What better way to immerse yourself in fall’s glorious array of colors than with a flight of wines before you? Between the U.S. and Canada, there’s a slew of fantastic wineries — in new and exciting wine regions as well as in the reliable, world-famous stalwarts — to check out this fall.
The Pacific-Northwest in the fall is, in a word, idyllic. And it’s deliciously idyllic when paired with a wine tour in the Chelan Lake region, an official American Viticulture Area (AVA) since 2009. Over 30 wineries means some planning is in order. For Rhone-inspired wines, begin your scenic wine journey at Cairdeas, where you can also enjoy cheese and charcuterie — unless you’re inclined to pack a picnic to enjoy on the grounds. Tsillan Cellars estate-grown wines are sipped in surroundings reminiscent of Italy’s Lake Como, which may make it hard to steal away to the next winery. But steal away you should because family-run Succession will make you a Washington wine lover for life. The winery comes especially alive on Sundays when live music pairs with a number of varietals, including Chenin Blanc and Pinot Noir.
In a play that perhaps not many saw coming, Texas Hill Country, that hard-to-define swath of land west of Austin and north of San Antonio, no longer just boasts some of the best barbecue in the state. Thanks to numerous destination-worthy wineries, such as Perdenales Cellars and Kalasi Cellars, the region has earned a spot on wine lovers’ radar. There are, in fact, more than 50 wineries in and around Fredericksburg, the heart of Hill Country, and more than a dozen tour options. You can also opt to hop on the 290 Wine Shuttle for more impromptu exploring of the region. The shuttle stops at more wineries (17 in total) than you could possibly experience in a day, but half the fun is in the sheer breadth of options. The Texas Wine Collection is a solid choice, considering it’s really three wineries in one, and Heath Sparkling Wine is so confident you’ll reach bliss at first taste that they’ve named one of their flagship sparkling wines Euphoria.
California’s wine country delivers on too many fronts to list here, but top billing goes to its stellar wines, jaw-dropping backdrops, and intimate DIY tasting tours (though there are a number of tour operators in the area who can help plan tasting itineraries or take you where you want to go). If you think you’ve seen all there is to see in Napa (impossible!), begin your tour at Cliff Lede Vineyards, where the art and music-themed blocks (e.g., “Dark Side of the Moon”), are almost as appealing as the Rock Block Cabernet Sauvignon. Opting for the Backstage Tasting will have you sipping Napa’s bold flavors in a room featuring rotating art exhibits. Don’t linger too long though because Bouchaine Vineyards is waiting to lure you in with its newly designed tasting room atop a hill, complete with incredible views. The Hyde Vineyard Chardonnay is rich, juicy, and balanced, and the Hyde Vineyard Syrah will turn you into a cheerleader of the oft-misunderstood grape.
It doesn’t get much prettier than this. Once a hidden gem drawing lovers of theater and local, seasonal farm fare, Niagara on the Lake is also chock-full of wineries — 38, to be exact. The wineries, many of which also offer full-service dining, are mostly spread out, so you’ll probably want to rent a bike or arrange for a tour to take you around the cute little town. Start out at Reif Estate, where wines are tasted in a sensory garden. Peller Estates Winery and Restaurant is open for lunch and makes for a good second stop along your wine journey. Two Sisters is less than 15 minutes on foot from Peller, making it a good post-meal option between tastings. If you can get to Southbrook, which enjoys the status of being Canada’s first wine estate to obtain both organic and biodynamic certification, tasting the Triomphe Orange is mandatory.
The North Fork
It’s all too easy to while away an afternoon sipping wine on the North Fork of Long Island, AKA the sunniest spot in New York State. While definitely no longer under-the-radar, there are enough wineries and enough routes to keep the intimate vibes going. Although some visitors to the region swear by fall as the best time to visit the beaches and snag tables at popular restaurants, the autumn wine scene is where it’s really at. Want to taste old-world wines in a new-world vineyard? Raphael’s Cabernet Franc and Merlot are not to be missed. From there, enjoy a warm welcome from nearby Bedell Cellars, where both children and dogs are welcome. If you want to visit Paumanok, arguably the most well-known of the region’s wineries, reservations are recommended. Of course, you could opt for a tasting at Palmer Vineyard instead, where walk-ins are welcome, and rosé is still flowing. Either way, you’re in for a treat, no ocean view required.
The Okanagan Valley
The first thing most people think of when they think of Canada’s rugged western province is probably not wine. Considering the bevy of activities on hand all around British Columbia, that’s fair. But those in-the-know-folks and devout lovers of the boozy grape juice are well aware of Kelowna’s deserved spot on the wine trail. Roughly 40 wineries dot the Left and Right Bank of Okanagan Lake, providing superior views and relaxing vibes. Mission Hill Family Estate deserves every accolade it’s been bestowed — in a not-to-shabby showing, it is Canada’s only winery to win Winery of the Year five times — but go for yourself to see what makes their Viognier and Pinot Blanc so special. Afterwards, head to Indigenous World Winery for a truly unique experience. Cap off the tour with a glass of Viognier, Frizzante at Little Straw Vineyards.
It’s been fun to see California’s wine scene expand outside of the state’s northern region, often just referred to as “wine country” by domestic travelers, especially because a funky city like Santa Cruz, whose wine cup runneth over, is a blast to visit in general. Fall may be the quintessential beach town’s best-kept secret though. Biking is an especially fun way to embark on a tour of the beloved surf city’s wine scene. Rexford’s Chardonnay has the potential to win over even the staunchest ABC-er (Anything-But-Chardonnay), and if it’s sustainability that you’re after, a visit to Storrs is in order. Another excellent producer of Chardonnay and other Burgundian grapes, all of the grapes are grown with minimal intervention in a biodynamic setting. Of note also: Sone Cellars, MJA, and Silver Mountain.
7 Amazing Fall Wine Tours Across the U.S. and Canada
This Small Virginia City Is Full of History, Culture, and Adventure
21 Best Places to See Fall Foliage in the United States
The Best Cross-country U.S. Road Trip Itinerary: Southern Route