All 50 of the United States may produce wine, but not all wine is created equal. And along those same lines, not all wineries offer a unique and worthwhile tour and tasting experience. Luckily, we’ve found some of the best places in the country where wine lovers can experience unbeatable hospitality and wines as unique as they are delicious.
Below are 30 great small towns for wine lovers. Twelve states are represented, and each of these towns is part of a wider wine trail or region — meaning you’ll have plenty more wine tasting opportunities right around the towns listed!
1. Napa, California
Over the years, Napa has become the go-to place for wine connoisseurs. Top wineries abound and include the well-known Clos du Val, a rustic French-owned winery. Tastings cost, but the fee is waived when you purchase a bottle of the famous cabernet or pinot noir, and enjoy a picnic in the beautiful rose garden. Also worth a visit is Darioush. Founded by Iranian-born Darioush Khaledi, this winery not only produces delicious Bordeaux-style wines, but also has impressive Greco architecture inspired by the ancient Persian city of Persepolis. Other top wineries in Napa include Robert Biale Vineyards, O’Brien Estate Winery, and Hendry Winery. After a long day wine tasting, head to Napa Town Center, a charming pedestrian street lined with boutiques, cafes, and restaurants.
2. Sonoma, California
Located a short drive from nearby Napa, Sonoma is more laid-back and, arguably, even more charming than its more famous neighbor. Ravenswood is a family-owned winery known for its bold zinfandels, and tours include a close-up view of the vineyards and barrel-tasting right there in the cellar. You won’t find a better lunch spot than Gundlach Bunschu, another top winery with picnic grounds that overlook the entire Sonoma Valley. Sonoma’s main downtown square cannot be missed. Centered around Mission San Francisco Solano (also worth a tour), the square is home to music festivals and nationally ranked restaurants like The Girl and the Fig, and LaSalette.
3. Healdsburg, California
Savvy Bay Area locals head to charming Healdsburg when looking to avoid the busier Sonoma and Napa. In fact, many wine lovers cite Healdsburg as their favorite wine destination. For a winery with grounds as impressive as its wine, head to Stryker’s. Its tasting room has floor-to-ceiling windows through which one can get a breathtaking view of the Sonoma Valley. Wine lovers interested in the wine-making process will love Tom Jordan’s Jordan Vineyard & Winery. A $30 tour will cover the fermentation room, stainless-steel tanks, the vine-covered chateau, and a tasting complete with cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, cheeses, and olive oils.
4. Yountville, California
The most refined palates in the world love Yountville, California, and for good reason. The little town is most famous for its upscale, starred restaurants such as Bistro Jeanty, Mustards, Bouchon, Etoile, and The French Laundry. Experience Yountville’s best wine at any of its restaurants, or head to the wineries themselves for a more personal experience. Cliff Lede Vineyards, known for its delicious red wines and top-notch art displays, is a highlight. If you like champagne, you can’t miss Domaine Chandon, which is owned by French champagne house Moet et Chandon.
5. St. Helena, California
St. Helena (pronounced “Hel-EEN-uh”) is the perfect destination for the newbie wine connoisseur, or one who is more interested in the big-name wineries. Beringer, the oldest continually operating winery in Napa Valley, is located here, as is Robert Mondavi Winery. In fact, Mondavi pioneered the concept of public wine tastings, and now boasts three tasting rooms in which wine lovers can try a reserve cabernet or a Mondavi-exclusive fume blanc. While in St. Helena, check out the massive, Hogwarts-looking Culinary Institute of America. Its store stocks any culinary tool or book one could ever need, while its Wine Spectator Greystone Restaurant allows diners to watch as chefs prepare their small plates.
