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Top 10 Wine Regions in the United StatesSeptember 23, 2010 By: Melanie Gretchen
Those interested in wine should consider a weekend in the country. Travel research and planning website Away.com has uncorked 10 wine regions, just outside major metropolitan areas.
Brandywine Valley, Pennsylvania
Nestled within the rural landscape of Brandwine Valley, Pennsylvania, 30 miles southwest of Philadelphia, eight wineries sit along the Brandywine Valley Wine Trail. Among the Revolutionary War sites, like Valley Forge National Historic Park, the vineyards offer a day trip or a vacation touring the historic estates or canoeing on Brandywine Creek. Consider visiting Longwood Gardens, which features more than 11,000 plants and flowers through the ground and conservatory. Every weekend in March, Barrels on the Brandywine features tastings of new and developing vintages, live music, special food events, classes and demonstrations. The wineries are intimiate, family-owned and close to each other (the wine trail is 50 miles altogether).
Traverse City, Michigan
On the same latitude as the Bordeaux region of France, across the Atlantic, Traverse City's wine manufacturing is sheltered from the winer by its proximity to Lake Michigan. Peninsulas on each side of West Grand Traverse Bay have vineyards, but keep an eye out for the area's reputed Pinot Blancs. Camping and RV spots populate the area, and Michigan Highway M-37, running up Old Mission Peninsula, offers a great opportunity to see the land while in the area. Bed and breakfasters will want to know about Chateau Chantal, an 11-unit inn, winery and vineyard, situated on a ride overlooking both east and west Grand Traverse Bays. Across West Bay, the larger Leelanau Peninsula boasts 20 different wineries. Be sure to check out Black Star Farms, a bed and breakfast, winery and creamery, which has its homemade artisanal cheese, farmers' market and café that features farm-fresh meals.
Yakima Valley, Washington
Two hours out of Seattle, Yakima Valley produces nearly half the wine in Washington State, where 300 days of sunshine, fertile irrigation and rich volcanic soil distinguish the region as a perfect environment to develop full-bodied wines, including Merlots to Sauvignon Blancs.
Take Highway 82, which drives right through a lot of the vineyards. Consider staying in the town of Yakima, whose historic district is developing, among the region's 50 wineries, many of which are family-owned and down-to-earth.
Check out the Yakima Valley Association of Growers and Wineries, which offers itineraries for several trips to different vineyards, including wineries with a view of the agricultural countryside, snow-capped volcanic mountains, establishments that offer food on-site and wineres that are dog friendly. Don't miss out of the farm stands throughout the area - we hear the Valley's apples and cherries are remarkable.
Normally associated with the Browns or the Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame, Cleveland also boasts proximity to 135 vineyards in the state. Wine aficianados should look in the Northeast, where many are concentrated, on the shores of Lake Erie.
Thirty minutes from downtown Cleveland, John Christ Winery has a comfortable tasting room with board games and food to accompany the wine. Among the varietals, the winery features many drier wines. We hear the Special Blend is the best seller, made with sweet concord and Niagara grapes.
Cleveland's autumn enables it to produce wines common in Europe like Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir because the long, dry season provides time for the grapes on the vine to ripen. The wine is also known for its ice wine, prepared by leaving the grapes on the vine after the first frost and pressed frozen, which concentrates the flavors to create a sweet dessert wine. Experience it first hand at Chalet Debonne in Madison. Then, visit the American Wine School in Beachwood where you can choose professional or "leisure" classes arranged by region or varietal.
Arkansas River Valley, Arkansas
Jacob Post, a German immigrant, and Johann Wiederkehr, a Swiss immigrant are the founders of the area's wine production when, in the 1880's, they both decided to open vineyards in the Ozark Mountains that reminded them of their home countries' winemaking. Two vineyards in Atlus, Arkansas continue to be run by fourth- and fifth-generation descendants, along with two recent new vineyards.
