If you’re an oenophile like me, when you think of good domestic wine, California is probably at the top of your list. The state has a reputation for producing some of the best wines in the world. And although California may be hard to beat, you might want to give other parts of the U.S. a look. Here are three little-known wine regions for oenophiles.
1. Northern Arizona
We found out how good Arizona wine can be on our recent trip through northern Arizona. You may not think of Arizona as a wine country, but you should.
The properties we toured were gorgeous and the wines were flavorful. We learned that, interestingly, Arizona winemakers have more issues with cold temperatures than in the heat. Arizona late spring frosts, which can occur frequently in northern Arizona, can kill the fruit blossoms.
Thankfully, many crops are not harmed but rather stressed due to the weather. According to experts, this can be a good thing as the fruit on stressed vines can have enhanced flavors and aromas, resulting in delicious varietals.
Cottonwood, Arizona, and the Verde Valley Wine Trail lie in the heart of the northern Arizona wine region. The Verde Valley Wine Trail is the newest American Viticultural Area (AVA) in Arizona, bringing the number of AVAs in the state to three.
We spent an afternoon at Page Spring Cellars where we enjoyed a breeze on the deck overlooking the vineyards as we sampled a flight. Another day was spent touring the grounds and watching the band at nearby Alcantara Vineyards. They were breathtakingly beautiful and are just two of the many great wineries in the northern Arizona area.
Make a stop at any of the towns along the Verde Valley Wine Trail — Sedona, Jerome, Camp Verde, Cottonwood, Clarkdale, Cornville, and Page Springs — and sample fine Arizona wine.
2. Texas Hill Country
Texas — where summertime temperatures can remain in the triple digits for weeks — is not a well-known locale for vineyards. But in the hill country, the climate tends to be a little different than that throughout most of the state. The limestone-rich soil lends to the pristine growing conditions here. Located just north of San Antonio and west of Austin, the Texas Hill Country is home to more than 60 wineries.
Situated within the Texas Hill Country AVA is the Fredericksburg AVA. Check out the Fredericksburg Food and Wine Fest, held every October, to get your fix of Texas wines, along with authentic Texas culinary delights.
Book a wine tour to get the inside scoop on Texas wines and sample a wide variety at many different local wineries. Take a wine-tasting tour of the wineries throughout the Texas Hill Country, or stick to a tour of Fredericksburg, where you’ll learn about the history of this German town, see historic homes, and of course, sample fantastic wines.
If you don’t want a full-blown wine tour experience but still want to check out different wineries, grab a seat on the wine shuttle. Leave the driving to the professionals as you visit your choice of three wineries in the area via the comfort of an air-conditioned shuttle.
3. Northern Michigan
While the Midwest may not automatically come to mind when thinking about great wine, Michigan is becoming something of a standout. With five AVAs, oenophiles are flocking to the area to see what the buzz is all about.
Featuring more than 200 wineries, many clustered in the west to take advantage of Lake Michigan’s temperate climate, Michigan is in the top 10 among U.S. states as far as winery count. It’s pretty impressive for a state that has some of the harshest winters in the country and is blanketed in snow for at least a few months each year.
The Greater Traverse City Region, situated on an eastern fork of Lake Michigan, is one of the largest and most popular areas for oenophiles in Michigan. Being situated on Lake Michigan means a milder climate benefitting from the natural lake effect of giant Lake Michigan. All this equates to good soil and better weather, which in turn leads to a longer grape-growing season and more succulent grapes.
Visit Traverse City to find a wide selection of wine events during any season. Other popular wine regions in the state are Fenville in the southeastern area; Lake Michigan Shore; Old Mission Peninsula, situated across Grand Traverse Bay from Leelanau Peninsula; and the newest AVA in the state, Tip of the Mitt.
If you’re looking for independent wineries that have a local connection and aren’t managed by large conglomerates, visit some of the unexpected wine regions in the U.S. You just might be able to chat with the winemaker personally and you’re sure to discover new varietals of reds and whites.