Wine country getaways: our quick guide to U.S. wine regions

Overwhelmed by the hundreds of U.S. wine country options? Here's an overview to help you narrow your search.
close up of grapes in Napa with a hot air balloon being slowly inflated in the background
(Photo: Christine Sarkis)

The United States a big country with dozens of climates and soil types that give character to nearly 300 AVAs (American Viticultural Areas). New wine regions continue to pop up around the country. By my count, a whopping 34 states have certified AVAs.

With so many wine regions to choose among, how do you decide which ones are worth a weekend getaway (or longer)? I had this question too, so I’ve created this general intro to the major wine regions in the U.S., including some lesser-known up-and-comers. Read on to find fun highlights and tips to help you get started planning a journey there. 

Jump to a section: California wine regions | Washington wine regions | Oregon wine regions | Idaho wine regions | New York wine regions | Virginia wine regions | Pennsylvania wine regions | Texas wine regions

California wine regions

view out over the Napa Valley seen from a hot air balloon with other hot air balloons in the distance
The Napa Valley (Photo: Christine Sarkis)

America’s top wine producer, California makes more than 80 percent of the wine in the U.S. The state is home to more than 6,200 wineries with tasting experiences set along stunning coastal drives, sweeping valleys, and towering forest canopies. That’s a long way of saying that in California, a wine tasting trip is equal parts wine tasting and gorgeous scenery.

Here’s a breakdown of some of the bigger wine regions in California:

  • Napa Valley: The AVA that started the popularization of U.S. wines back in the 1970s (if you haven’t seen it, the 2008 movie Bottle Shock is a fun intro to the valley’s wine making history), Napa continues to be an iconic destination for wine lovers.
  • Sonoma County: Napa might be the most famous valley in California but many locals prefer Sonoma County wine tasting over the four-letter valley next door for its quaint, picturesque towns, wine tastings in barns, Michelin-starred restaurants, and beach walks at Sonoma Coast State Park. 

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  • Sierra Foothills: Between Sacramento and Lake Tahoe sits California Gold Rush country, where you can experience both mining history and fantastic wineries. Some vineyards are remote, so one or two may be your limit for the day. 
  • Central Coast: Santa Barbara Wine Country was made famous by the film Sideways and with good reason. The chilling fog and moody weather make for excellent diversity in wine. It’s an easy road trip from Los Angeles. And the Santa Ynez Valley is gorgeous with charming small towns and a blend of luxury resorts and sprawling ranches. 
  • Central Valley: Here in the heart of California’s farmland, you’ll find thousands of family-run farms and vineyards. Expect incredible farm-to-table dining and wine tasting destinations in the San Joaquin Valley. The Madera Wine Trail is known for its dessert and fortified wines.
  • South Coast: In Los Angeles, Temecula, and San Diego you can pair tastings with celebrity sightings, surf spots, hot air balloon festivals, and art. Don’t miss the urban winery experience at Angeleno Wine Company in downtown Los Angeles.

More planning tips: California Wine Institute

My pick: Santa Barbara Wine Country in Santa Ynez Valley

  • Best time to visit: September, because it’s packed with events and people for California Wine Month. Or November for a quieter visit, beautiful weather, and fall colors. 
  • Known for: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Syrah
  • Highlights: Visit Melville Winery’s beautiful estate or try Sanford Winery’s ATV experience. For fans of Sideways, a stop at the Hitching Post in Buellton near Solvang is a must. In Santa Barbara, pop into one of several tasting rooms before dinner at a Michelin-starred restaurant or fun taco joint.
  • Where to stay: Book a room at The Landsby in Solvang, a unique town with Danish-style architecture, bakeries, and great restaurants. 

Washington State wine regions

two people walking through a vineyard in Washington state
(Photo: Greg Balkin – Wondercamp courtesy of Washington Tourism)

Sitting at the same latitude as Europe’s top wine regions, Washington is the second-largest wine producing state in the U.S. with 1,000+ wineries producing 80+ varieties. Two mountain ranges, beautiful river valleys, and arid regions create optimal conditions for growing and for your outdoor adventures while you’re there. 

These are the major wine regions in Washington state:

  • Walla Walla Valley: This valley, extending into Oregon, offers the most comprehensive wine country experience in the Pacific Northwest. More than 40 grape varieties grow on some 3,000 acres of vineyards. It’s a high-quality yet approachable wine country experience. 
  • Yakima Valley: Combine fun family-friendly winery experiences and outdoor adventures in the Yakima Valley. You can go hiking or biking along scenic trails, river rafting, camping, or visit fruit-picking farms, wildlife sanctuaries, and interactive museums.

