5 Wine Regions To Watch
There are great wine surprises waiting all across the country. Whether tucked away in a quiet canyon; off a dusty, abandoned road; or in plain view, they're worth discovering. So stop, smell, and taste the wines!
Suisun (Sue-soon) Valley, California
This gem of a valley is located halfway between San Francisco and Sacramento. You can't see it from I-80, but you're just minutes away when you see the exit for Suisun Valley Road. Get off the freeway, drive north to the first stop sign, and feel the valley unfold before you. Formerly called "Napa's Little Sister Sue," its climate and soil types are identical to those found in other world-class growing regions. An estimated 20 varieties of grape grow in Suisun Valley. And that's not all. With farm stands and pick-your-own-produce farms around every bend, it's a paradise for lovers of anything fresh to eat. Take time to visit a laid-back winery (there are more than a dozen!) and take a slow-paced winery tour. Eat in a restaurant. Visit a gallery. Spend the night at a bed and breakfast. They're starting to call Suisun Valley the "wine hospitality valley" for a reason.
West Sonoma County, California
In West Sonoma County, there's a marvelous 10-mile wine trail called the Bohemian Highway that joins the serene Green Valley to Russian River Valley and the Sonoma Coast. From Sebastapol, head west on Highway 12 to the hamlet of Freestone and turn right onto Bohemian Highway. Drive along the winding road that cuts through towering redwoods, fields, and streams until you reach Occidental. Stop and walk the two-block main street with shops filled with artisan crafts and art. Check into an inn, order a delicious meal, and drive on to Monte Rio, where you can dip your toes in the Russian River. Family wineries and tasting rooms are found within minutes in either direction along this winegrowing corridor that feels lost in time. The diverse terroir of this micro-region is producing some amazing wines, so get out there and taste them!
Yes, the beach is beautiful, but have you seen the mountains? The spectacular landscape of rural Malibu starts right on the other side of the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH), but few people (even residents) have ever taken the time to discover that there's a virtual treasure chest waiting nearby. And that's a shame, especially for wine lovers. Because right there, nestled in hidden canyons, planted in grassy meadows, and perched high on hillsides, are vineyards growing exquisite wine grapes. The wineries vary greatly in size and only some have tasting rooms, but don't let that stop you! Exit PCH or Highway 101 at Kanan Road and drive to the Mulholland Highway. You'll find yourself in another world--a California wilderness touched both by sunshine and fog. If you want to stay closer to the beach, just ask in any local restaurant or wine shop if they have Malibu wines or visit Rosenthal-The Malibu Estate's tasting room, with a PCH address.
Arroyo Grande valley, California
The southern portion of San Luis Obispo County is blessed with three wonderful wine-growing valleys: Avila, Edna, and Arroyo Grande. Edna Valley has the most wineries, and finding them is easy from San Luis Obispo or Pismo Beach. Start there, but don't miss Arroyo Grande Valley. Take the Arroyo Grande exit from Highway 101 and drive straight into a Norman Rockwell painting. The village of Arroyo Grande is a classic American small town, complete with a swinging bridge and village green. This is a great spot for lunch and window shopping. From there, head east toward Lopez Lake. The 16-mile serpentine Arroyo Grande Valley has rippling terrain and a handful of intriguing wineries. Meet a winemaker (they are often in the tasting room) and have a picnic. If you call ahead, you can arrange a tour of El Rinc�n Adobe, located at Talley Vineyards. When the sun begins to sink in the west, take a bottle of your favorite discovery-of-the-day back to Pismo Beach and savor the sunset.
Livermore Valley, California
Livermore Valley is a great trail for wine historians, golfers, and anyone who appreciates a short but rewarding drive. It's a fun wine trail--and just six miles long! Most Livermore Valley wineries are located off I-580 just past Pleasanton. The region's first commercial vines were planted here in the 1840s, making it one of the oldest pockets of wine-producing acreage in the United States. Linksters can work in a round at one of many championship golf courses. If you're seeking nature, spend some time at Lake Del Valle State Park. And, if you want to get the lay of the land, head up twisty-turny Mines Road and stop to take in the view.
From Montauk, New York to Volcano, Hawaii, you'll find great wine regions with fun wine trails to follow. Wherever you are and wherever you travel, keep on touring and tasting!