Lounging, learning, drinking - that pretty much sounds like the best girls trip of our lives. Wine-os, no matter where you live, or how far you'd like to go, we've got you covered. By Ava Feuer, REDBOOK.
1. Finger Lakes, NY
"For an East Coast wine weekend, you can't beat New York's Finger Lakes," says certified sommelier and American Express Travel Culinary and Wine Insider Sylvie Tannhauser. "This area has some of my favorite Rieslings, which is usually known as a sweet wine, but the region is developing its own approach." Can't find a babysitter? The Finger Lakes are actually incredibly family-friendly with their watersports, go-carting, biking, hiking, and golfing options.
2. Snake River Valley, ID
With its 1,500- to 3,000-foot altitudes, this young, growing locale is earning comparisons to Spain's established Rioja region. "Scope out Idaho's Rieslings, Bordeaux and Syrah at must-see vineyards including Cinder Winery, Fujishin, Bitner Vineyards, and Ste. Chapelle," says Tannhauser. For more of the great outdoors, hike, bike, horseback ride, fish, raft and kayak in the wildness of Boise National Forest.
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3. Louisville, KY
When it comes to boozing in Kentucky, you likely think of bourbon, not wine. However, the Bluegrass State is actually home to the first commercial vineyard in the country. But, don't count out the spirit just yet. "Kentucky ages many of its wine in old bourbon barrels, which lends a unique and sweeter flavor," says Tannhauser. Among the most famous bottles are River Bend Winery's Bourbon Barrel Red, which is the official wine of the Kentucky Derby. When in town, stay at Louisville's historic Brown Hotel, which has welcomed such guests as Elizabeth Taylor, Joan Crawford, and Muhammad Ali. The property's also home to J. Graham's cafe, where you'll find Kentucky's legendary Hot Browns - turkey, bacon, and Mornay sauce on toast.
4. Long Island, NY
Recent talk of the North Fork has been all about The Great Gatsby, but since Fitzgerald's time, it's become a top wine destination. "Take in a vineyard-side tasting accompanied by caviar and Vosges chocolates at Sparkling Pointe Winery, or learn to cook and have a wine-paired meal with Chef Peter Berley at My Kitchen in South Jamesport," says Tannhauser. On Saturday night, head to One Woman Wines and Vineyards for a tasting under the stars, where in addition to delicious wine, you can enjoy a picnic, roast s'mores, and watch a movie.
5. Charlottesville, VA
Here's something you probably didn't know about our third president. Thomas Jefferson was an American winemaking pioneer, but despite several centuries of history, Virginia remains an emerging wine destination, says Tannhauser. "It is now fifth in the nation for wine production, with more than 230 wineries, and dozens of wine trails. When I go, I like to mix history, fitness, and wine along the Monticello Wine Trail in Charlottesville. It's so beautiful, surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains, and you can stop by Jefferson's Monticello estate, famously displayed on the nickel, along the way."
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6. Willamette Valley, OR
Red wine drinkers, this one's for you. Northwest Oregon is full of excellent dark bottles, particularly pinot noir. Tannhauser's a big fan of Willamette Valley Vineyards, but also suggests visitors drive down Highway 99 to find more wines, olive oils, and hazelnuts. Then, soak up some history at the Linn Counry Historical Museum in Brownsville, which displays relics from the Oregon Trail - without your oxen dying along the way.
7. Sonoma County, CA
Perfect for your first wine vacation, these 55 miles of Pacific coastline are home to more than 360 wineries. With wine tours, pairing dinners, and private tastings aplenty, you'll get more than your bottle-full. For seasoned wine-lovers, Tannhauser recommends the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn, which hosts complimentary daily tastings of local wine.
8. Texas Hill Country
With over five million annual visitors, this southern spot is the second-most traveled to wine region in the country. Tannhauser suggests using San Antonio as a home-base, then driving 70 miles to Fredericksburg, which is best visited between March and May when the bluebonnets and wildflowers are in-bloom. In addition to a string of wineries, there's August E's, a prime spot for "nouveau Texas cuisine," a combination of traditional Texas barbecue, sushi, and Asian fusion. On the way home, stop at Wildseed Farm to pick up seeds for a memento to grow in your own garden.
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9. Walla Walla, WA
This new wine frontier, surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains, was first recognized for its Merlot and Cabernet, but is quickly becoming a source of excellent Syrah. "When you're there, visit Gramercy Cellars," says Tannhauser. "Winemaker Greg Harrington has worked with top chefs such as Emeril Lagasse and Wolfgang Puck, and is the youngest American ever to pass the Master Sommelier exam - he took it at 26. Also, be sure to ask for the brisket during your visit, which he smokes himself." For more vino, and place to stay, check in to the Inn at Abeja, a converted 18th-century farmstead with a winery on premises.
10. Temecula Valley, CA
An easy drive from San Diego, Orange Country and Palm Springs, the Temecula Valley is home to many large wineries. But Tannhauser recommends two smaller, off-the-beaten-path vineyards. "Lorimar Vineyards has live music and an art gallery to accompany your tasting," she says. "At Foot Path Winery and Organic Farm, you can buy organic lemons, tangerines, and figs along with your wines." If your group is full of avid golfers, stop by the award-winning, 27-hole championship course at Temecula Creek Inn for a round.
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