USA: a great American wine adventure

From the great names of Napa and Sonoma and the emerging stars of Washington State and Oregon on the West Coast, to Finger Lakes and Virginia on the East, American vintners justify their reputation for fine hospitality.

The Americans were pioneers in wine tourism. At a time when their peers in many European wine-producing countries were still somewhat reluctant to accept visitors, vintners in California understood that making potential customers feel welcome was an important way of spreading the word. It was about inducting their fellow Americans into wine culture as much as their own cuvées. And it entailed wine museums, art galleries, beautifully designed tasting rooms, restaurants, and well-trained staff as well as opening a few bottles.

One of those pioneers was Robert Mondavi, and the Mondavi winery ( while no longer in family hands, is in fact a good place to begin a tour of what is still California’s—and the USA’s—most visited wine region, the Napa Valley. The operation is slick in the best sense, with well-organized tours, workshops, wine and food matching, and lunch and dinner options, ranging from a simple tour featuring two wines to taste ($25) to a four-hour “Five Decades Dinner” ($375), featuring wines from each of the past five decades matched with seasonal food.

If Mondavi set the standard, most wineries, in both Napa and Sonoma, have followed suit. As with all wine regions, it’s best to draw up a wish list before you arrive and check if you need to make a reservation;, and, all offer plenty of information on wineries open to visit, and other tips for the visitor. And once you’ve decided which producers to visit, it becomes a question of how you get around. Public transport isn’t great in California, and most will choose to do the Sideways thing and take a road trip, following either the Highway 29 or the more scenic “Silverado Trail” (, a wine route on the tranquil eastern side of the valley supported by 40 different vintners.

But you can also see the valley by balloon, courtesy of Napa Valley Balloons (, with a morning one-hour flight across the valley starting at $239 rising to $2,200 for a private flight for two, concluding in a breakfast at Domaine Chandon. Or you can take the Napa Wine Train (www.winetrain. com), with the restored vintage railcars making their way around 25 miles of track in the heart of the Valley. Book a day or an evening tour, complete with lunch or dinner, or meet and taste through the range of one of the region’s top winemakers on board at one of the “Meet the Maker Private Dinners” that this year have included Chappellet, Trefethen, and Inglenook.

A consistent theme throughout California wine country is a love of art, with many of the most striking collections housed in wineries such as the Hess Collection and Mumm Napa, while luxury resort Auberge du Soleil has a fine sculpture park open to guests, and in Sonoma the sprawling, spectacular Oliver Ranch project ( features site-specific installations from the likes of Richard Serra, Andy Goldsworthy, and Bruce Nauman.

While Napa and Sonoma remain by far the most-visited destinations in Californian and, by extension, American wine, the state’s many other regions offer myriad attractions of their own. A trip north of Napa into Mendocino is an opportunity to take in the tranquil magnificence of Redwood forests as well as the region’s many organic and biodynamic producers (www., while a trip to the cool-climate hotspot of Santa Barbara, home to many of the state’s best Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs, might start with a stop in the glamorous coastal city of Santa Barbara, where many of the area’s top producers have tasting rooms among the smart boutiques, restaurants, galleries, and surf shops in the city’s trendy Funk Zone.

Beyond California

Given that it accounts for some 85 percent of American wine production, it’s no surprise that California dominates American wine tourism, too. But wine is produced, to a greater or lesser extent, in all 50 of the country’s states, each with their own distinctive character. In the Pacific Northwest, Oregon’s gently undulating wine country is populated by small producers, many of them family-owned and working their land organically or biodymanically, and is very much a part of a thriving wider farm-to- table food scene. The website is a mine of information on how to explore the main center of production in the Willamette Valley, with itineraries to explore on food, bike, or by car, from “Pedaling for Pinot” to “7 Places to Sip Wine Between the Wonders.”

Across the border in Washington State, the small, previously sleepy town of Walla Walla in eastern Washington has become the epicenter of the state’s fast-growing wine scene, with dozens of tasting rooms dotted around town, from the funky Charles Smith to the former school that houses L’Ecole No 41. The Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance has all the details for those planning a trip to this oasis in the middle of the sagebrush desert at

On the other side of the continent, wine has been produced in Virginia since the earliest days of European settlement, and, with vineyards just a short drive from Washington DC, the state’s wine country is well set-up for wine tourism. Featuring 30 wineries near Charlottesville, the “Monticello Wine Trail” (, is a fine way to explore the producers of Virginia’s oldest AVA (American Viticultural Area), a region steeped in vinous history thanks to the vision of Thomas Jefferson, who dreamed of making great wine in his home at Monticello.

Further north, New York State’s Finger Lakes region’s increasing reputation for Riesling and other cool-climate varieties has made it a popular draw for visitors from New York City and beyond. Most of the more than 100 wineries, breweries, distilleries now clustered around Keuka, Senuga, and Cayuga Lakes welcome visitors without reservations, usually for a small fee that will be deducted from any wine you buy. The website has a comprehensive list of wineries, itineraries, and other things to do in this charming, bucolic setting.

