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U.S. Wine Regions Somms are Excited to Sip

Vacations are meant to be refreshing, why not make them delicious too? 

As a wine professional who loves to travel I like to visit wine country to sip and study my way through winery after winery. It is a tough job, right? I asked a few of my wine pro friends about their favorite wine regions in the United States and where they like to sip and dine when visiting. Their answers might surprise you. 

Tonya Pitts

Tonya Pitts is a wine consultant and works as a wine director in San Francisco. She is a prolific wine writer and goes by Noir Sommelier on her social media handles. Pitts nods to Texas as her new favorite wine region in the United States. 

What is your current favorite United States wine region and why? 

Texas. There is so much promise in Texas, it’s an adventurous region. They are still figuring out what works and what doesn’t in the region: (French) Rhone grape varieties,  Iberian grapes, and hybrids. There is much to be excited about. I think hybrids are going to make a strong showing. Especially if they are done well. The wines taste more like the original varietals but there is more ripeness mid-palate, texture, the fruit is dry and it can be more mineral-driven. 

Favorite wine from this region?

Cheraime Wines, White Wine Blend (63%Roussanne, 19%Marsanne, 18% Viognier), Texas 2020

What are your favorite wine and food pairing for the aforementioned wine?

This wine is a great pairing with shrimp and grits and sautéed halibut with spring veggies with lemon parsley butter.

Favorite restaurant in this region?

Bouzy Restaurant 

Favorite things to do in Texas wine country?

My favorite is wine tasting and discovering new wines in a different region. (Looking for more ideas on things to do in Texas?)

Ashley Hausman, Master of Wine
Ashley Hausman, Master of Wine

Ashley Hausman

Ashley Hausman is a Master of Wine living and working in Minnesota as a champion of their budding wine industry. She is an educator, consultant, writer, wine importer, and frequent speaker on wine topics such as sustainability and inclusion. 

What is your current favorite United States wine region and why? 

There are many places I love that are widely found on shelves around the country – from Santa Barbara to Willamette Valley. But I have just returned from one of the most eye-opening trips to Southern Oregon. I was truly impressed and inspired by the wines being created in the Rogue Valley as well as the Umpqua. Their geology is singular – affected as they are by three mountain ranges (Siskyou/Klamath, Cascade, Coastal), and they experience a myriad of microclimates, which allow them to grow everything from Riesling and Albarino to Tempranillo and Malbec.

First, it is just so gorgeous. It wasn’t a monoculture. Driving through the Applegate or up Illinois Valley in the Rogue, it was dense forest land. The growers here are true farmers — humble with dirt beneath their fingernails. And most of them grow other produce as well for a living, raise cattle, or make cheese. It was quaint but serious about quality. They are eager to learn more — from other regions and experts, but most importantly each other. They had a strong sense of community in the Rogue. The Umpqua was a little more isolated, but I can’t get its beauty out of my head. Never seen anything like it in the US. I thought I was in Galicia, Spain. 

Favorite wine from this region?

I had lots of favorites from the textured whites at Awen Winecraft to the thoughtful wines from Troon and Long Walk. One wine that really blew me away though was good old Hillcrest Winery’s Pinot Noir. HillCrest is Oregon’s oldest winery and claims to be the birthplace of Pinot Noir. Their 2017 Anniversary Pinot Noir was so haunting and elegant. (tasting it) blind, I would have been hard-pressed not to call it Burgundy. It was earthy, savory, and so charming. I had to take some home.

What are your favorite wine and food pairing for the aforementioned wine?

Easy: roast chicken. 

Favorite restaurant in this region?

We had a great meal at Old Soul Pizza in Roseberg. Breakfast at Brix was delightful, fresh, and delicious, too.

Favorite things to do in the Rogue and Umpqua regions of Southern Oregon?

The most memorable experience I have nearly had to date was our walk in the Troon vineyards with their team. They are the first to achieve Regenerative Certified Organic accreditation in addition to Biodynamic as well. The program they have in place to restore soil health, create a more resilient ecosystem, mitigate climate change, and grow more regionally appropriate grapes in addition to a wide array of other crops to promote biodiversity was very inspirational and important for the wine industry to observe. We need more leaders like that. As I understand it, they are working towards more educational experiences for their local community and visitors as well in the near future.

Doug Frost

Doug Frost is one of just four people in the world who holds both the Master Sommelier and Master of Wine credentials. When he isn’t teaching, writing, or judging wine, he is traveling to consult on wine projects. Doug owns his own vineyard and winery where he makes exceptional wine. 

What is your current favorite United States wine region and why? 

Since I have chosen to invest in vineyard property in Walla Walla Valley, WA, I should likely talk about that place, especially its powerful and vibrant red wines. But, I would eagerly mention Michigan’s Leelanau and Old Mission Peninsulas, the origin of my favorite Pinot Gris and Pinot Blancs.

There is a purity and a delicacy to these white wines in Michigan that makes them shockingly impressive, at least to those who haven’t tasted the wines before.

Favorite wine from this region?

Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris wines, as noted above.

What are your favorite wine and food pairing for the aforementioned wine?

Lighter foods will show best against these wines but consider having sashimi with them.

Favorite restaurant in this region?

Trattoria Stella in Traverse City is tops.

Favorite things to do in Michigan wine country?

Aside from visiting wineries, I can’t recommend the Traverse City Film Festival enough; it’s organized by Michael Moore.

Kevin Day

Kevin Day is a certified Italian wine scholar and managing editor at Opening a Bottle where he shares his love of European wines with his loyal readers. He stretched his memory for hints about wine country in the United States and takes us back to California. 

What is your current favorite United States wine region and why? 

It has been a long time since I last visited, but I still have not been to a place domestically that grabbed me the way the Anderson Valley does. I can’t think of its vineyards without thinking of forests, and without thinking of the red-tea aroma that nearly every Pinot Noir there seems to show. It’s such a unique and tucked-away corner of California.

Favorite wine from this region?

It has been a little while, because I now specialize in Italian and French wines … I hesitate to call out a specific wine because of that. But Handley Cellars struck me as having the complete portfolio: nice Riesling, a little bit of an Alsatian feel to all of their whites, and love Pinot Noir.

What are your favorite wine and food pairing for the aforementioned wine?

(Kevin didn’t offer up an answer for this question. )

Favorite restaurant in this region?

Eating (and then rolling into bed) at the Boonville Hotel. I discovered a strange love of beets paired with Pinot Noir at that place.

Favorite things to do in the Anderson Valley?

Driving down the Navaro River through ancient redwoods. It’s mind-blowing.

Sip in More of Carpe Travel

Simone Spinner

Simone FM Spinner, CWS, MH

Simone FM Spinner is a top-rated university wine lecturer and certified sommelier with thirteen advanced wine certifications, a bachelor’s and master’s degree in wine studies, and is pursuing her doctorate studying the socioeconomic and cultural effects of climate change on wine. She is a sought-after wine consultant, public speaker, and published author. She organizes wine events and international wine tours through her company Wine Rocks & Chasing Grapes™©. Her website is WineRocksLLC.com