Everybody loves a good wine trail. But we tend to keep loving the same ones, over and over and over again. And then passing out and waking up and loving them once more.
One way to spice up the intoxication of wine tourism: change things up. Find an undiscovered—or really less discovered—wine trail and make your own adventure, Goosebumps style. In fact many of these wine trails allow for the freedom of the self-guided tour, meaning you and yours can dive into an undiscovered wine region and plunder the grapey goodness. Not to mention mead, cider, local historic sites, and lots of good regional cuisine. Plus, when you get home from your winery vacation, your story automatically wins. Your friend went to Napa? Wow. Original. Guess where you were? Georgia Wine Country. Yeah, win.
Brandywine Valley Wine Trail – Chester County, PA
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A bit of a smaller wine trail, with just four wineries, which makes it kind of great for a day trip if you can make it to Chester County, PA without too much trouble. (It’s outside of Wilmington, near the Maryland-Delaware border, so there are plenty of access points for south Philly and the Mid-Atlantic regions, too. The wineries are opened year-round, and the trail takes you everywhere from southeastern Philly to the outskirts of Amish country.
Bonus Points: Black Walnut Winery features a 200-plus year-old barn which we’re pretty sure is on the charming, and not haunted, end of the old barn spectrum.
West Elks Wine Trail – North Fork Valley, CO
This is a one-weekend-or-bust wine trail (August 5th-7th this year), but if you can make it, book it. First off, there are are nine wineries participating this year. And it’s an entirely self-guided tour, meaning you can set your own itinerary, go to whichever wineries you prefer (ideally, assuming a DD, all?), and generally structure your day as you like. The wineries won’t just be sampling wine, there’ll be local food pairings on hand as well, and various activities from tasting room to tasting room.
Bonus Points: Um, the Rockies. They’re like, right there.
Dahlonega Wine Trail – Dahlonega, GA
The Dahlonega Mountains are actually home to the highest concentration of wineries in Georgia. (It’s referred to as “the Heart of Georgia Wine Country” and won “Best Wine Region: Runner Up” from Garden & Gun magazine, which is not nearly as scary, though as charming, as it sounds.) The region’s got five wineries and 12 tasting rooms churning out bottles from European, American, and French hybrid grapes. Weekends in August are designated Dahlonega Wine Trail Weekends. It’ll be hot, but there’ll be plenty to slake your thirst.
Bonus Points: Nearby Downtown Dahlonega, which is listed on the National Historic Register and will satisfy appetites for shopping, history, and just general Georgia quaintness.
Lake Erie Shores and Islands Wine Trail – Northwest OH
The cooling effects of Lake Erie—which otherwise wreak winter havoc on anyone in its lake-effect path—are actually a boon to winemakers in the Shores and Islands area. It’s a big region, with plenty of wineries, so you may want to hook up with a wine tour group, or pick and choose yourself. Do you want mead? They got it. Maybe some Cabernet Franc, a dry Riesling, or some Port? Assuming you’re going in the summertime, the lake should keep things nice and cool and provide some great views.
Bonus Points: The area’s known as a “portal” for migrating birds, meaning you may get to glimpse some nesting bald eagles. Yes. Bad ass.
Dunham Wine Country Tour – Quebec, CA
Summer is a great time to be in Montreal (just bust it before winter hits). And this is just one of the several quaint, smaller tours you can access via Montreal. Three options offered by Kava Tours include Dunham, Bromont and Rougement. We’d say start with Dunham, as it’s where Quebec winemaking really began. Not to mention the combination of wineries, cider, and all the rolling green vineyards your heart could desire.
Bonus Points: If you’re an avid cyclist, you can take the self-guided Organic Wineries Tour, spanning 50 kilometers of no doubt ridiculously beautiful countryside.
Lehigh Valley Wine Trail – Lehigh Valley, PA
Just outside of Allentown, PA, and about an hour’s drive from New Jersey is a trail that showcases the Lehigh Valley region, which became an official AVA in 2008. So yeah, they’re partying. Beyond getting to know the region itself, you’ll get very well acquainted with the Chambourcin grape—it’s used exclusively by all nine wineries on the trail. Definitely a lesser-known grape, Chambourcin is actually in use in the Old World as well as the New, likely because it’s so versatile, producing anything from aromatic dry reds to sparkling and even port style wines. All of which—yes, awesome—you will taste on the Lehigh Valley Wine Trail.
Bonus Points: You get to act shocked when your friends say they haven’t heard of the Chambourcin grape.
Cowichan Valley Wine Tour – British Colombia, CA
“Cowichan” comes from the word Quw’utsun’, meaning “warm land.” And while Canada generally features slightly more life-threatening temps, the summers in Cowichan are warm, thanks to a protective ridge. With close to ten wineries (including Canada’s first estate cidery) on the trail, you’ll get a taste of one of the most prolific wine producing regions in BC, second only to Okanagan. There’s plenty of wine on offer, but the specialty in this region is dry whites. Grapes like Pinot Gris and Gewürztraminer flourish here.
Bonus points: A flourishing food scene, with great restaurants but also bakers, cheese-makers, basically anything a charming old European Village would have.