America’s best wineries you can actually visit

 

You can find wineries across the US, from the world-renowned AVAs (American Viticultural Areas) of California and Oregon to smaller, vine-striped pockets that punch above their weight and produce some delicious bottles. Here are some of our favorite places to take in the views, glass in hand.

Last posted by Ella Buchan | MSN

 

Settings don’t come much more idyllic than Soter Vineyards’ Mineral Springs Ranch in Carlton, Oregon, where Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes are planted between ancient oak trees. Tastings are by appointment only but it’s worth planning in advance.

Donkeys and Scottish Highland cows graze in parts of the grounds and you might find one of the resident cats crossing your path. The winery partners with local chefs to create special menus which are paired with wines in the rustic-chic tasting room or terrace with views across the vines.

 

Buena Vista, Sonoma, California

 

You could easily spend a whole day exploring and touring the historic Buena Vista winery in Sonoma, California. Sample incredible wines from crisp, elegant sparklers to old-vine Zinfandels and an apricot-laced tokaji (Hungarian dessert wine). Browse photos and exhibits around the mezzanine floors or go in for the full barrel and take a tour of the property.

You’ll be led around by a staff member role-playing the winery’s founder Agoston Haraszthy, who died in 1869. It’s great fun wandering through the softly lit Champagne cellars and peeking at the opulent, sparkly Bubble Lounge which looks like somewhere Andy Warhol would throw a fabulous party. Afterwards, browse the Wine Museum, filled with tools and trinkets, while tasting the latest releases.

 

 

New York’s Finger Lakes are dream destinations for those craving fresh air and good wine. Heron Hill Winery, overlooking Keuka Lake, is one of the most impressive with a vaulted tasting room serving top-rated Riesling, Chardonnay and Cabernet Franc, and a shop selling local food and crafts.

There’s often food and entertainment to pair with the wine, especially in summer. Head there and stay a while for live music, Sunday brunch and pizza nights, with pies baked in a wood-fired oven.

 

 

Rosé may have had a downtrodden reputation in the past but it’s serious business for many modern winemakers. Malene in San Luis Obispo focuses almost exclusively on pink wines (there’s one token red) with differing complexity and depth. There’s a classic, Provençal-style wine, a rosé made from old-vine Grenache and a delicately meaty Mourvèdre.

While the wine is taken seriously, the setting is as fabulously frivolous as they come with glasses filled in the trendy trailer bar and picnic tables that encourage you to linger.

 

 

Virginia’s wine regions are popular with Washington DC residents looking for an escape from the city and they’re catching on with other tourists too. One of the best places to understand why is on the terrace that juts from the tasting room at Bluemont Vineyard. Take in the sweeping views across vine-etched slopes towards the Blue Ridge Mountains – with a glass of something in hand, naturally.

Aside from vineyard tours and tastings of Albariño and bold red blends, Bluemont offers more unusual experiences like wagon rides through the orchards and fruit-picking. Or book a seat at the chef’s table to dine on dishes made from homegrown produce and matched wines.

 

Paso Robles is an American Viticultural Area with around 300 wineries and most of them are more about fun than formality. Sculpterra Winery, whose name refers to the manicured grounds dotted with eye-catching sculptures, perfectly embodies that laid-back spirit. Visitors arrive down a drive lined with plum trees and are greeted by a bronze mermaid and granite puma.

In the tasting room, you’ll be greeted with wines such as a toasty fizz and a blackberry-laced Petite Sirah, via a dangerously drinkable rosé that’s perfect for a picnic on the grounds. There’s free live music on summer Sundays too. Discover more California wine regions with our area-by-area guide.

 

Oregon’s Willamette Valley produces renowned Pinot Noir wines and sampling world-class examples of the earthy, berry-tinged red is reason enough to visit Yamhill. The setting, which is close to downtown McMinnville but with endless stretches of vines, is another.

All the wines are estate-grown and bottled, and it isn’t just about red. The cool climate makes these slopes ideal for growing Riesling grapes which produce a honeyed white wine with a refreshing bite of acidity. Try this and others on a tour with barrel tasting, or paired with a cheese and charcuterie board.

 

 

California’s Temecula Valley, close to San Diego, is a small but glamorous wine area that’s been likened to Vegas, mostly because it has casinos and glitzy hotels. Carter Estate, though, has the more subtle luxury of Napa. The winery specializes in Champagne-method bubbles, poured in the sleek tasting room and paired with canapés prepared with ingredients from the kitchen garden.

You can stay the night in a suite overlooking vines planted with Malbec, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. It’ll feel like your best idea ever after a few glasses of glorious fizz and, depending on how much you’ve sipped, you might rise in time to see hot air balloons glide past your balcony at sunrise.

 

 

Washington’s wine scene rivals neighboring Oregon’s, producing elegant Pinot Noir, Merlot, Riesling and Cabernet Sauvignon. The AVAs are spread across the state but you can try wines from all over in Woodinville which has clusters of walkable urban tasting rooms.

Chateau Ste. Michelle, one of the few here with on-site vineyards, surveys the others from its lofty perch. It makes the most of its enviable location with summer concerts and outdoor movie nights. Oh, and don’t be shocked to see a peacock strutting around – that’s just Claude, the winery mascot.

 

Opus One Winery, Napa Valley, California

 

You could fill a thousand lists with must-visit Napa wineries but Opus One stands out even in this most famous of wine regions. It was founded in 1978 as an unprecedented joint venture between two wine legends – Napa’s Robert Mondavi, whose own estate stands opposite, and Baron Philippe de Rothschild, founder of Château Mouton Rothschild in Bordeaux.

Together, they aimed to create a world-class Bordeaux blend based on California Cabernet and the result is still considered among the best. The impressive tasting room, tucked into the hillside, hosts small group tastings of the current vintage or you can tour the vast grounds and wine production areas. Book well in advance as spaces fill fast.

 

 

Texas has a (perhaps surprisingly) thriving wine scene and charming Fredericksburg makes a great introduction to it. There are rows of tasting rooms in the German-settled downtown, including one run by Becker Vineyards. But take the short drive down the 290, lined with vineyards and peach orchards, to the estate for the full experience.

More unusual vintages include an apricot-honey dessert wine made with Viognier grapes. Try it alongside Syrah and Sangiovese during a standard tasting or book The Art of Food & Wine experience for five wines paired with chef-prepared canapés.

 

 

Not all wineries are characterized by vines and chateaux. Tank Garage Winery, at the northern tip of Napa Valley, dares to be different by transforming an abandoned gas station into a more modern take on tasting rooms.

Grapes sourced from various vineyards are used to craft small-batch blends poured and sold exclusively here, and the results are unusually delicious. Sample bottles like an orange wine made with white grapes fermented on their skins amid white-and-spearmint gas pumps, over a game on the vintage arcade machines or in the copper-plated speakeasy room.

 

 

What could possibly make a vineyard better? Llamas, obviously. Divine Llama Vineyards, in North Carolina’s Yadkin Valley, has around 60 of the curious creatures. Ranging from tall, mop-coated adults to adorable crias (babies), they certainly add to the charm, which is something the vineyard already has in buckets (and bottles).

The wines, from a sunny rosé to a tobacco-tinged red blend, are poured in a cozy tasting room that also sells llama-wool scarves and mittens. Fancy going full llama? Book in advance to trek with the pebble-toothed animals, ending with a bottle of something back at the tasting room.

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