination in the United States.
Nearly 30 of the 55 wineries in Idaho are within 35 miles from Boise, which is centrally located within the Snake River Valley AVA. See our Idaho Wine Guide for where to stay and sip, as well as things to do beyond the vines in Boise.
Explore: The Sunny Slope Wine Trail winds through vineyards, orchards and acres of mint. The views along the route are simply stunning and well worth the drive. With 15 wineries on the Sunny Slope Wine Trail you’re sure to find some excellent spots for sipping. A few favorites include: Bitner Vineyards, HAT Ranch Winery, Huston Vineyards, Koenig Vineyards, Sawtooth Estate Winery, Ste.Chapelle Winery.
Idaho Wine Country Grapes: Idaho does not have a signature varietal…yet. Producers continue to explore the grape varietals that survive and thrive in this young winemaking state’s three AVAs. So far a few key ones that have taken root.
Wisconsin Wine Country
Hello, Wisconsin! Yes, Wisconsin has a wine country and we absolutely think it’s worth visiting. And, while the local cheese is naturally one of our top reasons to put it on your must visit U.S. wine regions list, wine geeks will love learning about their cold resistant grape varieties.
Wisconsin’s winemaking began to flourish when Osceola’s Elmer Swenson worked with the University of Minnesota grape breeding program to create cold-resistant, or cold hardy grapes, revolutionizing wine making not just in the Midwest, but across the country. You see, Wisconsin generally only has three t0 six months without frost. These new grapes, bred for both the soil and climate, have Wisconsin wineries flourishing.
Explore: Wisconsin is part of the largest American Viticultural Area (AVA), the Upper Mississippi Valley AVA, which includes southwest Wisconsin, southeast Minnesota, northeast Iowa, and northwest Illinois. The state also has two smaller designated AVAs, the Wisconsin Ledge AVA and the Lake Wisconsin AVA. The latter sits within the Upper Mississippi Vally AVA. To get exploring, check out our Wisconsin Travel Guide and our two Two-day Itineraries:
- Wisconsin Wine Country: Two Day Itinerary For Door County Wineries
- Wisconsin Wine Country: Two Days Sipping Along The Great River Road
Wisconsin Wine Country Grapes: More than ⅔ of the grapes grown in Wisconsin are cold-hardy varieties. Some of the most popular – and delicious – include Valiant, Edelweiss, Marquette, La Crosse and Frontenac grapes. The names may be unfamiliar, but the flavors are not. These grapes are close relatives Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Moscato, and Riesling; they’ve just been bred to produce in colder climates.
White Wine Grapes: Edelweiss, Frontenac Gris, Itasca, La Crescent
Red Wine Grapes: Frontenac, Marechal Foch, Marquette, St. Croix
Texas Hill Country, TX
With more than 55 wineries in the Texas Hill Country, the area not only produces excellent wines, but has become the second most visited wine region in the United States, only behind Napa Valley. Texas Hill Country was also named one of the 10 best wine travel destinations by Wine Enthusiast Magazine.
A must for any Texas Hill Country wine region trip is a stop in the quaint town of Fredericksburg where you can experience the towns authentic German culture. From food, festivals, architecture, and of course wine and beer!
Explore: Wine Road 290 winds through the Texas Hill Country and takes you through a large number the local wineries. Want to plan a Texas wine trip, see our guide.
Texas Wine Country Grapes: Being a young wine region, Texas is still establishing the grape varieties that grow well. So far, winemakers find Rhône varieties as well as Italian and Spanish grape able to withstand Texas heatwaves.
Lake Erie Wine Country, Pennsylvania
Did you know the state of Pennsylvania has almost 300 wineries? It ranks 5th nationally in grapes grown by volume and 7th in overall wine production. As a result, Pennsylvania is also home to some amazing wine trails and tours. While we picked the Lake Erie wine country as a must visit wine region, there are wineries all over the state. Many are family-owned and -operated, continuing centuries-old traditions dating back to 1683 when William Penn planted Philadelphia’s first vineyard. The Lake Erie wine country is home to more than 20 wineries along a 50-mile stretch. The trek allows you to sample a variety of wines while transporting to a bygone era of quaint Victorian towns, beautiful views, and excellent wine.
Explore: Consider cruising the Lake Erie wine country by bike or the trolley!
Pennsylvania Wine Country Grapes: Since the climate and soil varies greatly throughout the state, Pennsylvania grows a considerable many variety of grapes in its 14,000 plus (and growing) acres of planted grapevines. Make sure to sip some Labrusca wine, the areas native grape variety.
White Wine Grapes: Riesling, Cayuga, Seyval Blanc, Albariño, Grüner Veltliner, Vidal Blanc, Niagara, Traminette
Red Wine Grapes: Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Chambourcin, Blaufränkisch (Lemberger), Carmine, Teroldego, Seperavi
Vermont Wine Country
Grape growing in Vermont is not for the faint of heart. The state’s cold temps make frost a threat both during bud break and harvest. So why would you want to visit a U.S. wine region where grape growing is so difficult? For us, that’s reason enough.
Vermont is another must visit United States wine region that boasts the aforementioned cold-hardy grapes – hybrids like La Crescent and Marquette. The grapes may be unfamiliar by name, but think about the new aromas and flavors that lends your hungry palate.
Explore: Vermont doesn’t have a designated American Viticultural Area (AVA) today, but vineyards are spread all across the state. Don’t worry about that meaning intensive travels – Vermont is the sixth-smallest by area in the United States. Driving scenic highway Route 100 end-to-end, from near the Massachusetts border to approaching the Canadian border, takes only about five hours straight. But plan time for stops along the way to take in the beautiful scenery, not to mention the wineries in Vermont. Some of our favorites include: Ellison Estate Vineyard, La Garagista Farm + Winery, Shelburne Vineyard.
Vermont Wine Country Grapes: Major grape varieties in Vermont include Frontenac, a red grape with a cherry-berry aroma and soft palate, Marquette, a more intense and complex red, with fruit, spice, and a tannic backbone; and La Crescent, a new white grape developed by the University of Minnesota gaining popularity for its intense apricot flavor, good body, and balanced acidity.
White Wine Grapes: Riesling, La Crescent, Traminette
Red Wine Grapes: Frontenac, Marquette, St. Croix
Willamette Valley, Oregon
The Willamette Valley was named Wine Enthusiast Magazine’s 2016 Wine Region of the Year – and for good reason. The wine region is known for its Pinot Noir, grown on lush hillsides in the shadows of the Cascade Mountains. With more than 500 hundred vineyards this huge and scenic area – stretching from Portland south to Eugene along Interstate 5 – make for an amazing wine destination in the U.S. Here are 16 Willamette Valley wineries you should visit and for you wine trivia lovers, here are some fun facts on Oregon wine.
Explore: With inviting bed and breakfast inns tucked in the hills, exploring the Willamette Valley can be multi-day journey of wine tastings, biking and hiking trails, and indescribable beauty
Oregon Wine Country Grapes: Traditionally the Willamette Valley’s primary grape focus has been on Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Pinot Gris but in recent years the region has seen an increase in the diversity of other plantings. Today find a wide variety of unique (if not downright obscure in the New World) grape varieties being grown.
Sip In More Wine 101…
Elaine Schoch (pronounced the German way – Shock) is the editor and founder of Carpe Travel as well as an award-winning travel writer, wine judge, certified by the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) Level 2 and certified American Wine Expert. She is married to The Husband and has two kids, Princess One and Two – who’s interest and knowledge in wine is quite extensive. Not to mention the stamps in their passports.