And none of them are in California.
Photo of a vineyard
Credit: Kenny Braun

Loved that wine-tasting trip to Napa or the Finger Lakes and thirsting for more? Here, five up-and-coming wine country vacations across the U.S. to help you step off the beaten wine trail.

Albuquerque, NM

About two dozen wineries are within an hour of this city. Survey the succulents, sun-bleached adobe buildings and wide stretches of blue sky while you sip cabernet sauvignon, merlot or chambourcin, a French-American hybrid known in the area as "New Mexican pinot." At spots like Acequia Winery and Corrales Winery along the Corrales Wine Loop, the offerings tend toward bold blends with enough sweetness to stand up to the state's chile-pepper-laden dishes. The region's crown jewel is Gruet Winery, which makes Champagne-style sparklers. "The high altitude and dry heat yield a deliciously fruit-forward bubbly," says winemaker Laurent Gruet.

Photo of grapes on the vine
Credit: John Davidson

Champlain Valley & Central VT

In the rural environs of the Green Mountain State, Deirdre Heekin's La Garagista Farm & Winery flourishes. She and her chef husband grow cold-hardy American grapes—like La Crescent and Frontenac Gris—along with heirloom apples and other fruits and vegetables. (The tasting room is open for special events to email subscribers.) Some of the grapes get fermented with apples, an unusual mix that has wine geeks swooning. Another Vermont favorite is ice wine, made from grapes left on the vine until they freeze. Seek out this dessert sip at Boyden Valley Winery or Shelburne Vineyard (across the street from us at EatingWell).

Grand Valley, CO

For outdoorsy types, the Grand Valley should be on the must-visit list. The area soars at over 4,000 feet in elevation and its rocky mesas offer a breathtaking backdrop for hiking, mountain biking and, of course, wine tasting. "The conditions are similar to Bordeaux," notes Sue Phillips, owner of Plum Creek Winery, a pioneer among Colorado winemakers who has been growing grapes since the '80s. With the dry climate, plenty of sun and high altitude, grapes like merlot, cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay all thrive. To take full advantage of the landscape, Varaison Vineyards offers a "Sip & Cycle" bike excursion to view the vines.

People riding horses playing polo

Blue Ridge, VA

Imagine mountain views, charming inns and lush green pastures—all within striking distance of the Washington, D.C., metro area. No wonder chef José Andrés has called the area "more beautiful than Napa Valley." Taking inspiration from Thomas Jefferson, who first planted grapes near his home in 1773, winemakers in the region (dubbed the Monticello American Viticultural Area) are focusing on white wine varietals like viognier and light reds, such as cabernet franc. Visit Glen Manor Vineyards—where grapes grow high on steep slopes—to sample Bordeaux-style blends or petit manseng, or King Family Vineyards, where tasting-room visitors can catch polo matches on site.

Wine barrels stacked on racks
Credit: Jack Looney

Texas Hill Country, TX

Located in the south-central part of the state, Hill Country boasts more than 50 wineries. The rolling hills are interspersed with streams and meadows where cattle graze, like something out of a country-folk song. As with many others in the region, Bending Branch Winery works with grapes typically found in Italy or Southern France, yielding vino that's big and bold. Tannat, a French grape, is a particular specialty here, and the winery's Texas Tannat is a full-bodied red, redolent of pomegranate and peppery spice. Some wineries play up the Old World connection, like Duchman Family Winery, where you can sip trebbiano in a Tuscan-style stone villa.



EatingWell Magazine, November 2019