6. Paso Robles, California
Expect Southern California’s Paso Robles to climb the list of great wine towns. In just a decade it has grown from 35 wineries to more than 200. For top-notch tours and tastings, check out wineries such as Adelaida Cellars (their HMR Estate Pinots are award winning), Denner Vineyards, which specializes in Rhone varieties, or L’Aventure Winery, whose French winemaker, Stephan Asseo, has made waves with his Cabernet and Syrah blends. Paso Robles also has many wine-themed events taking place throughout the year.
7. Charlottesville, Virginia
A lot has changed in Charlottesville, Virginia since Thomas Jefferson so famously failed to grow European varieties in his Monticello vineyards. Today, more than 20 successful wineries call Charlottesville home — and Jefferson’s original vineyards have even been restored and now produce wine. What makes Charlottesville unique is the extreme variety it produces. Wineries in the region host upwards of 30 releases a year, and specialties include everything from Cabernet Sauvignon, to Petit Verdot, to Rhone reds and whites, to Riesling, and Chardonnay. Some area wineries even produce wines made from blackberries, pears, and native-to-Virginia grapes like Norton and Niagara. Recommended wineries include Jefferson Vineyards, Blenheim Vineyards, and Trump Winery.
8. Traverse City, Michigan
Though Michigan is yet another place that one might have trouble associating with wine and wine tasting, the small coastal town of Traverse City is situated on the same 45th parallel as the renowned wine regions of France and Italy, making it an ideal place to grow wine grapes. There are a number of wine tour operators who will drive you to all of the big estates, though the beautiful region is a great place for a drive and the wineries aren’t too far apart if you prefer to drive yourself. Highlights in the region include Chateau Chantal, Bowers Harbor Vineyards, and Chateau Grand Traverse. If you are in Traverse City in mid-May, head to the Blossom Day festival where the Leelanau Peninsula Vintners Association welcomes the new season by releasing the newest wines.
9. Calistoga, California
Champagne lovers will love Calistoga, one of the California’s best Old West-style towns. Schramsberg Vineyards is one of the best of its kind, and specializes in sparkling wines that are so good they are served to foreign dignitaries visiting the White House. In addition to a tasting, tours of Schramsberg include a visit to the hand-carved champagne caves and sit-down tasting room. Another impressive sight is Castella di Amorosa, a stone castle complete with a wine cellar, great hall, and moat. While there, try one of the Montelena’s well-known chardonnays, cabernets, and Rieslings. Finally, one can’t leave Calistoga without a visit to the adorable downtown area, which includes the Old Faithful Geyser and its impressive twice-hourly plume of hot water.
10. Petaluma, California
Petaluma is an aesthetically pleasing small town located on the banks of the Russian River. Wine lovers will enjoy walking Petaluma’s pedestrian-friendly downtown area and visiting boutiques, historical buildings, and Michelin-recommended restaurants. Petaluma’s most famous winery is Keller Estate, one of the most beautiful wineries one will find anywhere. Tours includesamples of five different Keller wines and visits to the caves and vineyards. Though it’s not a winery, Lagunitas Brewing Co. also calls Petaluma home and offers daily tours and tastes of its delicious IPAs.
11. Lodi, California
Located 100 miles east of San Francisco and the big Bay Area wine regions, Lodi is located in California’s Central Valley — the bread basket of the Golden State. Lodi is best known for its rich New World varietals and big red wines, so its not surprising that more than 40% of California’s Zinfandels are produced here. Most of the wineries are located within a 15-minute drive from Lodi’s charming downtown, and highlights include Lucas Winery, Michael David Vineyards, Harney Lane Winery, Klinker Brick Winery, and Jessie’s Grove Winery. If you’re near the Central Valley in May, stop in for ZinFest, an annual three-day tasting party that offers wine lovers a chance to sample more than 200 wines from the area’s best wineries.
