6 American Wine Vacations to Take This Season
Drinking wine on a sun-drenched patio overlooking a lush vineyard, with one of the estate's gregarious dogs popping by for a scrap of fallen charcuterie, will never go out of style. But though this blissful activity remains the number one attraction in wine regions around the U.S., it's far from the only factor sealing the fate of the wine vacation's longevity.
The best wine vacations, like the best wine regions, are expansive and explorative, free of intimidating barriers with the help of hip accommodations, live music, and funky art gallery tasting rooms.
A number of wineries around the U.S. endeavor to do it all: attract a younger crowd, demonstrate a family-friendly position, and uphold the luxe wine vacation as a matter of course. These days you'll find choice accommodations, plentiful dining options, and lots of non-wine tasting activities for non-drinkers, as well.
From Vermont to Washington, these are the best wine trips to take in the U.S. right now.
It's the sheer range of wineries in this thriving Washington State wine region (an easy hour-flight from Seattle), making it an excellent vacation spot no matter what vibe you find most compelling: elegant and refined; cool and hip; serene and remote. Adventure seekers will want to hit up the South Shore after an afternoon of tastings, while everyone will want to check out the downtown scene, replete with tasting rooms, boutiques, coffee shops, and fine-dining restaurants.
There may be no better pairing with the Estate Syrah than the view from the deck at Four Lakes Winery. Then again, Lake Chelan Winery, which also makes Lake Chelan cheese — to be enjoyed with the wine on site or kept for snacking later — has an equally beautiful backdrop. The seasonal barbecue menu's tri tip ought to be enjoyed with a glass of Malbec or Cabernet Sauvignon.
Family-friendly lodgings like Lake's Edge Tuscan Lodge and a handful of bed and breakfasts are just the right amount of unassuming in this bountiful wine region.
A trip to Texas no longer needs to be defined by the country's best barbecue — though you'd be remiss not to get brisket from at least one of Austin's smoke joints. Pick up a plate of meat and sides from La Barbecue or Black's Barbecue before heading west toward Central Texas, where the inviting wine country has become a rightful destination in the Lone Star State.
For some of the prettiest views around, you can't do much better than Driftwood Estate Winery. Its vast grounds make for peaceful tastings — even when the daily visitor numbers tell a different story. Other worthy options include Perdenales Cellars and Heath Sparkling Wine, the latter's bubble perfect for toasting to the end of a day well spent.
Since a spa treatment always makes a good addition to any vacation, consider a stay at either Omni Barton Creek Resort and Spa or La Cantera Resort and Spa where professional masseuses can work away any knots the wine inexplicably missed.
The Finger Lakes
From New York City, it's about a five-hour drive to the Finger Lakes region in Upstate New York. Although it took a little time for this region located on Keuka, Seneca, and Cayuga Lakes to be recognized with the respect it deserves, it's certainly caught up with any lag in visitors in recent years.
Accommodations such as The Inns at Aurora, a peaceful, four-star property situated on Cayuga Lake, and Pleasant Valley Inn, circa 1848, continue to do their hospitable part. Following an afternoon of wine tasting, you might choose to melt further into not-having-a-care-in-the-world territory with a visit to Aurora's spa, followed by dinner at the historic 1833 Kitchen & Bar.
As to that afternoon of wine tasting: A number of area wineries command your attention: Bloomer Creek, a Cayuga Lake winery pouring several skin contact wines; Sheldrake Point Winery, also on Cayuga, serving several Rieslings to help you fall for the cool climate grape; Red Newt Cellars, a Seneca Lake spot with a sizeable tasting menu and a coffee shop; and Keuka Spring Vineyards, one of the best places on Keuka Lake for Gewurztraminer.
Dinner can be light and breezy — provisions from The Olney Place and Red Feet Wine Market & Spirit Provisions — or more of an affair, though you'll need a reservation if you hope to dine at F.L.X. Table.
As the realities of climate change dare anyone to ignore their increasing harshness, the winemakers in Vermont are well-positioned. Though you won't detect any smug satisfaction here because this is Vermont, and Vermont is actually as unpretentious and laid-back as you've come to believe, you will find excellent natural wines, much of it made with hybrid grapes that can handle the harsh winters.
Though many are open year-round, Vermont's wineries are best explored in the summer and fall. Shelburne Vineyards makes a strong case for a summer vacation, thanks to its Bluegrass and BBQ events, but it's a beautiful spot to visit year round, whether for tastings or on-site bottle purchases that pair well with local provisions consisting primarily of cheese and charcuterie. Snow Farm also entices in the warmer months with a full lineup of summer concerts, but more relaxed vibes can be found off-season, when ample indoor seating provides a pleasant setting for sipping the estate's Marquette, Baco Noir, or the natural and unfiltered Pet Nat "Snow Trip."
Although it may be trendier to taste wine at a Colorado or Texas vineyard, Napa Valley always makes for a splendid wine vacation. The region, home to dozens of world-class wineries, remains the gold standard when it comes to Vitis vinifera heavy hitters: Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Pinot Noir.
There's no shortage of opportunities to sip these varietals in increasingly gorgeous settings. Newcomer Four Seasons Napa Valley, slated to open in October, sits on the same property as Elusa Winery. Led by world-class winemaker, Thomas Rivers Brown, it may be tempting not to leave the premises at all.
Guests staying at the recently renovated Poetry Inn may also be enticed to linger awhile, particularly in the capacious Robert Frost suite. Still, just down the road is Cliff Lede, with its vineyard blocks named after rock songs and art gallery tasting room. You'd be remiss not to taste the selections at Frank Family Vineyard and Sullivan Rutherford Estate. Snag a dinner reservation at The Charter Oak or Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc.
The North Fork
Another New York State gem is this long-discovered, yet still relatively relaxed region of Long Island. The towns comprising the North Fork have contributed to the area's steady emergence as a rightful destination for a wine-focused trip. Diverse wineries, farm-to-table restaurant fare, roadside fruit and vegetable stands with just-procured produce, and a lovely range of accommodations invite slower-paced travel.
Stay at American Beech, a dog-friendly hotel (many of the wineries also welcome well-behaved, dog leashes) with large, inviting rooms. If you don't mind a ferry ride, consider a stay at The Chequit on Shelter Island, which allows for easy enough access to the North Fork hub. Regardless of your lodging, it's always a good idea to rent a bike and visit a few wineries on two wheels — so long as you're making good use of the spit bucket.
The lack of large crowds (no buses or limos are allowed) at Kontokosta makes it a favorite among those wishing for a more chill setting. In addition to its intimate feel, the Greenport winery invites guests to sip wine (try the sparkling Sauvignon Blanc) with stunning views of the Long Island Sound as the backdrop.
Bedell Cellars, one of the area's longest-standing wineries, is open to groups up to 12, and you don't even need a reservation. Paumanok Vineyards, on the other hand, requires a reservation to enjoy its wine flights and by-the-glass options, along with savory small bites like cheese (Triple Creme Brie from Four Fat Foul; Purple Haze from Cypress Grove), pate, and a chicken liver mousse.