You can’t be blamed for thinking Napa Valley is the only destination in the nation when it comes to premier wine country. Napa’s scenic vineyards have hosted countless weddings, honeymoons and road trips for wine-loving travelers, making it synonymous with U.S. wine. But there are regions all across the United States that boast not only many of the same attractions you’ll find at Napa but also unique experiences that can’t be replicated anywhere else in the world.
UPPER MISSISSIPPI RIVER VALLEY
Midwesterners don’t like to boast, but they clearly have bragging rights when it comes to wine. The Upper Mississippi River Valley American Viticulture Area (AVA) was established in 2009 and covers nearly 30,000 miles, spanning parts of Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota. This makes it the largest AVA in the world; for
comparison, Napa Valley’s AVA is only 30 miles long and the Bordeaux wine region of France extends 60 miles.
French and other cold-hardy hybrid varieties are popular in the region—you’ll find plenty of delicious Edelweiss, La Crosse and Saint Croix. Where to go first? You can’t go wrong with a stop at Alexis Bailly Vineyard and Winery, the first winery along the Mississippi River. It was established in 1973 and is a short drive southeast of the Twin Cities in Hastings, Minnesota. Its wonderfully balanced “Voyageur” red is a standout and regarded by many as the best wine in Minnesota, if not the country. Looking for stunning scenery with your award-winning wine? The Wollersheim Winery & Distillery, located on a hillside in Prairie, Wisconsin, creates its acclaimed
varieties from a range of grapes including Sangiovese and Bonarda.
Love a dry red wine? Head to Oregon’s Willamette Valley, one of the premier Pinot Noir-producing regions in the world. With more than 500 wineries and 19,000 acres of vineyards, there’s plenty to see and sip across this valley of rolling hills and eco-friendly wineries. Stoller Family Estate is the world’s first LEED® Gold Certified Winery. Yamhill Valley Vineyards is also a leader in environmentally friendly wine-making practices and grows, produces and bottles all products onsite.
To get there, fly into Portland and rent a car—the town of Salem is just an hour away. Or take an American Queen Steamboat Cruise that stops in the valley for a half day tour. If Pinot Noir isn’t your varietal of choice, Pinot Gris is the second most produced in the region, and some say it’s the best they’ve ever tasted.