Taste Your Way Through 3 of the Best Wine Regions in the U.S

The Evolve Team
The Evolve Team
June 11, 2021

The best wine regions in the U.S. all offer a palate cleanser to the daily routine. They give you a chance to taste grapes from the source, to discover all the hidden notes that swirl in a single glass, and to connect with people who make wine a way of life. 

Whether you’re traveling to California wine country for sun-drenched days and the Pinot Noir made famous in Sideways, or you’re looking for more up-and-coming regions in Michigan’s wine country, we’ve got just the place in mind to raise your glass. 

All of our scenic vacation rentals are verified, and many are near vineyards — so you can stay in the moment and crack open that new bottle you just bought.

California Wine Country:

Vineyard in Sonoma, California, one of the best wine regions in the U.S.

California wine country is home to many of the best wine regions in the U.S., from the rolling vineyards of Sonoma, to one of the most prominent players anywhere: Napa Valley. Splash in the blue surf by morning, sample famous wines by day, and experience the way that the area’s unique weather influences every sip.

Sonoma Wine Country

Sonoma is said to be the birthplace of California’s modern wine scene — and as you pull up to your vacation rental, you’ll quickly discover why. Iconic, sprawling vineyards worthy of daydreams are here, life moves at a slower pace, and you can sip wines that are household names (for one, the Francis Ford Coppola Winery is in Sonoma). There’s so much to explore that Keith Goldston, a Master Sommelier, said that Sonoma is “almost like a whole country in one county.” 

If it’s Cabernet Sauvignon you’re looking to try, you’ll find it in Sonoma’s Alexander Valley, starting with pours from Silver Oak. At this sophisticated, modern winery, simplicity reigns — and by focusing on a single varietal, Silver Oak has crafted one of the most sought-after Cabs in the country. 

Zinfandels are the star in the Dry Creek Valley area. After a midday tasting at Dry Creek Vineyard, explore the picture-perfect town of Healdsburg, filled with upscale boutiques and elegant restaurants (here’s a helpful round-up of how to make the most of your time there).

Chardonnay might often go overlooked, but the Russian River Valley is likely to change your mind. “What I love most about growing and producing Chardonnay in the Russian River Valley is the diversity of the fruit that is grown here,” said local winemaker Giovianni Balistreri. Taste the way that seasonal fog affects the wine (in the best way possible) by finding your new favorite white at Dutton Estate. Then, head to Red Car, where every pour is phenomenal and you’ll also find a photo opportunity that’s too unique to pass up: a giant, well-lit wall of Rose.

Napa Valley Wine Country

Michelin-star restaurants, never-ending vineyards drenched with sun, and glasses of wine that are sure to become a memory are waiting in Napa Valley wine country. Home to over 400+ wineries, you can sip Cabernets, Merlots, Chardonnays, and more in the place that makes them famous.

Wine comes with a side of architecture at Louis M. Martini, a sleek place to sit and sip that has lawn games and upscale, private tasting options. At first glance, you might mistake Domaine Carneros for France with its Versailles-like gardens and terrace, a place where the winemaker calls their bubbles “like Audrey Hepburn in a little black dress.”

Sustainability is at the heart of everything the CADE Estate does, which is why they were recognized as the first LEED Gold Certified winery (which means Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). Drink their high-elevation Cabernet while perched above Howell Mountain.

Our pick for an enchanting afternoon is heading to Far Niente Winery, which resembles a fairytale cottage surrounded by ginkgo trees. If you’re in the mood for more history, learn the story of Napa through its grapes at the nearby Beaulieu Vineyard, which has served the area for over 115 years and was recognized by Food and Wine Magazine as One of the Best Napa Valley Wineries to Visit.

There are so many choices in Napa that it can be overwhelming to find which one is right for you. Napa Valley’s website breaks wines down based on what you’re looking for — whether it’s a breathtaking view or a storied spot.

Insider Tip: Want to dive in, drink to your heart’s content, and see more of Napa Valley wine country without having to drive between stops? There’s a train for that. The Wine Train lets you choose where you’d like to go, including an option that lets you taste inside of a Medieval castle.

Santa Barbara Wine Country

Take a breathtaking drive along California’s Pacific Coast Highway and visit the charming vineyards of Santa Barbara’s Santa Ynez Valley, Santa Maria Valley, Lompoc, and more. The ocean is in your glass here, with flavors that are shaped by the Pacific and its unique climate.

The town of Solvang is a storybook come to life, with tasting rooms around every corner, holiday shops, and Danish sweet treats (think: giant pretzels). In Los Olivos, most of the wine tasting rooms are inside of houses brimming with character. Stop by Refugio Ranch Vineyards for their organic Rhone-varietals, try biodynamic wines at Solminer, or visit a miniature shack specializing in bubbly, known as The Bubble Shack.

