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6 Amazing American Wine Regions to Visit in 2024

Planning a wine-themed vacation is a tricky business. You could opt for one of the world-class American wine regions everyone knows and loves (basically, Napa and Sonoma, California) and have a great time.

You’ll also be a lot lighter in the wallet when you’re done. And you won’t have experienced the true diversity of America’s rapidly evolving wine landscape.

Consider, instead, a lesser-known (but still excellent) alternative. Any of these six will do.

1. Central Missouri

If you live in the St. Louis area, there’s an elite wine region right in your backyard.

Actually, “elite” undersells it. The Augusta AVA, centered on the charming river town of Augusta, Missouri, is the country’s oldest official wine region. It’s also, arguably, the birthplace of American viticulture. And it played a decisive role in revitalizing the European wine industry when a devastating plague threatened the Old Continent’s vines.

Today, Augusta is on the upswing, thanks to an ambitious long-range plan developed by entrepreneur David Hoffmann. Hoffmann is turning Augusta into a year-round destination for wine lovers and wine skeptics alike.

2. Central Coast, California

For many West Coasters, California’s Central Coast region is simply a vast, rugged no-man’s land between L.A. and San Francisco.

People who live there — and plenty of visitors, too — know better. The Central Coast has some of the country’s most amazing landscapes, from the rugged cliffs of Big Sur to the stunning beaches near Morro Bay and Cayucos. 

Just inland, communities like Paso Robles harbor acres upon acres of old vines and countless years of winemaking experience. If you’re looking for a no-frills wine country experience within easy driving distance of L.A., you can’t do any better.

3. Willamette Valley, Oregon

The Willamette Valley isn’t exactly an oasis. It’s surrounded by heavily forested mountains cut by rushing streams that all flow into its namesake river. 

But this fertile, unbelievably picturesque plain kind of feels like one. It’s home to some of the country’s best-regarded vineyards and wineries outside California, and its reputation has only grown along with the market for fine American wine. 

Oh, and it’s super-easy to explore from a home base in Portland, Salem, or anywhere in between.

4. Southwest Michigan

Just around Lake Michigan’s yawning bend from Chicago, with sandy shorelines stretching for miles, southwest Michigan looks like a tropical paradise. In summer, at least. 

Cute lakeside towns like St. Joseph and Holland are gateways to a low-key wine country just inland. Here, cold-hardy grapes turn warm-season lake fogs into semi-dry white wines that pair perfectly with locally raised chicken and pork. 

5. Northwest Michigan

A few hours up the Lake Michigan shore, near Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, you’ll find Michigan’s “other” wine region. Some say the wine here is even better, thanks to microclimates created by the rugged, watery geology. Like Augusta, the bayside town of Traverse City gives “charming” a whole new meaning.

6. Finger Lakes, New York

The glaciers did a number on central New York State’s Finger Lakes region. Look at a topographic map of the state and you’ll immediately see those oddly-shaped lakes lining long, narrow valley floors — sort of like inland fjords. They’re left over from the last ice age, when glaciers carved out those valleys before melting away.

The Finger Lakes’ unusual topography has a beneficial side effect for wine fans: sharp microclimates that make for some of the best wines this side of the Mississippi. As in Michigan, these cold-hardy varieties turn into fine semi-dry wines that pair amazingly with dinner (whatever’s on the menu).

Get Off the Beaten Wine Trail

The snobs are wrong. 

America’s best wines don’t come from a couple dozen vineyards in Napa and Sonoma. They’re found all over the country, from the deep glacial valleys of upstate New York, to the fertile heart of Missouri, to the verdant plains of northern Oregon.

If you truly love wine, you should relish the opportunity to get off the beaten wine trail and into one — or all — of these under-the-radar destinations. Because they might not stay undiscovered for too long.

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