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  • Tri-Cities (Kennewick, Pasco, and Richland): A semi-arid climate here brings 300 days of sun for gorgeous outdoor wine tasting. Vineyards offer tours via horseback and wagon rides, or you can go winery hopping on an e-bike with 200 wineries in a 50-mile radius.
  • Lake Chelan/Columbia Valley: Soak in the stunning views and ease into the lake-time vibe as you sip your way through a diverse range of wine varieties. You’ll find live music, plenty of tasting rooms, and wine-related events and festivals. 

More planning tips: Map My WA Wine App

My pick: Walla Walla Valley Wine Country

  • Best time to visit: Spring, for the spring release tastings and food-pairing events
  • Known for: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah
  • Highlights: Downtown Walla Walla is walkable with upscale dining, shopping, arts and culture. Wander into one of several tasting rooms including Seven Hills Winery in a beautifully restored historic building. Next to the airport check out tasting rooms inside old WWII-era mess halls, firehouses, and hangar buildings. Abeja Winery is worth the drive out of town. 
  • Where to stay: For a country hideaway feel with distant views of the Blue Mountains, stay at the Inn at Abeja next to the Abeja estate vineyards.

Oregon wine regions

Group of cyclists pedaling through a landscape of vineyards in Oregon's Willamette Valley
(Photo: Willamette Valley Visitors Association)

If you know Oregon, you know three things: it has incredible food and wine, a pioneering spirit, and lots of rain. The state produces several varieties of wine but “Oregon Pinot” (Pinot Noir) reigns supreme. Plan your tasting journey among beautiful rolling hills dotted with forests, sprawling vineyards, fruit orchards, and farms. Here’s where to focus a wine-tasting trip to Oregon:

  • Willamette Valley: A quick drive from Portland and close to the stunning coast, this valley (whose name taxi drivers will remind you rhymes with “Dammit!”) has it all: spectacular nature, rolling hills, lush farms, amazing food, and some of North America’s top-rated Pinot Noir. The majority of Oregon wineries are here.
  • Columbia Gorge: Between winery visits you can go kiteboarding, windsurfing, or sternwheeler cruising on this river gorge that cuts through the Cascade Mountains just east of Portland. Bike tours take you to wineries, or you can explore river towns filled with galleries and restaurants.
  • Southern Oregon: You’ll also find award-winning wineries in both the Rogue Valley and Umpqua Valley. Book a “wiking” tour, combining wine tasting and hiking, or try the treehouse tasting room at Augustino Estate & Vineyard.

More planning tips: Oregon Wine Board

My pick: Willamette Valley Wine Country

  • Best time to visit: Summer, when you can experience the annual International Pinot Noir Celebration and day trip to the coast to see gray whales in Depoe Bay
  • Known for: Pinot Noir
  • Highlights: You’ll find several great spots for wine tasting in Dundee, Dayton, and McMinnville. A few favorites are Domaine Serene for a luxe experience, Bergstrom for food pairings, and Argyle for bubbles. Here you can also catch horseback tours to wineries.
  • Where to stay: Olive & Vine Guesthouse is a boutique-style stay in a historical Victorian home in McMinnville. Abbey Road Farm and Black Walnut Inn and Vineyard are two wineries with beautiful accommodations.

Idaho wine regions

two people wine tasting outside at Rivaura Estate Vineyard & Winery, in Spalding near Lewiston in Idaho
Wine tasting at Rivaura Estate Vineyard & Winery (Photo: Brand USA/Visit Lewis Clark Valley)

Volcanic soils combined with summer’s hot days and cool nights create ideal conditions for grape-growing in Idaho, an up-and-comer on the wine scene. Wine country here is gorgeous, with more than 65 wineries and vineyards just west of Boise between the Rocky Mountains and the Snake River. Here’s where you’ll find classic varietals including Syrah, Merlot, Riesling, Chardonnay, Tempranillo, and Malbec:

  • Snake River Valley: In Idaho’s largest wine region you can walk or bike between urban winery tastings in Boise and in Garden City or follow the wine trail a 45-minute drive west of the city near the Snake River. Save time for a river rafting excursion or fishing charter.
  • Eagle Foothills: The rolling hills near the Boise River – a subset of the Snake River Valley wine region – are a picturesque place to explore vineyards, stroll the Eagle Greenbelt, or go hiking or biking.