12. Walla Walla, Washington
Located a mere 13 miles from the Oregon border and four car hours from Seattle, Walla Walla, Washington has steadily built a solid reputation as the “Sonoma of Washington.” Charming inns and B&Bs, top restaurants, and — of course — world-class wineries can all be found here. On a long weekend in Walla Walla, be sure to check out K Vintners, home of the award-winning Gung Fu Girl Riesling. Bottles, tours, and tastings are all reasonably priced, and the estate is absolutely gorgeous. Nearby are Maurice Cellars and Turtulia Cellars, where just about everything is tasty. Don’t be afraid to stop into some of the smaller wineries — Walla Walla has some of the best. We recommend Revelry Vintners (Seattle Magazine called their Merlot one of the Top 10 red wines in Washington) and Amavi Cellars.
13. Harpersville, Alabama
As Alabama winemaker Charles Brammer, Jr. points out, “Grits don’t come from New York, and chardonnay doesn’t come from Alabama.” Still, little Harpersville, where Brammer’s Morgan Creek Vineyards is located, has proven itself a good destination for wine tasting. While at Morgan Creek, be sure to taste some of the muscadine and fruit wines for which the winery — and Alabama — has become famous for. We especially like the Cahaba White, the ruby-red Noble, and the light and sweet Magnolia. If you are around Harpersville in September, be sure to stop in for the I Love Lucy-themed Grape Stomp! Stomp some grapes, create a commemorative poster with your purple footprints, and even dress up like Lucy for the lookalike contest.
14. Suttons Bay, Michigan
Suttons Bay, Michigan is located on the Leelanau Peninsula near Traverse City. While in Suttons Bay, wine lovers will want to spend a few hours at the impressive Black Star Farms Winery. Definitely take a tour, as this unique agricultural destination features two wine-production facilities, a distillery, a charming inn, an equestrian center, and, of course, tasting rooms. Be sure to try some of their award-winning beers and wines, along with the perfectly paired artisanal cheeses. Another Suttons Bay winery we like is Willow Vineyards, which produces Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, and Dry Rose.
15. Ashland, Oregon
Ashlan, Oregon has more than 100 wineries, 250 vineyards, 5000 acres of grapes, and 70 varieties of red and white wines. And whatever you’re in the mood for, you’re likely to find it in Ashland, which has steadily become one of the top wine-tasting destinations in the Pacific Northwest. Some of our favorite Ashland wineries include Dana Campbell Vineyards, Grizzly Peak Winery, Belle Fiore Estate & Winery, Ashland Vineyards, and Velocity Wine Cellars.
16. Palisade, Colorado
Located just 12 miles east of Grand Junction is tiny Palisade, Colorado, with a population of just under 3,000 people. Palisade, which sits on the western slope of the sunny Grand Valley region, gets a whopping 290 days of sunshine per year, making it an excellent — if not unexpected — wine region. Plum Creek Winery produces a deliciously fruity merlot and an award-winning Riesling featuring hints of peach and fig. The barn-turned-tasting room, with its redwood tasting bar and cozy couches, has rustic charm, as does the seven-and-a-half-foot rooster made of farm equipment by a local artist. A number of other wineries are situated nearby, where wine lovers can experience Palisade’s increasingly popular Rieslings, Syrahs, and Cabernet Francs.
17. Kenwood, California
Small even by Sonoma County standards, tiny Kenwood, California is chock-full of charming vineyards and wineries that are sure to wow any wine lover. Be sure to stop into Kenwood Vineyards, which has an historic cellar dating back to 1906. Nearby is Orpheus Wines, an original winery in every sense of the word; their tasting room doubles as an art gallery for local artists, while their delicious wines are available for sale in kegs. Other top-notch wineries in Kenwood include VJB Vineyards & Cellars, Ledson Winery & Vineyards, and Ty Caton Vineyards, to name but a few.
