California has the best-known wines in America, and the state's Napa and Sonoma Valleys are its best-known wine regions. But they're hardly the only wine regions in the state—or the country.
I'm lucky enough to have parents who live in the so-called "southern wine country" surrounding Paso Robles
on California's Central Coast. To me, the wine produced in that region is just as good as Napa/Sonoma—especially the zinfandels, for which the area is known—and the wineries are much less crowded. I recommend the area to anyone I hear considering a trip to Napa.
You'll also find that the "southern wine country" extends further south, into the Santa Ynez Valley and on toward Santa Barbara. This is the area featured in the popular "wine movie" Sideways
. If you've seen the movie, you know the region is known for its pinot noirs.
But wait—there's more! Continuing south, you'll come upon another wine-producing area: Temecula Valley
, north of San Diego County. You're not likely to find good wines here (except maybe a sparkling wine), but it's a popular place for limos and tour buses full of tourists looking for a day of wine tasting.
And finally, if you venture across the border into Lower California, that's right—you'll even find a little wine country in Baja
! On the inland highway between Ensenada and Tecate (about an hour's drive south of San Diego), you'll reach Guadalupe Valley, where Mexico produces some pretty decent wine of its own.
Since relocating to the East Coast, I've also been shown that, while California may be the best-known wine region in the U.S., it's hardly the only one. As it turns out, Virginia (where I lived for two years) has quite a robust wine-producing area
. The wine I tasted in my explorations was really hit-or-miss, but I certainly found a few good wines.
Here in New York, where I now reside, the Hudson Valley
also hosts a number of small wineries (including, apparently, America's oldest winery). I have not had the luxury of visiting them yet, but I've tasted a number of local wines. Again, some are surprisingly good.
While the word "surprisingly" may sound snobbish, it's not that I think California wines are superior. I know how big a factor weather is when it comes to growing good vines and fruit, so it is a bit of a surprise to learn that good wine can still be made in the Northeast, where the weather can swing radically from one extreme to the other.
Last Sunday's New York Times published a story
in the Travel section about exploring another wine country... in Colorado, of all places! I had no idea that Colorado—a state I associate with mountains and snow—also produces wine. But that only shows how incomplete my wine education is. Where else in this great country might I find more wine regions?
Pass the bottle opener, we're going to Nebraska!L.A. Cetto winery, Baja's biggest wine producer