Ok, so maybe your visit is going to have to be in 2021 and not 2020 because we are all sheltered in place because of the Coronavirus, but this list won’t change in that amount of time anyway.
I know this has been covered on Lip the Life in some format before, like a Somm’s Guide to Wine Trails, but I have some thoughts as well.
As someone who opened an online wine club about a decade ago, I’d have the absolute pleasure of visiting all of these places, often on more than one occasion.
They’re great spots for people that enjoy wine, but also for those that generally enjoy a vacation with a bit of a slower pace.
Here are five underrated wine regions to visit and drink wine in 2020
1. Walla Walla Washington
They say that New York is the place so nice that it was named twice, but in the world of wine Walla Walla is often shortened to simply Wx2 and offers perhaps one of the best introductions to non-California, American made wine.
Walla Walla is relatively easy to access by air, a short flight from Seattle and once there you’re in the middle of a small town, with wineries literally on all sides.
One of the most unique aspects to Walla Walla is that there is a winemaking program at the local city college and part of that program coincides with the Port of Walla Walla, providing a long term startup scene for the industry.
The ability of a wine drinker to meet winemakers who are just crafting their first vintages is a really unique experience, especially because these are classically trained winemakers, not hobbyists.
Anderson Valley California
Everyone comes to northern California wine country and they go to the same usual spots, Napa Valley and Sonoma. But, Anderson Valley offers the type of access they’d want to find, without the crowds.
Located about an hour west of Dry Creek Valley, along a meandering one-lane highway through Redwood groves, Anderson Valley boasts some of the best Pinot Noir produced anywhere in the world, at some of the most affordable prices in California.
With over 40 wineries all within a short drive, or even a walk from one another and the opportunity to stay at the beach overnight, Anderson Valley should receive more attention than it does.
Paso Robles California
It’s been called basically everything under the sun, including by Wine Spectator, “The Next Napa”. Located on a lazy stretch of the 101 freeway about halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles, Paso isn’t perfectly situated to gain a massive amount of foot traffic.
Instead, it requires an overnight stay in what has quickly become my favorite wine region in California. Situated around a central town square that will remind you of a lot of Europe, Paso radiates out in multiple directions.
To the west, you get the famed Adelaida District, where the highest rated wines in Paso are typically produced. To the east, the weather gets hotter, but the wineries get larger, giving them ample space to provide on-site activities like concerts, food trucks, and activities, some of which even kid-friendly.
Sierra Foothills, California
So there’s a number of old Gold Rush towns, each only a few miles apart. These are the smallest towns in California’s wine industry.
Sutter Creek is slightly famous for the discovery of the Mother Lode, but the town has only a few thousand inhabitants. Of course, that old history brings tourists. Those tourists bring money and Sutter Creek has about a dozen tasting rooms in a short stretch of its historic downtown.
So get there for the history and stay to see where it seems that Zinfandel evolved in the state of California.
No list, in my opinion, would be complete without a mention of Oregon wine country. Since I started my business, I’ve been on a lot of backroads, but only in Oregon did I have a set of directions that led me from my hotel, eventually onto a dirt road, onto a paved road and then back onto another dirt road.
McMinnville is a town in the heart of it all and offers what I really enjoy about wine country the world over, a small-town feel. If you aren’t familiar with Oregon wine, Pinot Noir is the name of the game. Plus, the prices for Pinot Noir in Oregon is at least a quarter cheaper than equivalent wine in California.
Ok, I hope you’ve enjoyed my list of wine regions to visit once Coronavirus eventually allows us to get back to regular life.
From lesser-known California regions to visiting Oregon and Washington, this list should get you well on your way to a nice west coast winery tour.