Weekend Trips for the Wine Lover
Make the most of a long weekend in top wine regions across the country with these must-do wineries, vineyard tours and festivals.
Photo By: Hoberman Collection / Contributor
Photo By: George Rose / Contributor
Photo By: George Rose / Contributor
Photo By: Finger Lakes Wine Country
Photo By: George Rose / Contributor
Photo By: Pepper Bridge Winery
Photo By: Pedernales Cellars
Photo By: Barboursville Vineyards
Photo By: Chaddsford Winery
Photo By: Black Star Farms
Napa Valley, California
For something different, explore one of Napa’s oldest wine caves at Schramsberg Vineyards, which is beloved for its sparkling wine. You can also take a wine class at the Culinary Institute of America, and stomp grapes during harvest season. Barrel blending, where you can create your own blend, is also available year-round at many wineries, including Conn Creek, one of the first to offer it. Hop aboard the Napa Valley Wine Train, which combines a gourmet meal with (of course) wine. It also runs bus tours to some of the best estates, including an after-hours tour of Grgich Hills Estate. Wine festivals can be found year-round. Flavor! Napa Valley is a five-day food and wine pairing dream.
Sonoma County, California
About an hour away from Napa, Sonoma County is considered more low-key and spread out. However, it holds its own with an equal number of wineries, and the region excels at Chardonnay, Merlot and Pinot Noir. Standouts include the Francis Ford Coppola Winery, owned by the famous movie director. Not only does the estate produce more than 40 wines at its on-site facility, but the grounds also include two eateries, two swimming pools, a movie gallery and bocce ball courts. Add ongoing wine tastings and wine experiences, and you might not have a chance to visit anywhere else. Korbel Winery is a must stop for sparkling wine lovers; 50-minute winery tours cover its wine cellars and conclude with a tasting at St. Francis Winery & Vineyards.
Bike tours are another great way to experience Sonoma’s bucolic countryside: Wine Country Bikes offers single and multi-day tours. For the ultimate wine country experience, check out Sonoma County Grape Camp—three days worth of harvesting grapes, blending wines and eating farm-to-table fare.
Take your pick of ongoing festivals, but if you have to choose, the Harvest Fair draws wine aficionados from around the country for a weekend of wine tasting, grape stomping, seminars and more.
Santa Barbara, California
Finger Lakes, New York
Dr. Frank Wines (also known as Dr. Konstantin Frank Vinifera Wine Cellars) helped launch the local wine industry when he planted vinifera vines, a type that originated from Europe; you can find it along the Keuka Wine Trail. Hermann J. Wiemer Vineyard was another early pioneer, and has since built a reputation on its Rieslings. For something different, Sheldrake Point Winery and Lamoreaux Landing Wine Cellars are good stops to try the region’s ice wines.
Willamette Valley, Oregon
Oregon has a handful of wine producing centers, but the action centers around the Willamette Valley, which is known for its Pinot Noir. The region counts more than 300 wineries and five wine trails, including one geared toward cycling enthusiasts: Pedaling for Pinot. Whether or not you follow a trail, many wonderful wineries abound. For example, Silvan Ridge Winery was one of the first in 1979, and has since become one of the most beloved. While in its tasting room, also try the 2013 Malbec.
King Estate Winery produces the most pinot gris in the country, and its pinot noirs, cabernet sauvignons and syrahs also receive high marks from wine professionals. Willamette Valley Vineyards and Sokol Blosser Winery are other don’t misses for pinot noir. However, the International Pinot Noir Celebration is the ultimate pinot noir mecca known the world over. The three-day event, now in its 30th year, features tastings from more than 70 of the world’s best pinot noir producers, vineyard tours, and drinking and dining under the stars.
Walla Walla, Washington
Although Walla Walla’s wine industry didn’t start until the late ‘70s, it’s rapidly built a reputation as one of the top wine regions in the country, and even earned comparisons to Napa. Syrah, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon are among the wines it does well, and there are more than 100 wineries, spread across four wine regions, in which to try them. The Walla Walla Wine Alliance provides a thorough rundown to get oriented. Leonetti Cellar was the region’s first commercial winery in 1977.
Woodward Canyon Winery was another early pioneer—not just in wine production, but in sustainable wine production at that. Pop into its tasting room to sip its acclaimed 2012 Old Vines Cabernet Sauvignon. Pepper Bridge Winery excels at Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, and its tasting room, housed in a small yellow structure straight out of a storybook, is the perfect setting to try them. If you enjoy being the first in the know, Spring Release Weekend provides the chance to explore new releases while learning about them directly from the winemakers.
Hill Country, Texas
Becker Vineyards is another institution; the 46-acre estate includes a German-style stone barn and lavender fields. Book ahead to visit its Reserve Wine Library for the chance to sample the owners’ private collection and take a behind-the-scenes tour of the production facility. In addition to wine, Hill Country is also famous for its bluebonnets, which spring to life in April. Enjoy the best of both with tickets to the 2016 Wine and Wildflowers Trail, which includes free tastings at all participating wineries.
The Monticello Wine Trail provides a helpful guide, and naturally Jefferson Vineyards is the best place to start. The winery’s owners aren’t descendants of the Founding Father, but the current vineyard was established on land that Jefferson gave to Filippo Mazzei, a grape grower from Italy. Fast-forward to today, where it produces award-winning wines, such as the 2013 Viognier.
Barboursville Vineyards is another property with historic roots, as a friend of Jefferson’s owned this land too. You can easily spend the day here, from wandering the extensive grounds, which are anchored by an 18th-century estate, to taking a guided winery tour. Don’t leave without trying Octagon, a world-class red wine that’s considered its signature. Other notable wineries along the trail include Blenheim Vineyards (which was founded by musician Dave Matthews).
Brandywine Valley, Pennsylvania
While it’s the best known, Chaddsford isn’t the only winery in the area. Penns Woods Winery is nearby, and produces a range (Merlot, Rosé), from Pennsylvania-grown grapes. There’s also the Brandywine Valley Wine Trail, which includes four wineries. Or time your visit to also squeeze in the annual Brandywine Food and Wine Festival in order to experience the best of the region in one place.
Leelanau Peninsula, Michigan
Black Star Farms is another standout when it comes to Michigan wine. It offers three locations, but its flagship is on the peninsula. You could easily spend an entire weekend here, since the farm includes an upscale inn, dining options and several tasting areas. If your time is limited, hop on a wine tour: numerous companies, such as Grand Traverse Tours, cover the highlights. For something different, participate in the annual Harvest Stompede and race through vineyards—literally.