Michelle Doucette, Contributor
So you’ve checked Sonoma off your list, explored Napa’s Silverado Trail, and wandered the Willamette Valley too? Don’t fret that you’ve exhausted your wine-country options from Atlantic to Pacific—you’re simply primed for an under-the-radar getaway catering to vino aficionados. These five vineyard-dotted destinations deliver delicious varietals amid stunning vistas and gourmet meals. Spanning the country from California to Virginia, they may even be right under your (expert) nose.
Paso Robles, California
What to do: Located on the Golden State’s Central Coast about 30 miles north of San Luis Obispo, this SLO County gem boasts more than 200 area wineries, many growing Paso’s famed zinfandel grape. A trip down Adelaida Road and Vineyard Drive will bring you to many of the must-see tasting rooms. Stop by Tablas Creek Vineyard for Rhône-style blends; DAOU Vineyards to sip the superb Estate Mayote red blend atop DAOU Mountain at 2,200 feet; and Whalebone Vineyard’s tasting barn for a sample of Bob Wine, a Bordeaux-style blend based on cabernet sauvignon. As evidenced by Bob, Paso Robles prides itself on its laid-back approach to winemaking and imbibing, and you’ll find this friendly attitude characterizes the town square around City Park as well. There, enjoy a locally sourced meal at casual-chic eateries such as Artisan and Thomas Hill Organics Bistro & Wine Bar (both great places to discover more local bottles).
Where to stay: Hotel Cheval’s 16 guest rooms put you within walking distance of downtown’s attractions, and within a stone’s throw of area wineries, with a luxury SUV standing by for sommelier-curated tasting excursions. As the luxury hotel’s name suggests, it takes its design cues from France and follows a subtle equestrian theme; the Pony Club, its Parisian-inspired wine bar, serves local wines at a horseshoe-shaped bar and on a heated outdoor patio.
What to do: Middleburg, tucked into the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Northern Virginia, is famous for both horses and wine, but if it’s the latter you’re after, begin at The Boxwood Winery. The state-of-the-art red-wine producer helped establish the Middleburg AVA in 2012 and offers tastings in a modern fieldstone complex designed by Jacobsen Architecture, the D.C. firm behind such prominent works as an addition to the United States Capitol. Another of the area’s 30-plus wineries to try is Greenhill Winery & Vineyards, an expansive estate where you can enjoy wine and charcuterie on the tasting room terrace. Downtown, unique boutiques and restaurants beckon. Duck into Market Salamander or Home Farm Store for an on-the-go sandwich showcasing local ingredients.
Where to stay: A boutique, epicurean experience awaits at Goodstone Inn & Restaurant, which offers 18 rooms and a Virginia-farm-to-table eatery on its 265-acre estate. Book the property’s wine tour package for a customized itinerary based on your palate, a gourmet picnic, a $50 credit at The Restaurant at Goodstone, a country breakfast and more. Slightly closer to downtown, the year-old Salamander Resort & Spa houses 168 luxe rooms and suites on its 340 acres. The resort’s Gold Cup Wine Bar hosts a different area winemaker each month for weekly tastings and pairing dinners.
What to do: More than 100 wineries and tasting rooms populate this part of the Sammamish River Valley just 30 minutes from downtown Seattle. Between widely distributed favorites, such as Chateau Ste. Michelle, and more boutique vineyards, Woodinville’s producers package about three million cases each year. Two of the area’s originals—Chateau Ste. Michelle and Columbia Winery—operate tasting rooms seven days a week, plus offer a slew of special events and concerts onsite. Foodies flock to Woodinville for some of Washington’s freshest fare; ingredient-driven restaurants including Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star The Herbfarm, Barking Frog, and Purple Café and Wine Bar serve Pacific Northwest dishes complemented by largely local wine lists.
Where to stay: Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star Hotel 1000 in Seattle provides the perfect base for a city and country escape that includes Woodinville. There’s no need to DIY your excursion: The contemporary hotel’s Woodinville Wine Escape package includes accommodations in a water-view room, dinner for two in BOKA Restaurant + Bar, two tickets for a Woodinville wine tour with Evergreen Escapes and more. Your half-day tasting will stop at three or more of the area’s acclaimed boutique wineries as you’re chauffeured in a biodiesel Mercedes van.
Jamesport, New York
What to do: A notable stop on Long Island’s North Fork wine trail, Jamesport lies less than two hours, and worlds away, from both New York City and The Hamptons. Since Jamesport Vineyards was established in 1981, the North Fork has seen an entire wine industry spring up among the region’s beaches and farms. The area’s agricultural roots are felt in tasting rooms across town: Jamesport Vineyards pours estate-grown tastings in a 150-year-old barn, with an oyster bar and live music on weekends. Sherwood House Vineyards’ Jamesport tasting house serves its French-style reds and whites—and Long Island’s first artisanal brandy—in an 1860s farmhouse, and Clovis Point’s renovated potato-barn tasting room offers the winery’s merlot, chardonnay and cabernet franc. Diliberto Winery, meanwhile, delivers a taste of Italy with its Tuscany-inspired tasting room and covered patio.
Where to stay: Accommodations don’t get much more private than Jamesport’s Jedediah Hawkins Inn, a restored 1860s mansion with five guest rooms and one luxurious suite complete with private cupola. After a day of wine tasting around town, head to the hotel’s restaurant, solarium and flagstone speakeasy for a glass of local wine and a coastal dish such as saffron-flavored Portuguese fish stew with lobster, mussels, clams, monkfish and chorizo.
What to do: Palisade may not look like your typical wine region, what with the red-rock mesas surrounding it, but the terroir here in Colorado’s fruit capital is suitable for wine grapes as well as orchards. Palisade’s winemakers produce a fair amount of fruit vino, but also rich cabernet francs and robust chardonnays, with some of the best found at Canyon Wind Cellars’ and Grande River Vineyards’ tasting rooms. This being outdoorsy Colorado, there’s no better way to navigate between Palisade’s wineries than on a bicycle; rent a cruiser from Rapid Creek Cycles & Sports downtown and be on your way. The compact town also boasts a brewery, meadery and distillery, Peach Street Distillers; don’t miss their stellar pickled-veggie-packed Bloody Mary.
Where to stay: Western Colorado’s Gateway Canyons Resort offers a year’s worth of activities on its crimson grounds, the most unique of which may be the Gateway Canyons Auto Museum, home to more than 50 American classics. But the resort also provides easy access to the Western Slope’s wine country, and hotel staff will arrange your guided or individual Palisade outing. Visit in September to attend Palisade’s Colorado Mountain Winefest, the region’s biggest wine celebration, held from September 18 to 21 in 2014.