While Sonoma and Napa Valley frequently top the list of famous wine regions in the U.S., the West Coast can't hog all the attention. In fact, there are plenty of award-winning wineries located along the East Coast as well — each with its own stunning landscape, unique event offerings, and history. Whether you're an East Coast local or you're just craving more wine-tasting adventures, here are four East Coast wine regions that you definitely shouldn't miss.
Newport, Rhode Island
Newport County in Rhode Island is located firmly on the Coastal Wine Trail, a collection of vineyards spanning across New England. While you may not immediately picture a wine vacation when you think of this region of the country, it's actually a great choice. You can experience the incredible views of coastal New England, enjoy the foliage, and drink delicious local wines all at the same time.
Luckily for anyone who likes to watch the leaves change, autumn is the best time to visit Rhode Island's vineyards. This is when the grapes are fully ripe and picked by the handful as each vineyard prepares to start creating the season's wines. In fact, this is the only time of year that you'll be able to see demonstrations of the grapes being pressed.
Visitors to Newport's wineries will find no shortage of events from live music to lawn games and local food offerings. If you're in the area, you might want to consider planning a trip to Newport Vineyards. Originally founded in 1977, this winery has recently undergone major renovations. Its goal has always been to preserve agricultural land from industrial development. The area remains beautiful and there's so much to do that you'll barely be able to experience it all.
Although it doesn't have the longest grape-growing history on this list, Wallingford has been rapidly rising in the wine world over the past few years. In 2017, two wineries in this region — Gouveia Vineyards and Paradise Hill Vineyards — were listed among vineyards that were giving Napa Valley a run for its money. The region is particularly well known for its St. Croix grapes, which are used in many different red wine varietals.
Inspired by the sprawling landscapes and full-bodied wines of Tuscany, the Paradise Hills Vineyards are a must if you find yourself in this area. Founded by the Ruggiero Family in the late 1990s, the winery is open year-round and offers stunning views of the 65-acre estate. This winery has a particular focus on pairing wine with food. They encourage visitors to pack a picnic, so that they can enjoy the warm weather while drinking wine that perfectly complements their meal.
For any history buff, a trip along the Monticello Wine Trail is an absolute must. Sometimes referred to as "the birthplace of American wine," Monticello first began its foray into grape-growing in the early 1800s. At that time, Thomas Jefferson had recently returned from France, where he had developed an obsession with European wine.
At first, Jefferson simply had crates of wine shipped to him from Europe since he no longer had easy access to it. After a while, however, he decided to try and grow European grapes on his own estate. While he didn't have a great deal of luck in his own lifetime, the region now has 33 successful wineries — several of which have won awards.
If you're interested in the competitive side of the wine world, you'll want to visit the region during the Taste of Monticello Wine Week. This festival consists of all kinds of events such as a sparkling wine brunch, a wine auction, and multiple vineyard tours. The week culminates in the Monticello Cup Wine Competition, which compares the region's best wines each year.
Even if wine competitions aren't your cup of tea (or should we say glass of wine?), the Monticello Wine Trail is quite scenic. Its location near the Blue Ridge Mountains offers incredible views and most wineries such as the King Family Vineyards and the Jefferson Vineyards offer special tasting patios and seating areas for patrons to relax and take in the landscape.
Finger Lakes, New York
Stunning lakes, quiet countryside, and delicious wine — what's not to love? In 2018, the Finger Lakes region of New York was named the top wine region in the U.S. It is home to over 120 different wineries and is particularly well known for its cool-climate white wines. Grape growing in the region dates as far back as 1829, although wineries here weren't actually allowed to sell their wine to the public until 1976, when the New York Farm Winery Act was passed. Since then, the Finger Lakes have been rapidly growing.
If you visit the region, you can visit individual vineyards that pique your interest, but you want to consider traveling along one of the region's four wine trails. For a quick one-day trip, the Canandaigua Lake Wine Trail is a great choice. It's just 41 miles long and will give you the chance to enjoy the region's beautiful scenery, do a little shopping, and of course, taste some great wines. Have a little more time? The Seneca Lake Wine Trail features 30 different wineries and will even arrange special events, live music, and elegant dinners throughout the year.
After a day of tasting wine and relaxing by the water, consider setting aside some time to explore the area's nightlife. Although it's a somewhat rural region, the various towns offer quite a few fun, unique spots to explore. Try stopping in at Geneva's Microclimate Wine Bar to taste even more local wines or if you've had enough wine for the day, grab a beer and enjoy the music at Lake Drum Brewing.