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  • Lewis-Clark Valley: History buffs will appreciate the Lewis and Clark Expedition museums, historic sites, and natural landmarks in this area. Adventurers will want to explore the beauty of Hells Canyon by jet boat. Local wine tasting tours combine one or the other with vineyard stops.

More planning tips: Idaho Wine Commission

My pick: Snake River Valley Wine Country

  • Best time to visit: Late spring or early summer, when temps are ideal for outdoor adventures and it’s not too hot to store your purchased wine bottles in the car
  • Known for: Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and Syrah
  • Highlights: The Sunnyslope Wine Trail includes nearly 20 wineries in a concentrated area. Don’t miss Ste. Chapelle Winery (Idaho’s largest wine producer), live music at Indian Creek Winery, and the kid-friendly and dog-friendly Sawtooth Winery with non-alcoholic tasting flight options for kids. 
  • Where to stay: Book the wine-themed guest room in downtown Boise at the Inn at 500 Capitol. Wine tour companies will pick you up here or at other Boise hotels.

New York wine regions

View of vineyards in Ontario County
(Photo: Photo courtesy of VisitFingerLakes.com)

New York makes wine from a broader variety of grapes than almost any wine region in the world. The influence of oceans, mountains, and deep glacial lakes creates diverse growing conditions here in the country’s third largest wine-producing state. Go winery hopping by boat on the Finger Lakes’ sloping shores, by bike on Long Island’s scenic back roads, or by mini bus in the historic Hudson Valley:

  • Finger Lakes: Home to 100+ wineries, this region is known for cool-climate wines including Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir. Book a reservation at a top-rated restaurant on Seneca and Keuka lakes or try a glass-making workshop at The Corning Museum of Glass.
  • Long Island: Escape Manhattan and head for the bougie wineries and beaches of the Hamptons or opt for the more laid back farms, restaurants, and the vineyards of North Fork (“NoFo”). 
  • Hudson River & Upper Hudson: This is one of the country’s oldest wine regions. Interesting wine experiences and historic sites abound: a winery that dates to 1839 and several homes, churches, and other stops on the state’s Path Through History
  • Lake Erie & Niagara: Hybrid varieties (French and American grapes) and ice wines are popular here. Detour from your wine trail explorations to see Niagara Falls or go boating on Lake Erie.

More planning tips: New York Wine & Grape Foundation

My pick: Long Island Wine Country

  • Best time to visit: Summer, so you can enjoy the beaches or lavender fields and pick up fresh flowers, produce, and homemade pies at farm stands
  • Known for: Chardonnay, Merlot, Bordeaux, and sparkling wines
  • Highlights: Little towns like Greenport and Mattituck will enchant you. Plan to make tasting stops at Bedell Cellars for the back deck overlooking the garden, Jamesport Vineyards for pairings with wood-fired oven pizza, and Macari Vineyards for sips in the barrel cellar.
  • Where to stay: Tuck into a boutique room at the historic North Fork Table & Inn, or for a more immersive wine experience try the Sannino Vineyard B&B in Cutchogue.

Virginia wine regions

Tasting room at Stone Tower Winery in DC's Wine Country.
Stone Tower Winery (Photo: Virginia Tourism Corporation, www.Virginia.org)

More than 300 wineries spread across Virginia’s picturesque landscape. You can follow wine trails through quaint small towns and near monumental historic sites. Find the year’s award winning wineries on the Gold Medal Wine Trail.

Here’s where to go for a wine-tasting getaway in Virginia:

  • Northern Virginia: Some of Virginia’s most respected wineries are here within an hour drive of Washington, D.C. Head to the Blue Ridge foothills for the “Napa Valley of the Mid-Atlantic” (Loudoun County), the artisanal wine trail of Rappahannock, and Fauquier County for the horses and wines.
  • Central Virginia: A large concentration of wineries cluster around Richmond, Charlottesville, and Lynchburg. Pair wine tasting with stops at Civil War sites or a Monticello visit. 
  • Shenandoah Valley: Along the Maryland state line, this gorgeous valley is dotted with vineyards among rolling pastures and historic towns. Save time for natural wonders (Luray Caverns and Natural Bridge) or a play at the American Shakespeare Center.
  • Blue Ridge: In southwest Virginia you can taste wine, cider, and mead at several locations near the Blue Ridge Parkway, a stunning route to drive especially during the fall color display.
  • Chesapeake Bay & Hampton Roads: Here on Virginia’s coastal plain you can expect oyster or and other seafood pairings at vineyards. Historic Jamestown, Colonial Williamsburg, and Virginia Beach are iconic spots worth the trip.