For that classic, sophisticated outdoor wine tasting experience, sip Sauvignon Blanc at Brander, which also has an art museum you can peruse after your tasting. Later in the day, get dressed up and go to Presqu’ile for cool-weather Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Syrah, which was rated one of the ten most beautiful wineries in California by Conde Nast Traveler.

You can find a round-up of outstanding places to go wine tasting in Santa Barbara right here.

A big glass table sits just feet from a vineyard on the sunny back patio of this Sonoma, California vacation rental.

Where to Stay in California: This tranquil vacation home in Sonoma lets you stay on the vineyard — literally. The back porch is nestled in 39 miles of rolling grapes, outlined by the dramatic Mayacamas Mountains. The airy interior invites you to admire the views curled up next to the fireplace, and the elegant kitchen is the perfect place to put together a charcuterie board or two to pair with your bottle.

Oregon and Washington Wine Regions: 

Rows of grapevines at a vineyard in Washington wine country.

Oregon and Washington are wine drinkers’ paradise. Not only are they home to some of the best wine regions in the U.S., but they also give you a chance to rent a vacation home with sweeping nature views and enjoy the best of city life out your door. Pinot Noir is one of the top grapes in Oregon, but there are twelve varieties that come out of the state, with a focus on small-batch wines. The sunshine in Washington creates bold reds like Cabernet, Merlot, and Syrah, so head here if it’s reds you’re looking to sip.

Rogue Valley Wineries, Oregon

Southern Oregon is a destination for flavorful wines and outdoor adventure, including Crater Lake National Park — making it the place to be if you want to combine hikes with pours. Sit overlooking the Rogue Valley’s rustic charm at DANCIN Vineyards and grab a brick-oven pizza with your glass, or bring your own picnic and head to Quady North for a crisp afternoon French-style Rose. Anchor Valley Wine offers an “inclusive, welcoming, and slightly punk rock” tasting experience in a setting that feels chic and modern. 

Want some al fresco music while you swirl? The Rogue Valley wine country calendar is here, often updated with events at the vineyards. This full map of Rogue Valley wineries makes it easy to plan your time away.

Walla Walla Valley Wine, Washington and Oregon

Walla Walla Valley wine country gives you the chance to taste a little of Oregon and a little of Washington (as it spans both states). Ambiance awaits at L’Ecole Wine Bar, which is nestled inside of a French schoolhouse that uses “winemaking practice that assures [their] wines will be more expressive, more aromatic, and show their individual vineyard site characteristics.” For a tasting paired with mountain panoramas, fill your glass at Walla Walla Valley’s Abeja, a scenic, historic farmstead worth it for the views alone. 

There is no shortage of celebrated wineries in Walla Walla — but when you stay downtown, you can indulge in tasting rooms without having to drive between spots (there are over thirty tasting rooms in the central area).

Seattle-Area Wineries, Washington

Staying in the Seattle area takes you on a different kind of wine trip. The best-of-the-best from Washington are shipped right there, and you can enjoy your tastings in the city with fine dining out your door. A short drive away is Woodinville Wine Country, home to 100+ wineries that are some of the best in the state. The Hollywood District (named for a local schoolhouse, not Hollywood, CA) produces “lavish, micro, and boutique wines.” Stop here to taste at Delille Cellars (if you’re feeling curious, they have outlined the tasting notes in their bottles for you) or Maryhill Winery, which is located in the schoolhouse that the district was named after. For a full list of places to check out in this area, Eater has rounded up the best right here

After a day of memorable tastings, stay in a Seattle area vacation home and pay a visit to the vibrant glass sculptures at Chihuly Garden and Glass. Then, nibble your way through Pike Place Market or grab a seat at the adorable Pink Door restaurant (and yes, the entrance is actually a pink door). 

Willamette Valley Wine Region, Oregon

Flying into Portland is another way to get the best of both worlds: a city trip with incredible eats and world-class Willamette Valley wineries just a drive away. The area, which was previously named the Wine Region of the Year by Wine Enthusiast magazine, features plenty of sustainable grapes and creative pours, making it one of our picks for the best wine regions in the U.S. 

Visit a micro-boutique winery for a private tasting with the owner (you’ll need a reservation) at Bells Up Winery, the only stop in the area to produce a French hybrid grape called the Seyval Blanc. Sip beneath the oak trees of Yamhill Valley Vineyards for an experience you might mistake for Napa, or find something refreshing at Argyle, a sustainable vineyard loved for its sparkling wine and other varieties.