18. Mount Jackson, Virginia
People head to the Shenandoah Valley for the hiking, biking, horseback riding, and natural beauty, but it turns out the area is becoming increasingly popular as a wine destination specializing in viogner, reisling, chardonnay, cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, chambourcin, petite verdot, and fruit wines, to name a few. After touring the Luray Caverns and the 100 million-year old “Natural Bridge,” wine lovers should head to tiny Mount Jackson, home of Crooked Run Cellars. The winery’s tasting rooms are actually part of a 1900s-era barn that has been completely renovated to include a horseshoe pit, badminton nets, charcoal grills, a picnic area, and tasting bars. Must-tastes at Crooked Run include the chianti-style “Equitation” and the chardonnay.
19. Prairie du Sac, Wisconsin
Wisconsin may not be synonymous wine but the Badger State has been producing quality wines since the 1840s, when a Hungarian immigrant established what became the first of many wineries in the state. Wisconsin has five distinct wine regions, but we’ve pinpointed Prairie du Sac in the Driftless Region for Wollersheim Winery. Easily the most famous Wisconsin Winery, Wollersheim was established before the Civil War and is a national historic site. It makes a number of different wines, but be sure to try the seven made from the grapes grown on-site. These are the national and international award winners. In the nearby towns of Stockholm and Highland are two other wineries worth a visit: Maiden Rock Winery & Cidery (try the Harvest Apple wine) and Spurgeon Vineyards and Winery, respectively.
20. Corning, New York
Corning is a perfect hub from which to explore New York’s Finger Lakes Wine Country. Three scenic wine trails surround Corning, giving wine lovers easy access to 59 wineries, plenty of notable restaurants, and quite a few charming small towns. Many of the wineries in this region — including such biggies as Anthony Road, Hermann J. Wiemer, King Ferry Winery, and Heart & Hands Winery — have won national and international awards for their wines. Be sure to check a local calendar of events before you start exploring, as the various trails are constantly hosting events such as themed wine pairings, chocolate or cheese festivals, barbeque competitions, and harvest events.
21. Hermann/New Haven, Missouri
Hermann and New Haven, Missouri are located on either end of the Hermann Wine Trail, Missouri’s beautiful 20-mile trail that runs along the Missouri River. You can easily hit the trail’s seven wineries in a weekend (or even a day if you’re really ambitious). In New Haven is Robller Vineyards, a family-owned winery that has steadily grown from a backyard hobby into one of the top estates in the region. Their European-style wines are distinctive and worth a taste by any wine lover. Closer to Hermann are Adam Puchta Winery, Bias, Dierberg Star Lane, OakGlenn, and Hermannhof, the latter of which is located in an historic Federal-style building and proudly serves its wines out of its 10 magnificent stone cellars.
22. Oak Grove, Virginia
Oak Grove, Virginia is just one of the small towns on The Chesapeake Bay Wine Trail, recently voted the best of its kind in Eastern Virginia. Ingleside Vineyards, one of the oldest and largest in the state, is a must-do. Take your time with the tasting, then grab a bottle and a picnic lunch and enjoy the plantation winery’s cool European-style courtyard. Just down the road (though technically not in Oak Grove) are a number of other impressive wineries including Athena Vineyards (you can get there by boat!), General’s Ridge Vineyards (a 150+ year old estate), and Good Luck Cellars (known for their fun Friday Wine Down).
23. Roseburg, Oregon
Located in Oregon’s Umpqua Valley, Roseburg has been the site of a growing wine industry since the end of Prohibition. Today, there are more than 2,000 acres of vineyards in and around Roseburg, with more expected as the real estate for vineyards and property booms. Wine lovers should be sure to stop in for a tasting at Abacela. HillCrest Winery and Distillery offers tours and tastings of Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Riesling, Zinfandel, Viognier, Syrah, Chardonnay, and a selection of “library wines.” Others we recommend include Reustle Prayer Rock Vineyards, Melrose Vineyards, and Becker Vineyard, the latter of which also boasts a premiere picnicking spot with views of the Umpqua River.