More planning tips: Virginia Winegrowers Advisory Board

My pick: Central Virginia Wine Country

  • Best time to visit: Spring, so you can enjoy warm weather, multiple wine festivals, food events, and outdoor adventures
  • Known for: Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay, Riesling, and Viognier
  • Highlights: The Monticello Wine Trail includes Jefferson Vineyards, established on the same grounds as Virginia’s first wine company founded by Thomas Jefferson himself. Also check out Barboursville Vineyards’ historic estate and Veritas Vineyards’ walking tours.
  • Where to stay: Sleep at a vineyard in either The 1804 Inn & Cottages at Barboursville Vineyards or The Farmhouse at Veritas Vineyards, both with views of the Blue Ridge foothills. 

Pennsylvania wine regions

Lake Erie Wine Country Harvest Celebration
Erie wine country (Photo: Chris Temple)

Pennsylvania’s wine trails take you to beautiful landscapes—mountains, forests, and lakes—and several of the state’s 300 wineries are an easy day trip from Manhattan or Philadelphia. Here’s where to sample wine made from native grapes like the Concord and Niagara, hybrids like Traminette and Chambourcin, or the more familiar European standards like Chardonnay and Cabernet Franc:

  • Lehigh Valley: This area of southeast Pennsylvania around Allentown is ideal for growing red grapes including Chambourcin, the region’s signature Pinot Noir-like grape. Check out the charming city of Bethlehem for historic landmarks and a really old and interesting bookstore.
  • Lancaster Valley: In south-central Pennsylvania’s Amish country you can combine wine tasting in historic buildings with antiquing and visits to Amish markets and smorgasbords.
  • Lake Erie: The best way to explore wineries here is on a bike tour along the scenic shores of Lake Erie. The lake region’s cold climate is ideal for ice wines, brandies, and ports. 

More planning tipsPennsylvania Winery Association

My pick: Lehigh Valley Wine Country

  • Best time to visit: Summer, when you can sit on outdoor patios and sip while you listen to live music
  • Known for: Chambourcin, Cabernet Franc, Vidal, and Riesling
  • Highlights: Don’t miss the historic manor house and barn with expansive views of sheep in lush pastures at Bank Winery. At Galen Glen sample white wines made from Gruner Veltliner, Austria’s beloved white grape.
  • Where to stay: You can sleep in the 1734 farmhouse overlooking the vineyard, visit with the horses and goats, and enjoy evenings around the fire pit at The Inn at Grace Winery.

Texas wine regions

Couple Barrel Tasting at Becker Vineyards in Fredericksburg, Texas
Barrel tasting at Becker Vineyards in Fredericksburg, Texas (Photo: Blake Mistich courtesy of Fredericksburg Convention and Visitor Bureau)

More than 350 wineries and vineyards thrive in Texas’ sunny and dry climate, with growing conditions and wines similar to those of Portugal. During the warmest months of March through September, plan to sit and sip outside while playing corn hole or horseshoes before your vineyard tour. Two main regions produce most of Texas’ wine:

  • High Plains: About 80 percent of Texas’ wine grapes grow here west of Lubbock in the Panhandle. LLano Estacado Winery is one of the state’s oldest and largest producers, and McPherson Cellars is located in a historic Coca-Cola bottling plant.
  • Hill Country: North of San Antonio and west of Austin, this wine region boasts numerous regional and international award-winning wines. On a hot day stay cool exploring Natural Bridge Caverns or jumping into the Jacob’s Well artesian spring.

More planning tips: Texas Wine & Grape Growers Association

My pick: Hill Country Wine Country

  • Best time to visit: September, at the end of harvest season during GrapeFest with live music, tasting events, and workshops
  • Known for: Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Bordeaux, Tempranillo, Viognier, and Tannat
  • Highlights: Take in the German heritage of Fredericksburg and plan tastings at well-established wineries including Becker Vineyards, Kuhlman Cellars, and William Chris Vineyards, which hands out bubble wands to kids who visit.
  • Where to stay: In Fredericksburg’s Wine Barrel Cabins you can sleep in one of four giant wine-themed barrels stained in the colors of Chardonnay, Rosé, Tempranillo, or Cabernet.

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Jamie Moore
Jamie Moore is a travel writer based on Vancouver Island. Her stories have been featured in major media outlets including BBC Travel, USA Today, Cruise Critic, FamilyVacationist, SmarterTravel, WestJet magazine and Family Vacation Critic. She is the author of four volumes of the children's travel book series Ayo's Awesome Adventures: Vancouver, Chicago, Cape Town & Sydney.