Wine Country Experiences: Across the USA

From sea to shining sea, the United States has an array of wine countries with so much to see, taste, and do.

Published: 8/11/2016

WHAT IS WINE COUNTRY? Literally speaking, it’s anywhere that vineyards flourish, winegrapes are harvested, and wine is made. But to the wine lover, wine country is the land of possibilities. Over every hill and around every bend there are more vineyards and wines waiting to be discovered. Wine country is beautiful, fun, fascinating, and romantic. It’s a place to slip away to with a lover, some friends, or maybe just by ourselves. Each time we do, we have the chance to experience so many wonderful things, from exhilarating adventures to relaxing afternoons when time just slips by. With all 50 states—including Alaska and Hawaii—producing wine, your next wine country experience is closer than you may think. Here are five to visit very soon.

Traverse City, MI With a wine country stretching north of town on two stunning peninsulas, the options for beautiful experiences seem endless. Both the Leelanau Peninsula and the Old Mission Peninsula have several sweet towns and villages with great spots for lunch while wine tasting. On Leelanau Peninsula, stop in Northport, Leland, Empire, Glen Arbor, Lake Leelanau, and Suttons Bay to stroll, shop, or dine. On the Old Mission Peninsula, visit the quaint town of Old Mission. Traverse City is also recognized as one of the nation’s leading craft brew destinations. The Traverse City Ale Trail is a fun way to get to know locals and their suds. A trail map is available as a free app. The seven-and-one-half mile Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive takes you on a breathtaking journey over a covered bridge, across soaring sand dunes, through a forest of American beech and sugar maple trees and a towering pine plantation, with many stunning overlooks revealing beautiful Lake Michigan and so much more. There are 12 stops in all, so bring along a camera, a picnic lunch, and a bottle of local wine.

Loudoun, VA Several Loudoun wineries offer visitors a chance to connect with Mother Nature and enjoy the breathtaking views of Loudoun wine country with a yoga class among the vines. Vineyasa Yoga & Wine at Greenhill Winery & Vineyards is a popular monthly event. Participants gather near the estate’s private lake on the first Sunday of each month. The onehour class is followed by a breakfast of mimosas, fresh fruit, and health bars. Some wineries offer after-class wine tastings. The luxurious grounds of Salamander Resort & Spa are home to Empower Adventures’TreeTop Zip tour, a 20-acre guided experience that includes five fast zip lines, two sky bridges, and eight stations. There are several tour options including Zip & Sip. Soar among the treetops and get a bird’s-eye view of Virginia’s countryside, then enjoy a celebratory glass of wine, beer, or house-made sangria. You’ve earned it! Throughout the year Loudoun’s wineries offer a variety of experiences that connect visitors to winemakers, the vines, and the stories behind the 40 wineries that call Loudoun home. Enjoy everything from intimate winemaker dinners at places such as Breaux Vineyards, blending your own wine at Sunset Hills Vineyard, and taking the weekend vineyard tour at 8 Chains North where you get a lesson on Virginia viticulture and the wine-making process.

San Francisco, CA Omni San Francisco Hotel has a wonderful experience for those seeking a romantic getaway. The Retreat to Romance package treats guests to a bottle of Chandon Sparkling wine, a romantic evening turndown service, a $100 credit for cuisine and cocktails at its onsite restaurant, Bob’s Steak & Chop House, and an extended check-out time. All of the details are specially arranged by Cupid (the concierge) to make sure everything goes perfectly. Besides serving as the gateway to the Napa Valley, Sonoma County, and Livermore Valley, the East Bay is home to many familyowned wineries with a hip, urban attitude. The wineries of this urban wine country are housed in old buildings, warehouses, and even an airline hangar hugging the San Francisco Bay. On weekends you can visit Treasure Island just off the Bay Bridge and discover a dozen wineries that are walking distance apart. In Oakland’s heart of Jack London Square’s dining, entertainment, and shopping scene, Rosenblum Cellars is a mecca for lovers of Zinfandel and other wines.

Gold Country, CA The historic mining towns of Amador County are fun to explore on foot, and the legendary Kennedy Gold Mine is one of the world’s deepest! Start the day with a stroll through town followed by a visit to a mine or museum, and round out the day with lunch and wine tasting. If you’re up for a picnic with spectacular views and a bocce court, take your basket to Andis Wines and relax on the lawn. In 1870, El Dorado County was the third-largest wine producer in the state. Today, it’s a beautiful destination offering an ideal blend of history and mountain vineyards ranging in elevation from 1,200 to 3,500 feet. A drive through this breathtaking terrain is an “ah-ha” experience because you’ll witness the diversity in microclimates, which is why this county can successfully produce nearly 50 grape varieties. Calaveras County is filled with opportunities for outdoor adventure. Its rugged, natural topography provides mountains, caverns, and forests to explore. Spend the first part of the day zip lining or exploring the chambers of a cave and then head to downtown Murphys for lunch. There are nearly two dozen tasting rooms along Main Street, giving you more than a taste of the wonderful wines Calaveras has to offer.

Lake County, CA One great way to familiarize yourself with Lake County wines is at Twin Pine Casino & Hotel’s wine-themed Manzanita Restaurant. Each month the restaurant hosts a fabulous wine pairing dinner featuring the wines of a Lake County winery and the talents of Manzanita’s chef. After a wine tasting, you’ll sit down to a multicourse dinner. There may be as much to learn about olive oil as there is about wine, and Chacewater Winery & Olive Mill is a great place to start. This lovely tasting room in Kelseyville feels like a general store with delightful merchandise and attractive tasting bars. Try an olive oil tasting and see if you can detect the nuances between them. Chacewater’s award-winning wines will impress you too. The grounds of Cache Creek Vineyards are absolutely beautiful. Nearly 20 years ago when the winery’s founder first stepped on the property, he was greeted by a rare herd of tule elk. He vowed to create a safe haven for these amazing creatures and created ponds and planted grasses for them to feed on. Watch for them and other wildlife as you picnic or sip wine on the deck. The winery’s Summer Concert Series gives you a chance to experience this special place as night falls around you.

As seen in the issue Summer/Fall 2016 of Touring & Tasting Magazine.