Perfect Weekend Winery Getaways

With summer finally here, it’s easy to find yourself craving long weekends and itching to get out of the office. But just because you’ve been bitten by the travel bug doesn’t mean you have to waste precious vacation days on an exotic—and expensive—vacation abroad. Ditch the passport in favor of a weekend getaway to one of the United States’ burgeoning wine regions for a vineyard tour and to sample some of the goods.

West Coast

California grapes comprise approximately 90% of the entire country’s wine production. I’ve known that California, specifically Napa Valley, was a wino’s paradise since I first saw Lindsay Lohan sneak around her family’s vineyard in the 1998 remake of The Parent Trap. Napa has become a popular tourist destination, and has been developed to accommodate wine-savvy travelers. The region is most famous for its production of Cabernet Sauvignon, but has an assortment of varieties to offer. Slightly further west, Sonoma County is notable for its diversity of varietals, offering Pinot Noirs, Chardonnays, Zinfandels and more. Although fans debate the merits of the two regions extensively, the main difference is that Napa boasts a much higher price tag, with far more amenities, while Sonoma offers a more single-minded study in viniculture.

Vineyard to visit:

Stag’s Leap Wine Cellar; Napa, CA

This winery offers a selection of seasonal authentic Napa Wines, focusing on Cabernets, in a variety of tour packages.

Rocky Mountains

Colorado’s Western Slope has grown increasingly renowned for its wine production, as the combination of high altitude and temperate weather makes for excellent grape-growing conditions. The region is known for Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Riesling, among other varieties, and boasts a healthy handful of outdoor activities against a sweeping rural backdrop.

Vineyard to visit:

Plum Creek Winery; Palisade, CO

Colorado’s most award-winning winery upholds a pledge to only produce wine from Colorado-grown grapes.

Midwest

The Midwest is obviously large and varied in its climate but many states within the region have drastically grown their wine production in recent years. In Michigan, for example, enotourism currently contributes approximately $300 million to the state’s economy. The grapes are protected year-round thanks to the environmental benefits of Lake Michigan, which keeps the temperature manageable, preventing crops from freezing. Many of the region’s wineries are noted for producing extremely dry wines.

Vineyard to visit:

Brys Estate; Traverse City, MI

This family-owned winery produces Merlot, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Pinot Blanc, and Gewürztraminer. There are also ample opportunities to enjoy sweeping views of the enormous estate while sipping a glass of wine, as well as accommodations on the premises.

Perfect Weekend Winery Getaways

East Coast

In recent years, the East Coast, particularly Virginia, has emerged as an interesting and accessible place to learn about wine. A combination of temperate climates and proximity to the mountains has made for soil that allows for a wide selection of varieties. Virginia, now the fifth-largest wine producer in the U.S., has the added bonus of offering travelers a cultural and historical backdrop with which to learn about what they’re drinking—many Virginia Vineyards boast rich ties to American history as well as exceptional wines to offer.

Vineyard to visit:

Early Mountain Vineyards; Madison, VA

This vineyard produces a great deal of wine varieties, from Chardonnay to Merlot. It’s a stop on the Monticello Wine Trail, an alliance of vineyards in the region inspired by Thomas Jefferson’s ideas on winemaking.

Southwest

Although a lesser-known region for wine production, the American Southwest, particularly Texas and New Mexico, has firm roots in the industry. The region’s arid climate has steadily encouraged grape production. The Texas Hill Country AVA especially has seen a boom in recent years, with wine experts predicting that this expansion will only increase in the coming years.

Vineyard to visit:

Becker Vineyards; Stonewall Texas

This vineyard was named among the Daily Meal’s 101 Best Wineries in America. The wines produced here exemplify the Texas Hill Country terroir and come in a wide range of varietals.