Simply drinking wine is a transporting experience, and the wineries that inspire oenophiles to seek further exploration are found all over the world. While the big-name wine regions receive their share of yearlong visitors, there are a handful of under-the-radar, lesser-known areas (not too far away) that make for an equally unique experience. These are five alternatives to popular destinations you’ve likely already hit. Consider it a new list for a new season.
ALREADY BEEN TO THE FINGER LAKES?
TRY: LONG ISLAND, NEW YORK
If you’ve traversed the trails upstate, it’s time to head east. On the North Fork of Long Island lies 30 miles of farmland, which makes up the bulk of the viticultural region. The South Fork, where the sandy Hamptons beaches can be found, is home to Channing Daughters and Wölffer Estate wineries, familiar names to those dwelling and drinking in the metropolitan area. And while Long Islanders have only been growing grapes for a little more than 30 years (fewer than the Finger Lakes), the variety is pretty expansive, including cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, merlot, pinot blanc and chenin blanc. Still, the vibe out east is low-key, and no visit is complete without stops along farm stands and, in the summer, lobster shacks.
Try these wines from Long Island: Sparkling Pointe Brut 2013 and Macari Sauvignon Blanc 2014
TOURED THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST?
TRY: OKANAGAN VALLEY, BRITISH COLUMBIA, CANADA
If the lush wine country of the Pacific Northwest has been checked off the wine trips bucket list, keep heading north. In the Okanagan Valley, a short flight from Vancouver, lies a fast-growing wine region that shows no signs of slowing down. With more than 200 vineyards and more than 120 wineries, the microclimate allows for a range of grapes to grow (about 80 varietals), including unique ones like sovereign opal and auxerrois. Merlot, riesling, pinot gris and ice wine tend to be the more widely produced in this small but varied region. Plus, the strong American dollar goes far—a bonus considering the valley’s solid culinary offerings and outdoor activities (boating, swimming, fishing).
Try these wines from the Okanagan Valley: St. Hubertus Chasselas 2014 and Summer Hill Syrah 2010
Niven Family Wine Estates
OVER NAPA AND SONOMA?
TRY: EDNA VALLEY, CALIF.
When wine-tripping on Highway 1 along the California coast, most head north. But the Central Coast, right around San Luis Obispo County and specifically the Edna Valley wine region, are worth a stop and stay. Situated between Los Angeles and San Francisco, the area is a little sleepy, a little slower and likely what Santa Barbara was like before Sideways.With more than 30 wineries, look for a range of grape varietals, including pinot noir, syrah, chardonnay (the top grower), riesling and gewürztraminer. Hearst Castle is an hour’s drive, the beach is just 20 minutes away, and the nearby Paso Robles area is a favorite for easygoing daytrippers looking for a bit more culture and top-notch cuisine.
Try these wines from the Edna Valley: True Myth Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 and Zocker Grüner Veltliner 2014
Margaret River, Western Australia
WHAT’S NEXT AFTER NEW ZEALAND?
TRY: WESTERN AUSTRALIA
Margaret River, the best-known region in Western Australia, about three hours south of Perth, is still not nearly on the level of neighboring New Zealand but has drawn comparisons to the faraway Napa Valley. While the beachy vibe feels more like Southern California, the thriving and still-growing wine scene (150 wineries and counting) can’t be ignored. With winemakers who surf and a solid culinary scene, plus quality cabernet sauvignon, chardonnays and rieslings, there’s simply no other wine region that can truly compare to Margaret River. Though winemaking in the Swan Valley (near Perth) has been going on for nearly 200 years, this area is still relatively young, having only started producing wine since the early ’70s.
Try these wines from Western Australia: Leeuwin Estate Art Series Shiraz 2013 and Si Vintners Sweet Baby Gary Syrah 2015
TRY: TRENTINO, ITALY
It’s hard to pick a wrong place in Italy to travel to for wine, but the northern region of Trentino is certainly not one. Once a part of Austria, the city of Trento is set below the Dolomite mountain range (part of the Swiss Alps), near the stunning Lake Garda (imagine a more outdoorsy version of Lake Como), making for a pretty spectacular backdrop and a sports lover’s dream. The hilly terrain and cool climate result in great pinot grigio, chardonnay and even a sparkling wine, called trentodoc metodo classico—which is produced the exact same way as Champagne—plus merlot and cabernet sauvignon. The best time to visit is in the summertime to make the most of hiking, cycling and boating, in between tastings of course, or in the winter for ski season.