It might be easier, and just really tempting, to shake your fist at the snow or sleet or gray day that’s currently bearing down on you. Maybe pop a bottle of red wine and commit to a seasonal pout. But if you can muster the courage (and vacation time) to make it out of town this winter, there are actually some wine destinations still open, and fully worth visiting.
Before you shake your head, put on a sweatshirt and dive into your next Netflix binge, think about the benefits: it’s the off-season (for most wineries), meaning prices may be lower, crowds will be far thinner, and a lot more attention—and wine—will be coming your way.
Depending on where you are in the country, or world, some of these wineries may be more or less accessible—good for a long weekend or maybe worth a weeklong commitment. All of them are located in historically beautiful areas, so even if it’s winter, you’ll get beautiful scenery, warming wines, and, ideally, a fireplace here and there.
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Youngberg Hill Inn & Winery – McMinnville, Oregon
Making things easier on yourself is what January should be about. And if you do undertake some winter wine travel, why not a winery with a B&B on the grounds? Founded in 1989 and family-run since 2003, Youngberg Hill follows organic and biodynamic practices to make its Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris. The winery purposely limits its yields and barrel contact to ensure the best expression of terroir—which, as you look around, you’ll notice is beautiful. Especially in the winter, it’ll be nice to have a short walk from the cozy inn to the tasting room (open 7 days a week). Just make sure to take in the views—rolling hills, wide open sky, and quiet winter calm.
Sterling Vineyards – Calistoga, California
In far too many places, January unapologetically tends toward gray and gloomy, but in Napa, January is the start of mustard season—when mustard flowers carpet vineyards in gold, just like they do on the grounds of Sterling Vineyards. Bonus points, Sterling participates in Calistoga’s Winter in the Wineries series, with a “passport” to 14 local wineries. Not that you’ll want to leave Sterling—a beautiful, snowy white building nestled among pine trees at the top of a hill (which you reach by aerial tram), it offers a feel of fantasy, something otherworldly—not to mention spectacular views. (Bonus: January is California Restaurant Month.)
Fulkerson Winery – The Finger Lakes, Dundee, New York
Mustard flowers might not be blooming here (the Finger Lakes does winter the classic way, cold and white) but the landscape—rolling hills, open sky, a view of the crystalline Seneca Lake—won’t disappoint. A winery built on 200 years of family tradition, the place is full of history, including Caleb Fulkerson’s 1838 gravesite. You can even stay in a farmhouse located on the winery grounds, which will make your chilly walk to the tasting room (where there’s only a nominal fee) that much easier.
Castle Hill Cider – Keswick, Virginia
Located in a big, beautiful white barn in Keswick, Virginia (not far from Charlottesville), the cidery will help you forget whatever frigid place you came from. The whole place is scenic romance, with rolling hills, and bare apple trees that curl black against the light winter sky. But don’t just visit for serenity: Castle Hill is the only cidery in the world producing cider with a kvevri, or traditional amphora like those found in the Caucusus Mountains. The method might be one of the oldest fermentation methods in the world, and adding 28 varieties of cider apples, what they’re making at Castle Hill is something you can’t get anywhere else in the world.
Estrella del Norte Vineyard – Santa Fe, New Mexico
Just 15 minutes north of Santa Fe, in the historic Pojoaque/Nambe areas, you’ll find charming, colorful, welcoming winery, “The Star of the North.” If you’ve never been to the Santa Fe area—where they’ve been making wine for about 400 years—winter is actually a wonderful time to visit. They know how to do Christmas, but that spirit of festivity continues into January. Estrealla del Norte is open every day for tastings (affordably priced), and yeah—don’t forget those views. The wide open sky of New Mexico, the hills and arroyos speckled with the occasional light snowfall, and yes, the wines. Anything from a port style apple dessert wine made with apples from their orchards and a rich Cabernet Franc made with locally grown grapes.
Haute Cabrière – Franschhoek, South Africa
OK, if you’re not looking to revel in the cold (starkly beautiful though it is) you can always head below the equator, where winter means something entirely different. And if you’re gonna go all out, might as well go luxe with a trip to Haute Cabrière, an elegant cellar and restaurant nestled at the foot of the massive Franschhoek Mountain, just at the edge of a crystalline lake. Founded centuries ago, with the intent to produce wines in the style of the Champagne region, the winery’s evolved to also include certain still wines—include an unwooded Pinot Noir.
Coldstream Hill – Yarra Valley, Australia
Another southern hemisphere getaway—not as easy to do on a weekend, but if you’re planning a longer trip, you’ll want to end up at Coldstream in the prolific Yarra Valley just outside of Melbourne. Founded in 1985 by wine writer, judge, and general wine James Halliday, Coldstream prides itself on maintaining that “boutique” winery feel—with carefully selected output centered on regional favorites Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. And you can taste the full range at their Cellar Door tasting room, which is open seven days a week and just so happens to offer views of the lush green, almost fairytale-like hillsides.