If you’re like most people, you’ve probably heard wine enthusiasts sing the praises of famous European wine-producing regions, such as Bordeaux in France and La Rioja in Spain. These locations indeed produce high-quality wines, thanks in part to their ideal climates and centuries of winemaking tradition. However, the United States also produces great wines that have earned recognition by world-renowned sommeliers.
The following are a few of the top wine-producing regions that you shouldn’t miss as you explore the diverse range of wines produced in the United States:
Napa Valley, California
Arguably the most well-known wine region in the United States and home to a number of top vineyards, Napa Valley is located 70 miles north of San Francisco. Some of the most common wines hailing from this region include Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, and Merlot, while white wine enthusiasts enjoy the region’s Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. In addition to tasting some of the country’s top-rated wines, visitors to this area can enjoy a ride on the famous Napa Valley Wine Train, which takes passengers on a 36-mile excursion through beautiful northern California wine country in vintage train cars.
Finger Lakes, New York
Situated in rural New York, the Finger Lakes region features three principal wine trails, including the Cayuga Lake Wine Trail, the oldest wine trail in the country. Visitors to this area can choose from over 100 wineries that produce such wines like Riesling and Gewürztraminer. Aside from offering sumptuous, award-winning wines, the Finger Lakes region gives visitors the opportunity to experience views of beautiful gorges and cliffs that dot the landscape.
Willamette Valley, Oregon
A stand-out wine region in the Pacific Northwest, Willamette Valley is located between the Cascade Mountains and the Coast Range. The area’s cool climate and rich soil are ideal for growing Pinot Noir, a red wine that has risen in popularity in recent years. Visitors to this unique region can enjoy a variety of farm-to-table restaurants that pair unique wines with the area’s fresh pears, apples, and cherries.
Walla Walla, Washington
This small town in southeast Washington boasts more than 100 wineries and 1,500 acres of vineyards. Although the region produces a wide array of wines, from Cabernet Sauvignon (the most common) and Malbec to Sangiovese and Tempranillo, it is the area’s Syrah that has won over wine critics, thanks in part to its hints of plum, blackberry, black olive, and even bacon.
Snake River Valley, Idaho
Another gem in the West, the Snake River Valley benefits from its unique location, which features ancient riverbeds and a hot, dry climate similar to several Old World wine regions. The area’s unique small grapes make for excellent Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Viognier, and Riesling.
Texas Hill Country
With more than 55 wineries, the Texas Hill Country, which stretches between San Antonio and Llano, attracts more than 5 million visitors per year. Although the region started producing wine only 40 years ago, its vineyards are producing some excellent Tempranillo, as well as Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, and Viognier.
With a tradition of winemaking going back to colonial days, Central Virginia ranks fifth in the United States in terms of wine grape production. The region’s topography and climate are particularly favorable for winemaking, with granite-based clay soil and a growing season exceeding 200 days per year. In addition to sampling such wines as Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Muscat Canelli, visitors to this area can explore some famous historic sites, including Civil War battlefields and Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s plantation, where he tried his hand at winemaking in the 1770s.
Lake Erie Wine Country
Boasting the biggest grape-growing region east of the Rocky Mountains, the Lake Erie Wine Country starts in Erie County, Pennsylvania, and extends 50 miles into Chautauqua County, New York. The vineyards of this area are famous for their white wines, which benefit from minerals derived from Lake Erie. Visitors here can take wine classes and learn about the European and French-American grape varieties that are producing excellent wines in the region.
These regions represent just a few of the areas that have helped US wines make a name for themselves among wine enthusiasts. Whether you start with the famous vineyards in Napa Valley or venture into some of the new, small, winegrowing pockets throughout the country, a visit to these regions will help you learn more about the grape varieties and the different types of topography and climate that contribute to the flavor profiles of each region’s grapes. With such a diverse mix of landscape and weather conditions, US vineyards can offer great wines at different times of the year, making almost any season a good time to explore America’s wine country.