Judging by the shelves full of California Cabs and Oregon Pinot Noirs, it would be easy to think that U.S. wine country was strictly limited to the West Coast of the country. In fact, the U.S. is home to 242 AVAs, or American Viticultural Areas. These designated wine-growing regions are located all over the country, in all sorts of unexpected locales. This means that whether you’re in Vermont, New York State or New Mexico, a weekend wine tasting getaway is closer than you think.
Wineries Off The Beaten Path: Fill Your Glass with Something Special
Texas Hill Country
Just an hours’ drive west of Austin, Texas Hill Country is home to 19 wineries, all conveniently located off of Highway 290. The history of the region dates back over one hundred years when German immigrants settled in and started the region’s first vineyards in and around Fredricksburg. With the main street lined with tasting rooms, wine-themed boutiques, and restaurants, this quaint hamlet is the ideal home base for a weekend in Texas’s largest AVA.
Ron Yates’ eponymous winery exemplifies the region’s laid back approach to winemaking. A visit to the young winemaker’s tasting room and winery is closer to spending an afternoon on a friend’s sunny patio than the formal swirl and sip flights that many wineries offer. Live music, friendly service and super-sippable bottles of Sangiovese Pét-Nat (a bottle fermented sparkler) and Cinsault rosé make for a lovely introduction to the world of new Texas wine.
Kuhlman Cellars is an elegant operation dedicated to showing the world what Texas terroir has to offer. This French term loosely translates to the taste of a place, and at Kuhlman, Bénédicte Rhyne is the Provence-born winemaker in charge of crafting their proprietary blends. Book at a tasting at Kuhlman and you’ll be treated to wine pairings matched with complimentary small bites by the winery’s in-house chef.
Where to Stay in Texas Hill Country
Relax After a Day of Tasting
After a day of tasting, settle into one of the Texas-themed rooms at The Full Moon Inn in Fredericksburg. At this bed and breakfast, guests can choose from themed rooms and cabins ranging from a repurposed smokehouse dubbed the Oil Boom or a Cowboy themed log cabin complete with holsters and rawhide. A daily breakfast is set at an informal communal table, complete with biscuits, bacon and plenty of mimosas to get a jump on a day of wine tasting.
Look Out Onto the Rolling Hills of Texas Wine Country
Drive down Highway 290 to Kyle, Texas and you’ll find Sage Hill Inn, an elegant boutique hotel and spa that looks out onto the rolling hills of Texas wine country. Rooms here offer cozy fireplaces, complimentary drinks and homemade cookies, and doors that open to stunning sunset views. After a dinner featuring produce grown on an onsite culinary garden, guests can bring their glasses of locally-made wine outside and finish the evening in Adirondack chairs around a crackling fire pit.
New Mexico Wine Trail
New Mexico might be more commonly known for their green chilies than their grape production, but winemaking here dates back to the 1600s when a Franciscan monk planted vines to make sacramental wine. These days New Mexico’s most well-known wines are more celebratory than spiritual.
Beginning in 1984, Gruet has been a trailblazer in American winemaking, focusing on sparkling wines made with French methodology. At their tasting rooms in Albuquerque and Santa Fe, guests can sample Gruet’s entire line of bubblies, from the classic Brut Methode Champenoise to a Vintage Sauvage made with 100 percent New Mexican-grown Chardonnay grapes.
Just two miles from Old Town Albuquerque, Sheehan Winery making wines that reflect the sun, sand and soul of New Mexico. Their limited release range includes reds, whites, rosés along with dessert wines and an estate vermouth. Owner Sean Sheehan donates proceeds from each bottle to promote economic development and healthcare in Albuquerque and beyond.
Where to Stay Along the New Mexico Wine Trail
Surrounded By Wineries
Reserve a room at the chic Hotel Chaco in downtown Albuquerque, and you’ll be just a quick drive from the many of the region’s wineries. While the interiors here are the polar opposite of the rustic pueblo architecture so prevalent in the Southwest, the designers of the hotel were inspired by the weavings and sculptures of traditional Navajo artisans. Unique features like carved stone sinks and works by Native American artists lend a warm Southwest vibe to Albuquerque’s newest hotel.
Wine and Wellness
If your wine tasting trip calls for a bit of wellness, Sunrise Springs Spa Resort in Santa Fe has you covered. Their spacious individual casitas boast fireplaces, beds decked out in handwoven throws and bathrooms stocked with toiletries made from locally grown herbs. An onsite spa offers rejuvenating mineral soaks, CBD massages and healing energy work.
