Where's Wine Country?
The grapes from Loudoun County, Virginia, often garner comparisons to those from the most highly esteemed European regions. Located west and a bit north of the Capital, this fertile region has also been dubbed the “Napa of the East.” There are enough wineries, including Bluemont Vineyard, Breaux Vineyards and 8 Chains North Winery, to warrant a dedicated long-weekend tour to this part of Northern Virginia, just an hour outside of D.C. and 30 minutes past Reston.
The state of Washington ranks second behind California in terms of overall wine production. While most of that grape growing is located in the eastern part of the state, the Chateau St. Michelle—founded in the early 1930s with the repeal of prohibition—is just 30 minutes from Seattle in Woodinville. The state’s original winery offers a number of tours and tastings that start at no cost and need no advance booking. Be sure to try the 2009 Canoe Ridge Estate Syrah, a wine with chocolate and cherry notes that’s excusive to the tasting room and online store.
While the Twin Cities have earned a reputation for their craft beer scenes, a cluster of small-batch local wineries in the area more than hold their own. Alexis Bailly Vineyard, located about 30 minutes southwest of St. Paul, was the first Minnesotan winery and voted the best wine completely grown and produced in the state. Other award-winning wineries include Canon River Winery and the Northern Vineyards Winery, the latter of which uses grapes from both Minnesota and western Wisconsin.
Hotels Nearby: Sheraton St. Paul Woodbury Hotel 36 miles | Four Points by Sheraton Minneapolis Airport 38 miles | The Westin Edina Galleria 41 miles | Aloft Minneapolis 44 miles | Hotel Ivy, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Minneapolis 44 miles
Outside of urban Philadelphia and industrial Pittsburgh, much of Pennsylvania is actually quite agricultural, leaving the southwest region of the state ripe for winemaking. While the Narcisi Winery, housed in a structure reminiscent of a Tuscan villa and noted for its Sogni D’oro and Bel Sogno dessert wines, is the most notable winery closest to Pittsburgh (about 15 miles away), a seven-stop wine trail runs through the entire southwest passage of the state, featuring spots like the hip and modern Glades Pike Winery.
Central North Carolina
North Carolina proudly proclaims itself the only place in the world where every major type of wine grape grows well. In fact, they’ve been growing well for centuries in the middle of the Tar Heel State. At the Raffaldini Vineyards, for example, located within a two-hour drive of Ashville, Charlotte and the Research Triangle, winemaking has been in the family for 650 years. The vineyard’s Vermentino, which yields a medium-bodied white wine, was the first of its kind to be planted on the East Coast of the United States. Even more impressive, President Barack Obama reportedly gifted a bottle of Raffaldini wine to former Italian President Giorgio Napolitano before the 2009 G-8 summit, so it’s gotta be good.
Hotels Nearby: Sheraton Greensboro at Four Seasons 65 miles | Aloft Charlotte Uptown at the EpiCentre 72 miles | The Westin Charlotte 73 miles | Le Méridien Charlotte 74 miles | The Ballantyne, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Charlotte 86 miles
Texas’ Hill Country—the 25-county-strong region that includes cities like Austin, San Marcos, San Antonio and New Braunfels—is home to no fewer than 42 diverse wineries. Grape Creek Vineyards in Fredericksburg, dubbed “Tuscany in Texas” and located within 70 miles of both San Antonio and Austin, has won more than 100 awards in the past two years (including the Double Gold at San Francisco’s 2014 International Wine Competition for its Viognier white), and Austin's Fall Creek Vineyards was the first vineyard and winery in the Hill Country.
Hotels Nearby: Aloft San Antonio Airport 63 miles | Four Points by Sheraton San Antonio Airport 66 miles | W Austin 67 miles | The Westin Austin Downtown 67 miles | Sheraton Gunter Hotel San Antonio 67 miles
Cooler climates have been known to produce some of the most complex varieties of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Riesling and Cabernet Franc. In Toronto, there’s a huge movement to raise the profile of Canadian wines in those styles. Additionally, many Ontario wineries (primarily on the south side of Lake Ontario closer to Niagara Falls) have capitalized on the region’s frozen winters by manufacturing the delicacy known as Icewine, a dessert wine made from grapes that have frozen naturally on the vine. If you don’t plan to leave the city, though, find the Wine Country Ontario VQA Wine Truck—a converted food truck serving only the best local wines—in town at @thevqawinetruck.
Hotels Nearby: Four Points by Sheraton St. Catharines Niagara Suites 14 | Four Points by Sheraton Niagara Falls 20 miles | Aloft Buffalo Airport 41 miles | Sheraton Hamilton Hotel 46 miles |
California winemaking actually began outside of San Diego in the Mission San Diego de Alcala during the late 18th century, but only returned to the area on a large scale in the 1960s. Today the Temecula Valley, about halfway between Los Angeles and San Diego, offers one of the most diverse climates to produce everything from dry whites to rich, Bordeaux-style reds and Mediterranean varieties. Visit the Temecula Winegrowers Association for nine different self-guided tours organized into categories like Familiar Favorites and the Old World/New World Temecula Style.
Hotels Nearby: Sheraton Carlsbad Resort & Spa 41 miles | Four Points by Sheraton Ontario-Rancho Cucamonga 53 miles | Aloft Ontario-Rancho Cucamonga 53 miles | THE US GRANT, a Luxury Collection Hotel, San Diego 59 miles | The Westin San Diego 59 miles