24. Plymouth, California
Once a gold mining town, Plymouth, California is now a destination for people on the hunt for great wine. There are more than 100 wineries in and around Plymouth, making it an ideal getaway for wine tours. Most of the wineries have open tasting rooms, while some even have restaurants specializing in pairings of food and local wines. Plymouth is best known for its family-owned wineries and delicious Zinfandels. We recommend Andis Wines, Helwig Winery, Cooper Vineyards, and Jeff Runquist Wines, though you can’t go wrong here if you just follow the charming oak-lined country roads.
25. West Linn, Oregon
Little West Linn, Oregon is in the southernmost part of the Willamette Valley. Not only do multiple wineries call West Linn home, but this small town is also a short drive away from a number of other charming wine towns. Wine lovers should not leave West Linn without a visit to Oswego Hills Winery. This family-owned estate is one of the most popular in the entire valley and offers tastings, tours, picnic areas, and the occasional live music event. Ribera Vineyards, which specializes in small batches “made with passion and perfection” is another impressive winery in the area, and worth a stop.
26. Glen Ellen, California
Made up of quaint byways, woods, and meadows, little Glen Ellen was once the home of author Jack London. Jack London Bridge and Jack London State Historic Park, the latter of which is London’s final resting spot, are worth a visit even if you aren’t necessarily a fan. Benzinger Family Winery is a great destination for wine lovers with families, as the winery offers a 45-minute tractor-drawn tour of its hilly vineyards, peacock aviary, and rose gardens. B.R. Cohn Winery is another can’t miss. Though B.R. Cohn is known for its cabernets and merlots, the olive oils and vinegars are the real treasures here. Plus. B.R. Cohn is owned by the Doobie Brothers’ longtime manager, so if you’re lucky, you might catch a top-notch musical performance.
27. Mendocino, California
Mendocino may be located two hours from California’s more famous wine region, but this fairy tale-like village is worth the trip. Navarro Vineyards is a beautiful estate, and offers a one-hour tour complete with chicken tractors and babydoll sheep. In addition to pinot noir and chardonnay, Narvarro serves a unique gewurztraminer that any wine lover — newbie or aficionado — is sure to appreciate. At nearby Breggo, wine lovers can taste six signature pinots for a $5. As an added bonus, Mendocino offers historic architecture, top-notch antique shops, a variety of museums, and killer coastal views.
28. Guerneville, California
Located on the banks of the Russian River, Guerneville is the home of Korbel Champagne Cellars. Korbel, which is tucked in among the area’s famous redwoods, offers unique tours that take visitors through an historic railroad station, the champagne cellars, and a museum. While there, don’t miss the rose garden, with its more than 1,000 types of flowers. Just down the road from Korbel is Hop Kiln Winery. Once an Italian-owned hop-drying barn, the winery consists of three stone hop-kiln structures that are unlike anything else you’ll see in the area.
29. Homer, Alaska
We know what you’re thinking: wine tasting in Alaska? While most of the state is associated with harsh temperatures, other parts are more akin to the Pacific Northwest-like climate, and it is these areas that have slowly but surely been making a name for themselves among wine lovers. While some grapes are grown, most popular Alaskan wines are made with local fruits. Think berries, rhubarb, and other hardy fruits. There are currently only about 10 wineries in Alaska, so wine trails are unheard of here. Instead, head to Homer, home of the increasingly popular Bear Creek Winery. Bear Creek offers wine lovers a number of delicious berry-based wines made from blueberry, raspberry, cranberry, and strawberry, and even some made from a grape/berry blend.
30. Amenia, New York
Tucked in the Hudson River Valley, tiny Amenia, New York is part of the oldest grape-growing and wine making regions in the United States. There are more than 25 wineries in the region producing everything from grape juice and jams, to award-winning wines. A highlight is Cascade Mountain Winery. Known for is Seyval Blanc, Reisling, Petite Syrah, and Old Vine Zinfandel, Cascade also serves delicious pate and cheese plates — which you’ll be glad to have once you eye the inviting picnic area.
Published May 2016