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Meadowood Napa Valley

A justifiably high-rated Napa luxury resort housing a fine restaurant with modern Napa food by chef Christopher Kostow and a fabulous wine cellar.
900 Meadowood Lane, St Helena, CA 94574 | +1 877 963 3646 |

White House Napa Valley Inn

A quirkily decorated, charming boutique hotel right by the river in Napa town, the heart of Napa Valley wine country, the White House Napa Valley Inn is ideally situated as a base from which to explore the local wineries.
443 Brown Street, Napa, CA 94559 | +1 707 254 9301 |

The French Laundry

Chef Thomas Keller’s legendary restaurant in Napa’s Yountville is still going strong after a quarter of a century of fine Californian dining, its wine list as impeccable as ever.
6640 Washington St, Yountville, CA 94599 | +1 707 944 2380 |

Calistoga Ranch

Complete with its own private restaurant, extensive wine cellar, and on-site winery, Sotero's Vineyard, producing Merlot and Cabaret Sauvignon, Calistoga Ranch is a secluded yet spacious getaway.
580 Lommel Road, Castiloga, CA 94515 | +1 855 942 4220 |

Allison Inn & Spa

Luxury hotel and spa in the heart of Oregon wine country, with a fine art and sculpture collection, a fine-dining restaurant, and wines from its own Austin Knoll estate and other local luminaries.
2525 Allison Ln, Newberg, OR 97132 | +1 503 554 2525 |

Press Restaurant

Located in the heart of California wine country in St Helena, the exhaustive Press wine list makes it perhaps the best place in the world to sample the best in Californian wine, both old and new.
587 St Helena Highway, St Helena, CA 94574 | +1 707 967 0550 |

Cave B Winery Resort

In an isolated location with dramatic views of vineyards 900ft (274m) up above the Columbia River in Central Washington State, Cave B offers a luxurious range of accommodation and a fine-dining restaurant.
344 Silica Rd NW, Quincy, WA 988-48 | +1 509 787 8000 |

Poetry Inn

Another secluded Californian gem is perched above the valley floor in Napa’s Stags Leap District. Architect Howard Backen, who also designed the estate’s winery, gave each room a west-facing balcony to take in the sunset over the valley.
6380 Silverado Trail, Napa, CA 94558 | +1 707 944 0646 |

Watkins Glen Harbor Hotel

With views across Seneca Lake, a well-regarded restaurant, and a range of comfortable rooms and suites, Watkins Glen Harbor Hotel is a good base for a tour of the Finger Lakes region.
North Franklin Street, Watkins Glen, NY 14891 | +1 607 585 6116 |

The Inn at Little Washington

Patrick O’Connell’s much-acclaimed restaurant and luxury hotel is in the heart of Virginia wine country in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Middle and Main Streets, Washington, Virginia 22747 | +1 540 675 3800 |

For more restaurants with award-winning wine lists click here.

Trefethen Family Vineyards

Fine, established Napa winery based around an historic winery building from 1896 that has now been fully restored after the 2014 earthquake.
1160 Oak Knoll Avenue West, Napa, CA 94558 | +1 866 895 7696 |

Château Montelena

An important name in the history of Californian wine, Montelena is based in a 19th-century stone château built into a hill and overlooking delightful gardens.
1429 Tubbs Lane, Calistoga, CA 94515 | +1 707 942 5105 |

Flowers Vineyard and Winery

Flowers is home to some award-winning Chardonnay and Pinor Noir, which visitors can taste while taking in the spectacular tasting room views of the coastal fog climbing over the forests.
28500 Seaview Road, Cazadero, CA 95421 | +1 707 847 3661 |

Sterling Vineyards

With a tasting room so high up you need to take an aerial tram, the views from Sterling vineyards are stunning, as is the Cretan-inspired architecture. Visitors can also stop by the onsite art gallery.
1111 Dunaweal Lane, Calistoga, CA 94515 | +1 800 726 6136 |

Melville Winery

Located in the stunning Santa Ynez Valley, Melville is based in a Mediterranean style villa—an idyllic location for tasting the estate’s highly regarded Pinot Noir.
5185 East Hwy 246, Lompoc, CA 93436 | + 1 805 735 7030 |


A warm and welcoming Oregon family estate in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, with a tasting room among the vines and private tastings by appointment in the barrel room.
18215 NE Calkins Ln, Newberg, OR 97132 | +1 503 554 0468 |

Carlton Winemakers Studio

Kill 13 birds with one stone by visiting this eco-friendly Oregon co-operative facility, where a baker’s dozen of the state’s best small producers make and show off their wine.
801 North Scott Street, Carlton, OR 97111 | +1 503 852 6100 |

Château Ste Michelle

A Washington State pioneer and now its largest producer with a range of projects and a justified high reputation for wine tourism at its home in Woodinville.
14111 NE 145th St, Woodinville, WA 98072 | +1 425 488 1133 |

Dr Konstantin Frank

With views across Keuka Lake and some of the region’s oldest Vitis vinifera vines, the tasting room of the Finger Lakes’ most famous name is housed in the former home of its eponymous founder.
9749 Middle Road, Hammondsport, NY 14840 | +1 800 320 0735 |

Barboursville Vineyards

With the ruins of a Jefferson-designed mansion in its extensive grounds, plus a luxury hotel, restaurant and extensive tour options, Barboursville raises the bar high for wine tourism in Virginia.
17655 Winery Road, Barboursville, VA 22923 | +1 540 832 3824 |