Travel
4 min

Grape escapes

Great North America wine destinations from Nova Scotia to Texas

BC's Okanagan Valley stretches from Kelowna to the US border; don't miss wine towns Osoyoos, Oliver and Penticton. Credit: Tourism Kelowna

If you’re looking for a grape escape, don’t trot off to Tuscany, sashay to Sancerre or race to Rioja. Those in the market for a vine time can stay this side of the Atlantic; the varieties and vintages of North American wines get ever more extensive as more states and provinces become the toast of the wine world. You’ll now find tasting flights much closer to home, many of them in places you mightn’t have imagined — from Nova Scotia to Texas.

1. Annapolis Valley, Nova Scotia
Wine country: Vines have been growing in Nova Scotia since the 1600s, and there are more than 70 vineyards across the province’s seven wine regions.
Vintage: Try a cool-climate classic: burnt amber Pomme d’Or dessert wine from Domaine de Grand Pré.
Visit: Wines sparkle at L’Acadie Vineyards, an organic winery in Wolfville.
Wine pairing: Wolfville’s Blomidon Inn serves local vintages and seafood in a stately Victorian room.

2. Leelanau Peninsula, Michigan
Wine country: Didn’t think of the Midwest as a must for wining and dining? Michigan has more than 100 wineries in four wine regions. Try the ice wineries of Upper Michigan’s Leelanau and Old Mission peninsulas, where riesling and cabernet franc grapes grow at the same latitude as Bordeaux and Piedmont.
Vintage: Give Chateau Grand Traverse’s medal-winning 2011 dry riesling a swirl.
Visit: It has to be Madonna’s family’s vineyard, Ciccone Vineyard and Winery, where tastings cost $5.
Wine pairing: Finish the peninsula tour at Leland’s octogenarian Bluebird Restaurant & Bar, where Leelanau and Grand Traverse wines complement local walleye, perch and trout.

3. Texas Hill Country, Texas
Wine country: With 32 wineries and a wine region almost as big as Nova Scotia, Texas has made good use of cabernet sauvignon, sauvignon blanc, chenin blanc and riesling grapes during the state’s brief 38-year wine career.
Vintage: Becker Vineyards’ spicy red blend Prairie Rôtie captures the essence of Hill Country heat.
Visit: Try southwestern ports, cabernet-syrah blends, cabernet sauvignons and chardonnays at Becker Vineyards outside rustic Fredericksburg.
Wine pairing: Tuck into Thai-Texan fusion fare at August E’s in Fredericksburg. The owners also have a B&B — Ebers’ Rock House — on an old homestead just outside town.

4. Eastern Townships, Quebec
Wine country: At just over 40 years old, the wine industry might be youthful in La Belle Province, but with an enticing selection of dry, sparkling, fortified and late-harvest wines made over six wine regions, it’s a fine place to hit the wine trail.
Vintage: Savour L’Orpailleur’s vanilla-nuanced white Reserve, made from seyval blanc and vidal grapes.
Visit: Try whites, reds and sparkling delights at L’Orpailleur in Les Cantons de l’Est — the Eastern Townships — in Dunham, just north of the Vermont border.
Wine pairing: Dunham’s Homei Bistro, and its Asian-influenced Québécois fare, makes a perfect wine-route stop.

5. Finger Lakes, New York
Wine country: There are three distinct wine trails to explore in the Finger Lakes — Keuka Lake, Seneca Lake and Cayuga Lake — and more than 100 wineries.
Vintage: The area is known for producing some of the United State’s best riesling. Try a deliciously dry and floral bottle from Ravines Wine Cellars in Hammondsport.
Visit: Hip Hammondsport is home to Dr Frank’s Vinifera Wine Cellars, the original Finger Lakes winery, open year-round.
Wine pairing: You’ll find the best local wine list at the Village Tavern in Hammondsport.

6. Walla Walla, Washington
Wine country: It’s not all coffee and craft brews round here; a new winery opens every two weeks in the second most productive wine state in the US.
Vintage: Sample sumptuous 2009 Walla Walla syrah from Trust Cellars.
Visit: Make an appointment to quaff signature cabernet sauvignon at converted farmstead Abeja Inn.
Wine pairing: The quaint yet slick Whitehouse-Crawford Restaurant in Walla Walla has a huge list of local vintages and a tasting room next door.

7. South Okanagan, British Columbia
Wine country: Stretching from Kelowna to the US border; don’t miss wine towns Osoyoos, Oliver and Penticton.
Vintage: Taste the unusual tannat-syrah blend Dead of Night from Moon Curser Vineyards.
Visit: Small but stunning Painted Rock Estate Winery offers syrahs, chardonnays and several Bordeaux-esque reds.
Wine pairing: Hester Creek is where the first valley wines were planted in 1968, so they know a thing or two about wine. Terrafina restaurant is a beautiful place to soak up the ambiance over a cabernet franc or late-harvest pinot blanc.

8. Sonoma, California
Wine country: Of the two most famous American wine regions, Sonoma offers a more laid-back, less expensive take on wine tasting than neighbouring Napa.
Vintage: Of Sonoma’s 72 wine grapes, chardonnay stands out. See what you think of La Follette’s Sangiacomo.
Visit: Save money to buy bottles with free tastings at Cline Cellars. Take a picnic and eat on the grounds.
Wine pairing: Every Wednesday night at Scopa, in chic Healdsburg, a local winemaker works the floor as a server, closing the circle between producer and connoisseur.

9. Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario
Wine country: One of Ontario’s four established wine areas, Niagara-on-the-Lake is where winemaking began in the province. Three dozen wineries sit within minutes of each other, making for easy touring.
Vintage: One of Napa North’s best bottles is Hidden Bench’s 2009 chardonnay.
Visit: Tiny Five Rows Craft Winery is hard to find but worth the effort.
Wine pairing: Newly located to the lakeshore, farm-to-table classic Treadwell has a huge patio right on Queen Street.

10. Willamette Valley, Oregon
Wine country: This is pinot noir country; luscious reds abound in the 300 wineries and six appellations of the valley.
Vintage: If you can find a bottle, savour lush, bold pinot noirs from Miura.
Visit: Head away from the hordes and explore the range at A Blooming Hill Vineyard, a winery in Cornelius, north of Portland.
Wine pairing: Southwest of Portland, Dundee Bistro boasts the best Oregon pinot noirs along with similarly local edibles.

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