Casual sippers and connoisseurs alike will delight in road tripping through America’s wine regions. Vineyards provide green spaces to be enjoyed by all ages, and properties today include everything from hiking trails to live entertainment. In addition, many wineries participate in agri-tourism programs and provide education on sustainable agriculture and business practices. Sounds like a full-bodied experience awaits for all.
While this article combines vineyards visits with road trip experiences, there are other transportation options available in most areas to ensure you safely travel to and from wineries. If you choose to drive your own vehicle, be sure to designate a driver, plan ahead and understand how alcohol affects your BAC.
Finger Lakes, New York
Thousands of years ago, glaciers formed the long, linear system of freshwater lakes in upstate New York that today are aptly named “the Finger Lakes.” This portion of the US experiences four distinct seasons and is a popular summer vacation spot for New Englanders. The Finger Lakes are surrounded by delightful college towns that make excellent basecamps for exploring the surrounding wine region, including Ithaca, Rochester and Syracuse. If you’d rather be closer to the wilderness, the region is dotted with charming bed and breakfasts, inns and rental cabins as well as camping areas and RV sites.
Finger Lakes Wine Trails
Individual Finger Lakes boast their own wine trails where visitors follow a mapped route to wineries in a condensed area. The Keuka Lake Wine Trail and Cayuga Lake Wine Trail each take several days to complete on their own. If you aren’t a wine drinker, there are also a number of breweries, distilleries and cideries in the Finger Lakes.
Other Things to Do in the Finger Lakes
When you’re not imbibing at Finger Lakes wineries, there are plenty of outdoor activities to keep you busy. In the summer, water sports are popular, from boating to paddle boarding. Hiking is also a great way to see the area, especially in the fall when the leaves are changing. Many trails in the area also feature gorgeous waterfalls. In the colder months, Nordic skiing and snowshoeing are great ways to enjoy the outdoors. Plus, several Finger Lakes Wineries remain open through the winter, complete with roaring fires and cozy tasting rooms.
In less than two hours, visitors can trade the hubbub of the metro DC area for the winding back roads of Virginia’s wine region. Rolling hills nestled in the valleys between the Appalachian and Blue Ridge Mountains create an idyllic backdrop for Virginia’s vineyards. Here in central Virginia, visitors can enjoy the charming college towns of Roanoke and Charlottesville and the historic city of Richmond.
How to Enjoy Virginia’s Wine Country
While in Virginia, be sure to visit Shenandoah National Park for gorgeous scenery of the surrounding mountains and valleys. For a scenic drive, check out which cuts right through the national park. Also nearby is the iconic Blue Ridge Parkway. The area is also known for its equestrian farms, so you can even explore Virginia’s vineyards on horseback. Venture below the surface in one of the area’s numerous caves and caverns which are open for guided tours year-round.
Georgia wineries feature all your fermented favorites along with the less common muscadine wine, which is unique to the region. Georgia’s wine regions are located in both the north and south of the state, so you can have an epic road trip traveling from one to the other.
Northern Georgia Wineries & Activities
In Northern Georgia, the small town of Dahlonega makes an excellent basecamp for your Peach State adventures. The area has no shortage of wineries or outdoor activities, from hiking to climbing to whitewater rafting. You can also find the trailhead for the Appalachian Trail nearby. Plus, you’re just a stone’s throw from bustling Atlanta.
Georgia’s Muscadine Wine
As genteel southerner’s put it, muscadine wine is an acquired taste. It’s made from muscadine grapes, which have a distinct taste and thrive in Georgia’s hot, humid environment. Like it or not, muscadine wine is a must-try southern staple when you’re in the area, along with boiled peanuts and Lowcountry boil. Fill your glass at Watermelon Creek Vineyard or Butterducks Winery in south Georgia.
Verde Valley Wine Trail
The Verde Valley Wine Trail located in central Arizona is one of the Southwest’s best wine regions for several reasons. To start, the quaint towns of Clarkdale, Jerome, Cottonwood and Prescott offer plenty of places to stay and activities to enjoy between pours. Together, these charming communities provide a network of stops along the Verde Valley Wine Trail, which includes over ten tasting rooms. Most of these Arizona wineries source their grapes from the American Viticultural Area of southeast Arizona. Climate change threatens the fragile ecosystems of the area, so be sure to practice leave no trace when you visit and learn more about the sustainable practices being implemented across the state, including Arizona wineries.
Major attractions like Grand Canyon National Park and Sedona are only a a quick day-trip from any of these towns.Other activities in the area include ancient ruins and Indigenous petroglyphs. Hop aboard the Verde Valley Canyon Railroad for unparalleled views of the surrounding landscape.
Move over California, there’s a new wine mecca on the West Coast. Washington’s wine region boasts a whopping 240 wineries, spectacular natural scenery and fewer crowds than the California big names. Three subregions, collectively known as Washington Wine Country, are each unique and worth a visit. One common factor unites them all: award-winning wineries can be found in each.
Don’t let the Pacific Northwest locale fool you. Yakima Valley sees nearly 300 days of sun a year. Wonderful weather means you can easily stay, play and sip your way through this portion of Washington Wine Country.
Want big city fun not far from the vines? Tri-Cities is quickly rising as one of Southeast Washington’s most cosmopolitan areas. The livable communities make one of America’s most desirable wine regions feel like your true home away from home.
Walla Walla Valley
Walla Walla Valley is a small Washington Wine Country town with big wilderness personality. A center for arts and culture, the approachability of the community makes everything from wine tasting to outdoor adventures relaxing and fun.