Tour the winemaking operation at Wiederkehr Wine Cellars, which also has a restaurant on site in the original 1880 cellar, featuring schnitzel and fondue, among other European specialties, by candlelight. Outside Altus, 90 minutes away, consider spending the day in Hot Springs, where you can wander around its downtown, get a look at its art deco architecture and experience hot mineral bathing at a local spa. Farther away, drive two hours to Little Rock, home of the Diamond Bear Brewing Company, specializing in craft beer and offering brewery tours during the weekend.
Long Island, New York (North Fork)
Although known most for its fresh seafood and produce, North Fork, Long Island, also has 30 wineries in the Eastern Seaboard town. Seventy-five miles out of Manhattan, in close proximity to the Hamptons, visitors can enjoy tours of the vineyards, vinter training, rose tastings and occassional performances from live bands.
Sample Shinn Estate Vineyards' award-winning merlot in Matticuck, among its 13 wines. Owners Barbara Shinn and David Page created sustainable vineyard with biodynamic methods rather than chemicals and pesticides and have a small bed and breakfast for guests to stay on the property.
Also in the area is Croteaux Vineyards, open Friday through Sunday. Specializing in Rose wines, the vineyard hosts classes at the Farmhouse Kitchen's school, run by Paula Croteau, a proprietor of the vineyard.
Botetourt County, Virginia
Louis and Clark began their expedition in Fincastle, Virginia, where you should consider starting your tour of the three family-run vineyards of Botetourt County, Fincastle Vineyard and Winery, located in the valley of the Blue Ridge Mountains, featuring scenic drives on the Blue Ridge Parkway, hiking on the Appalachian Trail and canoeing on the James River. At Fincastle, the vineyards produce a variety of wines, from Rieslings to Cabernet Franc.
Based on which vineyard you want to visit first, consider Roanoke for lodging if Fincastle Vineyard and Winery's bed and breakfast is booked. While you're in the area, wander through the wooden hiking trails of the 300-acre Blue Ridge Vineyard. Then, prepare a lunch to explore the Virginia Mountain Vineyards, before sitting down to eat in its gazebo. In the fall, be sure to make time for Ikenberry Orchards, for its apples, corn maze and homemade apple butter and preserves.
Cape Code, Massachusetts (Truro)
Among Truro's land in Cape Cod, three quarters of which is designated national seashore, is Truro Vineyards, the region's only winery, between Provincetown and New England's fishing village Wellfleet. Bought in 2007 by the Roberts' family, the winery is run by David Roberts (formerly CEO of the distributor, United Liquors) and grows Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay and Merlot grapes on its five-acre property, as well as importing grapes from New York and California to make 13 other varieties of wine. One of its wines, Cranberry Red, is distinguished by its lighthouse-shaped bottle.
When planning your stay in Truro, think about May when the five-day festival is attended by more than 150 vineyards. Alternately, in October, Martha's Vineyard has a festival, featuring local food and produce, alongside wines from around the world.
Known for its agricultural production, Bloomington is also home to Oliver Winery, producer of the number-one selling wine in the state, Oliver Soft Red, run by Bill Oliver. Although most of Oliver's grapes are imported from California and Oregon, his Creekbend collection is created from grapes grown at the vineyard from hybrid vines, tailored to endure the Midwestern summer and cold winters. Try both over daily tastings, weekend production tours and Creekbend tours by appointment.
While you're in the area, only an hour and a half from Indianapolis, check out FARMbloomington, including FARMbar, FARMcafe and FARMrestaurant, where you'll get a chance to try the seasonal pan-roasted Indiana rabbit and bitter orange-glazed Hoosier duckling.
Hill Country, Texas
North of San Antonio, Texas Hill Country has 24 wineries along the Texas Wine Trail in one of the country's fastest wine destinations. West of Austin, the hills and and wildflower blooms make April the ideal place to visit, though most wineries are open year-round.
While you're there, consider stopping in Fredericksburg, originally founded by German settlers and distinguished by its beer gardens and distinctive shops. The town houses 300 guest houses and bed and breakfasts, so be sure to contact Gastehaus Schmidt's booking service to choose from Victorian style accommodations and rustic log cabins.