10 under-the-radar wine regions
Whether you're planning on finding the "next Napa" or just want a preview of tomorrow's hot wine trends, these 10 destinations and the wines they produce are still (blissfully) undiscovered by most oenophiles. Don't forget to pack your corkscrew.
Sure, its wines may be near-impossible to pronounce to English speakers, but beautiful varieties like Graševina and Plavac Mali have worked to cement Istria as a wine producer to watch in Eastern Europe. (Croatian wines are already appearing on adventurous wine lists in New York and Chicago.) Stunning natural scenery and modern, seaside accommodations like the 248-room Hotel Lone and the Hotel Monte Mulini, as well as vineyards such as the Villa Meneghetti and Vina Matošević, are beckoning wine lovers away from the usual European destinations.
Newport County, Rhode Island
Newport isn't all mansions and sailboats: Graced with rich, fertile soil enriched by the coastal surroundings, Newport County's winemakers are delivering delicious cool-climate white and sparkling wines, garnering comparisons to France's Loire Valley. Exploring nearby vineyards like Greenvale Vineyards and Carolyn's Sakonnet Vineyard? Make the centrally located Chanler hotel your home-base: Located on Newport's famous Cliff Walk, it offers 20 unique, upscale rooms, each reflecting a different historical time period and boasting some views you will want to toast to.
The Guadalupe Valley, Baja, Mexico
Move over mezcal: Mexico's new beverage to watch is wine, with no more promising area than the Guadalupe Valley, located just over an hour's drive away from Tecate. Start your wine exploration at the striking, modern Museo de la Vid y el Vino, which charts the history of the Mexican wine industry from its start in the early 1700s. Then make stops at the gorgeous Baron Balche winery and Adobe Guadalupe Vineyards & Inn. Larger accommodations and fantastic, organic food grown from its own farm can be had at Rancho La Puerta, a renowned fitness resort and spa, which also offers organized tours of Baja's blossoming wine country and an on-site wine bar featuring local pours.
Verde Valley, Arizona
(Facebook/L'Auberge de Sedona)
For those who think Arizona is too dry to grow wine grapes, think again: Just 25 minutes by car from the otherworldly red-rock landscape of Sedona lies the Verde Valley wine region, with a fun wine trail and a host of tasting rooms to explore. Vintners like Alcantara Vineyards and Winery, Burning Tree Cellars, and Page Spring Cellars, combined with luxurious accommodations like L'Auberge de Sedona, situated on 11 stunning acres, have placed this region on the wine-tasting map.
Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada
Often called the Napa of the North, Western Canada's wine country is blessed with beautiful natural vistas, the stunning Okanagan Lake, and awesome artisanal eats. Must-stops for wine lovers include tours and tastings at Mission Hill Winery (make sure to dine at the upscale Terrace Restaurant, which overlooks the lake) and Tantalus Vineyards for zippy, estate-grown Rieslings. Accommodations range from the historic, dockside Hotel Eldorado in Kelowna to the unique, Swarovski crystal-laden Sparkling Hill Resort in nearby Vernon, renowned for its luxurious spa complete with a cold sauna.
Texas Hill Country, Texas
If you think Texas is all barbecue, pickup trucks, and cowboy boots, you're mostly right — but excellent wines are being produced in the region, too, particularly along the Texas Wine Trail (with many tasting rooms situated just off Highway 290). Try the inky, intriguing Tannats at Bending Branch Winery and the estate-grown Rhône varieties at the pastoral Perissos Vineyards and Winery. Since the Texas Hill Country wine-growing region is the second-largest in the United States, you'll want to stay in centrally located Fredericksburg, where you will find the historic Hoffman Haus bed-and-breakfast featuring elegantly refurbished buildings, like an 1850s-era log cabin.
Finger Lakes, New York
Producing some of the most exciting Rieslings in the United States, the Finger Lakes region in upstate New York is an often overlooked wine lover's dream. Whether you stay on-site at a local vineyard, like The Inn at Glenora Wine Cellars, or at an upscale hotel, such as the Watkins Glen Harbor Hotel, expect to drive: The region is home to more than 100 wineries, breweries, and distilleries. But it's gas money well-spent once you taste vinos from high-quality winemakers including Hermann J. Wiemer Vineyard, Dr. Konstantin Frank Vinifera Wine Cellars, and Ravines Wine Cellars.
The Judean Hills, Israel
Located just 45 minutes by car from Tel Aviv or Jerusalem, the Judean Hills winemaking region is a fascinating destination for adventurous oenophiles. And while winemaking in the area dates back some 5,000 years, today's producers are making modern (read: not just sacramental) wines. (Keep in mind, however, that many wineries are kosher, which means you will likely need to be escorted by a mashgiach, or Orthodox supervisor, to tour some facilities, so call ahead before arrival.) Must-visit wineries include the Tuscan-leaning Flam Winery and the Domaine du Castel, which is known for its Bordeaux-style blends. L'chaim!
The Grand Valley, Colorado
Colorado winemaking literally reaches new heights in the Grand Valley: Its vineyards are the highest in North America (at 4,500 to 7,000 feet above sea level). And due to low humidity and alkaline soils, Syrah, Viognier, and other Rhône varietals (as well as several Bordeaux blends) show well here. A trifecta of small towns (Palisade, Grand Junction, and Fruita) offers visitors plenty of choices for eating and sleeping along the way to more than 25 wineries, including Plum Creek Cellars and the Two Rivers Winery and Chateau.
Loudoun County, Virginia
Politicians in Washington, D.C., may be in perpetual conflict, but winemakers in Loudoun County, known as D.C.'s wine country, work in a spirit of cooperation, demonstrating pride for Virginia wine. The region's nearly 40 wineries, including stand-outs Boxwood Winery, Greenhill Winery and Vineyards, and Sunset Hills Vineyard, beckon visitors of all political stripes. Don't miss a chance to stay at the Salamander Resort & Spa in Middleburg: The glitzy property, which opened in August 2013, is set on 340 acres of farmland and even has an on-site equestrian program. Just don't ride after a full day of wine tastings.