Finger Lakes Wine Country
The slender Seneca and Cayuga lakes of upstate New York’s Finger Lake region make for a mild microclimate, ideal for growing delicate grape varietals such as Riesling and Cabernet Franc. Bloomer Creek is a 30-plus-year-old winery that has been channeling the region’s proclivity for German and Austrian-inspired wines.
Red Tail Ridge Winery
Red Tail Ridge Winery looks to cool weather loving varietals to produce their line of lesser-known reds with include Rebel with a Cause made with Lagrein grapes and an earthy Dornfelder. Red Tail’s roster also includes an array of fun red and white sparkling options including a German-style Sekt.
Where to Stay in Finger Lakes Wine Country
Cooking and Cocktails
Whether you’re visiting during fall harvest season, snowy winter or springtime, Mirbeau Inn and Spa in Skaneateles welcomes guests with classically appointed rooms on a property that’s surrounded by lush landscaping, lily ponds, and a stone and marble spa. In between vineyard visits, guests can opt for cooking and cocktail making classes as well as yoga and mind-body workshops.
Geneva on the Lake is ripe with Finger Lakes history. This historic hotel was a private estate and a Capuchin monastery before being transformed into a gorgeous upstate resort. Rooms here channel old-school European luxury and formal gardens are planted with neat hedges and local flora. The resort’s restaurant, Lancelloti’s, offers wine pairing options featuring locally grown pours.
Brandywine Wine Trail
Pennsylvania’s scenic Brandywine Valley is home to a small number of fascinating winemaking operations. Housed on the site of a former mushroom farm, Va La is a small scale maker that focuses on wines made from grapes native to Northern Italy. Owner Anthony Vietri lets the soil dictate which grapes he’s going to grow each year, meaning that every vintage is a one of a kind blend. The flights are offered in the tasting room, and on Friday nights visitors can stay late and enjoy full bottles.
Where to Stay Along the Brandywine Wine Trail
Slip into the 19th Century
When visiting the Brandywine Wine Trail, B&Bs are the to go. The Fairville Inn has just 13 comfortable rooms and two suites, all decorated with architectural elements from the original barn on the property. Hints of the Inn’s 19th century past are everywhere with a root cellar, spring house, and a colonial summer kitchen. The property is surrounded by a serene meadow and pond, and in warm weather, guests can lounge on chaises in the garden.
Brandywine Valley Charm
Housed in a residence built in 1714, The Pennsbury Inn is filled with Brandywine Valley charm. Rooms are outfitted with four-poster beds complete with handmade lace canopies and quilts, a common living room filled with an over-stuffed chair, and a pond in the bubbles in the backyard. Each morning the owners lay out a spread of homemade breads, pastries, and jams. Just down the road, Galer Estates uses old world winemaking techniques for their line of reds and whites. Tastings here come with four pours of their current line up, including a bright Grüner Veltliner, unoaked Chardonnay, and a Bordeaux blend.
Vermont Wine Trail
Perhaps one of the most unexpected American wine regions, Vermont is home to more than 20 wineries, many of which are in and around Burlington, a quaint city on the edge of Lake Champlain.
Shelburne is a winery just off Lake Champlain, built by a former IBM engineer. Never one to shy away from science, the majority of Shelburne’s wines are made from hybrid grapes developed to withstand colder temperatures. The winery’s most recent endeavor is a line of approachable canned wines called Capsize.
One of Vermont’s most unique wines isn’t made from grapes at all. Groennfell Meadery specializes in mead, effervescent honey wines sometimes flavored with fruit or hops. These unique wines are available at Colchester’s Mead Hall, a Scandinavian bar and restaurant just outside of Burlington.
Where to Stay Along the Vermont Wine Trail
High-end Vermont Hospitality
Stay at The Essex for a high-end take on Vermont hospitality. Rooms are kitted out with a fresh take on New England style, including Franklin stoves and retro Igloo mini fridges. Meals at the hotel’s two restaurants are crafted from produce grown on the property and chefs here offer a rotating roster of cooking classes, all featuring Vermont-grown ingredients.
Drinks in the Great Room
When visiting Shelburne and Groennfell, be sure to pack up a few cans of wine and mead to enjoy in the great room of Green Mountain Suites. The lobby of this inviting Burlington lodge is warmed by a roaring stone fireplace and an indoor pool stays open year-round. Rooms feature kitchenettes, but there’s really no need to use them since the hotel provides a big Vermont style breakfast each morning.
Feature image courtesy of Olga Shevtsova, Eyeem