Lifestyle » Vol. 1

Wine Tasting Excursions

From New England to California These Wines Worth The Trip

By Leeanne Griffin

Maybe you’re the consummate oenophile with dozens of bottles in your home cellar. Maybe you just have a few mid-priced favorites to pair accordingly with steak and fish. Or maybe you’re not sure of the difference between Pinot Grigio and Pinot Noir.

Whatever your level of vino knowledge, a wine tour can be a fun (and educational) excursion for your next vacation. Here’s a sampling of wine hot spots in the United States.


California is the premier wine producer in the United States ~ in 2006, California wines accounted for two-thirds of all wine sold in the U.S., according to the Wine Institute.

Napa Valley

Napa Valley

The Napa Valley and Sonoma areas in particular are synonymous with wine. Renowned wineries in the Napa Valley area include Beringer, Robert Mondavi, Rubicon Estates, Beaulieu Vineyards and Domain Chandon. Most Napa-area wineries offer tours and tastings for as little as $5.00.

At the Beringer winery, for example, visitors to a tasting room can choose a flight of three wines ~ red or white ~ from a seasonal menu, or they can taste three wines during a tour. Wines are also available for purchase.

Visit for a comprehensive list of wineries, travel and lodging suggestions as well as dining and entertainment options.
In the Sonoma region, winery visitors will find Ravenswood Winery, which touts a “no pinkie raising, brie-eating, wine-spitting wimpiness” culture, along with bubbly purveyors Korbel and popular, moderately-priced Kendall Jackson, for starters.

At Ravenswood, groups of six or more can “…blend their own wine” from Zinfandel, Petite Sirah and Carignane varieties in the proportion they prefer ~ and then take home a bottle of the results as a souvenir. Between Memorial Day and Labor Day, the irreverent Ravenswood winery invites visitors and “Zinfomaniacs” to weekend barbecues with chicken, steak, ribs and live music.

A full list of Sonoma wineries, tasting events, maps and more visitor information is available at

New York

Hudson River Valley

Hudson River Valley

Within manageable driving distance, New York boasts several regions of wine attractions. In the Finger Lakes region, there are more than 9,000 acres of vineyard and 90 bonded wineries. The Hudson River Valley, north of Manhattan, has another 42 wineries. The Lake Erie region, actually known for its grape juice production, also includes French-American and European winegrape varieties.

On Long Island, the North Fork area is comprised of 30 wineries, with another three wineries in the Hamptons. This region is easily accessible by ferry from New London, Conn. Many of the wineries are open year-round for tasting, but some require appointments for tours.

A list of North Fork wineries can be found at

For more on New York wines, visit

New England

Though New England’s climate is unpredictable at best, there are still dozens of vineyards producing top-quality wines practically in our own backyards.

In Massachusetts, Cape Cod Winery plants cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, merlot, Pinot Grigio, Seyval and Vidal grapes. The winery is open for tastings May through December, with tours on Saturdays in the summer months.
Closer to Worcester, Nashoba Valley Winery in Bolton produces wines made from more than just grapes ~ pear, blueberry, plum and peach are among the favorites. Guided tours for the public are available on Saturdays and Sundays throughout the year, and private tours are available during the week. The winery’s on-site eatery, J’s Restaurant, has a wine-pairing suggestion for each item on the menu.

In southern New England, the Connecticut Wine Trail joins 15 vineyards, split in halves into the Connecticut Highlands (the western part of the state) and the Connecticut Shoreline (coastal and eastern Connecticut). The trail’s website,, advises visitors to plan a few weekends to enjoy all of the wineries.

Some of the Connecticut wineries have on-site restaurants with wine-pairing suggestions for menu items; other wineries welcome visitors to pack a picnic lunch to enjoy with glasses of their wines. Jonathan Edwards Winery in North Stonington offers an a la carte menu of baguettes, cheeses, oil and olives to accompany its wine selections.

Cape Cod

Cape Cod

For a down-home experience, the Haight-Brown Vineyard and Winery in Litchfield offers what they call “untraditional” vineyard tours, complete with muck boots, for visitors interested in exploring the roots of wine making. Flight wine tastings and pairings are also offered.

Just 30 minutes outside of Newport, Sakonnet Vineyards in Little Compton, R.I. produces over 30,000 cases of wine annually, grown from their 50 acres of planting. Tours and tastings are available year-round. The Roost, Sak­­­onnet’s bed and breakfast, takes in visitors during the warm months. A seasonal restaurant, Coop Café, opened this past Memorial Day, serving light fare like sandwiches and salads.

Napa Valley:

Sonoma Wine:
Ravenswood Winery:

New York:

North Fork Wineries:

Cape Cod Winery:

Nashoba Valley Winery:

Connecticut Wine Trail:

Sakonnet Vineyards:

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