This round-up of eight wineries for newcomers to the area is the perfect place to start exploring. And while you’re in Portland, be sure to pick up your next read at Powell’s City of Books and a famous pink box of treats from Voodoo Doughnuts.

Insider Tip: Want the wine without the in-person tasting? Brooks Wine is offering virtual tastings right now that bring the Willamette Valley experience to you (meaning, you could have the vineyard experience right at your vacation home). Every glass here is a feat, and Brooks was even named a top 100 winery in 2019.

Log cabin vacation rental with stone accents in Oregon

Where to Stay in Oregon: For a stay near Rogue Valley wineries in Oregon, book this Ashland vacation rental on its own private fishing pond. Sit out on the private patio with an outdoor fireplace and enjoy nature in style, with an interior that holds the charm of a luxury lodge. If you’re looking for a family-friendly stay, there’s a game loft to keep the kids busy in between hikes and wines.

Where to Stay in Washington: The best Walla Walla Valley wine is a short drive (or even walk) away when you stay at this welcoming yellow Walla Walla vacation home. Take a walk downtown, have a sip, and bring a bottle back home to crack open on the front porch. The cozy space sleeps up to twelve, offering lots of private spaces to get some rest — including a lovely backyard area.

Michigan’s Wine Country:

Vineyard in Michigan

Study the notes of up-and-coming glasses at less-visited wineries that rival the west coast in Michigan, where you can also soak in the lake life. Michigan is home to both cooler-grape varieties (think: Riesling, Pinot Blanc) and warmer-weather grapes (Pinot Noirs, Cabernet Sauvignons). “If there’s one word to describe Michigan wine, it’s freshness,” said Eduard Seitan of Chicago’s One Off Hospitality group. Plus, the grapes in Michigan stay in top condition thanks to the Great Lakes, which actually keep the vineyard climate from the bitter cold, known as the Lake Effect.

Lake Michigan Shore Trail

St. Julian Winery is a prominent stop on the Lake Michigan Shore Wine Trail. The winery has been in the same family for 100 years — and if you’ve been looking to dive into dessert or sweet wine, this is where to do it. They even make their own spirits, which you can taste if you need a break from all of the wine.

Fenn Valley Vineyards offers a stylish bottle to bring home or grab as a gift — and has received thousands of awards from the Tasters Guild International Wine Competition. After your tasting, be sure to stop in Holland, Michigan, home to pristine beaches, an idyllic downtown, and a Dutch Tulip Festival that blooms every spring.

Want the full map of where to taste along the Lake Michigan Shore? Head here.

Old Mission Peninsula and Leelanau Peninsula

The wine at Black Star Farms is so well-loved that they have two locations. Here, you can take a tour of the winery and estate, including a stop at a centennial bar and wine cave. Rieslings are the main attraction, but you can savor anything from crisp reds to full-bodied reds. 

If you’re looking for that elegant California touch (in Michigan), you’ll want to taste at Bonobo Winery in the Old Mission Peninsula owned by actress Amy Smart and HGTV star Carter Oosterhouse and his brother, Todd Oosterhouse. This “social gathering place” invites you to take in the scenery from outside on the patio as you try lively roses, whites, and reds.

In Michigan’s Leelanau Peninsula, Chateau Fontaine is known for picking up awards and breaking new ground for the wine scene. The owners were the first to grow Syrah grapes in Michigan and to grow Cabernet Sauvignon in Leelanau. Taste here, then take your pick of any of the other 20+ vineyards in the area.

There’s way more to this part of Michigan than wine. See why we named Traverse City, Michigan, one of the best small towns in America (hint: it’s foodie heaven).

Insider Tip: There are actually six major wine trails throughout Michigan — so if the ideas above aren’t quite what you’re looking for, explore more options here.

View from a Michigan vacation rental's deck, overlooking a pristine lake

Where to Stay: Sip wine as the sun sets, right out on the water. This Michigan lakefront vacation rental in Benton Harbor backs up to the lake and has an outdoor area where you can tell stories over a shared glass. Taste at Lake Michigan Vintners or Contessa, then wind down at your four-bedroom home perfect for sleeping up to six — and look out to the lake right from the living room.

Head right here for a full map of nearby spots to taste in Benton Harbor and beyond.

Stays as Carefree as a Day at the Vineyard

Rest easy while you sip your way through the best wine regions in the U.S. Each of Evolve’s homes is verified for accuracy and sparkling clean. If something isn’t what we promised or you need to change plans, we’ll be there for you.

Read this next: See where else to travel this year with our 2021 trip planner or find out what we called the U.S. equivalent for Italy’s vineyards with our Best Places in the U.S. That Feel International.

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