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While some American wine-producing regions are legendary, all 50 states have at least a handful of wineries. Budget Travel honors six lesser-known areas where Americans are producing world-class reds and whites.
Finger Lakes, N.Y.
Long eclipsed by West Coast wine hubs, upstate New York’s Finger Lakes region is finally snagging some acclaim. With good reason: The country’s largest wine producer east of California, it’s also a prime travel destination, with green forests, glistening waters and a smattering of charming small towns.
Visit: Unlike many wineries, Hermann J. Wiemer Vineyards harvests all the grapes for its celebrated Rieslings by hand (wiemer.com, tastings $3, open daily).
Texas Hill Country
Even wine production is bigger in Texas. Take Hill Country, a 14,000-square-mile expanse in the center of the state. With 32 wineries, it’s America’s second-largest AVA (American Viticultural Area, or grape-growing region with unique geological features) — and one of the nation’s fastest-growing, too. Vintners can thank the hot, dry weather, which is perfect for growing Mediterranean-style grapes such as tempranillo and syrah.
Visit: One of the state’s oldest wineries, Becker Vineyards has had its bottles opened at both the Super Bowl and the White House (beckervineyards.com, tastings $10, open daily).
Paso Robles, Calif.
It’s roughly halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles and 240 miles south of Napa, but “Paso,” known for its zinfandel and syrah, might as well be on another planet. It’s uncrowded, unpretentious, and, best of all, unlikely to drain your wallet. Most of its small, family-run wineries charge just $5 to $10 to taste six wines—if they charge at all.
Visit: At Eberle Winery, visitors can roam the 16,000-square-foot cave where its award-winning zinfandel and cabernet sauvignon are aged (eberlewinery.com, tastings free, open daily).
It’s been more than 200 years since Thomas Jefferson planted vineyards at Monticello. Now, with six AVAs and 206 wineries, Virginia is the country’s fifth-largest producer of wine — including some of the best Viognier made outside of France’s Rhône Valley.
Visit: Built on the grounds of a Thomas Jefferson-designed mansion and owned by Italian winemakers, Barboursville Vineyards is one of the state’s most renowned wineries (barboursvillewine.com, tastings $5, open daily).
Leelanau Peninsula, Mich.
This low-key Michigan spot sits on the 45th parallel, which also happens to run through France’s Bordeaux region. Adding to the peninsula’s appeal: an exploding food scene (Mario Batali owns a home here) and powdery beaches.
Visit: At Black Star Farms, you can pair pinot noir and merlot with fromage blanc from the on-site creamery (blackstarfarms.com, five tastings $5, open daily).
Walla Walla, Wash.
Tucked away in remote southeastern Washington (about 150 miles from Spokane), Walla Walla is a farm town traditionally known for wheat and onions. But its current cash crops are the ones squeezed into its excellent cabernet, merlot, and syrah. In the past two decades, the number of area wineries has shot up from six to about 125 — they’re everywhere from Main Street to the local airport. Even actor (and Washington native) Kyle MacLachlan couldn’t resist: He cofounded a label (named Pursued By Bear, a Shakespeare reference) here in 2005. And thanks to a $53 million facelift, the city’s downtown is lined with cafés, art galleries, and gourmet restaurants.
Visit: The family-owned L’Ecole No. 41, run out of a 1915 schoolhouse, is prized for its signature red blend Perigee (lecole.com, tastings $5, open daily).