Where do you travel to when you want good wine? TripAdvisor just announced the winners of its 2012 Travelers’ Choice Wine Destinations awards. The awards are divided up region: World, U.S., Europe and South Pacific.
According to TripAdvisor, winners were determined based on their popularity as wine destinations, taking into account travelers’ reviews and opinions for local wineries, restaurants, attractions and accommodations.
Not surprisingly, most of the top U.S. wine destinations were in California. However, there are a few on this list that might surprise you. Here's what TripAdvisor had to say:
- Sonoma County, California: You’ll find everything from Chardonnay to Zinfandel here, and TripAdvisor travelers love the laid-back, unpretentious vibe of the wineries. After a strenuous day of wine-tasting, spoil yourself at one of the many local spas.
- Napa Valley, California: Napa is probably the most famous wine region in the United States, and for good reason: It produces legendary Cabs and Chardonnay and boasts more than 400 wineries. But there’s more than just wine-tasting in Napa. The fine dining scene is amazing, some wineries boast museum-worthy art collections, and you’ll also find sophisticated spas and great golf courses.
- Willamette Valley, Oregon: A cool climate, rainy winters and long daylight hours during growing season add up to amazing Pinot Noir in Willamette Valley, Oregon. Lodging options range from hip hotels in downtown Portland to cozy country B&Bs, so you’re sure to find the perfect place to relax after a long day of wine-tasting.
- Finger Lakes, New York: The Finger Lakes are a beautiful, quiet respite from the rat race. The region's micro-climate provides the ideal growing conditions for award-winning wines and sparkling wines. There are over 100 wineries along Keuka, Seneca, Cayuga and Canandaigua lakes. Aficionados can choose from several great regional wine trails.
- Long Island, New York: Most vineyards in Long Island are small and bottle their vintages in very limited runs, so you’re not likely to see them in your local wine store or on many restaurant wine lists. Hence, Long Island is a perfect destination for wine lovers who’ve already tasted their way through Napa and Sonoma. Local Syrah and Merlot are reliably good, but try some sparkling Pinot Blanc and excellent rosé, too.
- Paso Robles, California: Located in the coastal mountain range of central California, Paso Robles (Pass of the Oaks) is close to mountains, beaches and deserts. Grape-growing in the region began in 1797, and there are now more than 170 wineries, 26,000 vineyard acres and 40 varietals of wine. Visit the thermal springs, which are said to have healing powers.
- Temecula Valley, California: This charming, small, rural wine region in southern California has a climate similar to that of Spain or southern Italy. So it’s no surprise that Syrah and Sangiovese are among the varietals grown by the 30-plus local wineries. Visit in late May/early June for the Temecula Valley Balloon and Wine Festival, when hot-air balloons take to the sky over the vineyards.
- Walla Walla, Washington: Wineries are beginning to rival the sweet-tasting Walla Walla onion as the hallmark of this lovely town at the foot of the Blue Mountains. In fact, the combination of excellent wineries and appealing scenery has put Walla Walla on the map as one of the hottest new wine-touring regions in the U.S. Try excellent Syrah, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.
- Palisade, Colorado: The wine business in Colorado was booming in the early 20th century—until Prohibition wiped it out. Many vineyards were replanted with fruit trees. But in the 1970s, winemaking returned to Palisade, and the region now produces 75% of Colorado’s wine grapes. Furthermore, in what is truly delicious irony, many wineries make fruit wines using local stone fruit in addition to traditional grape vintages.
- Plymouth, California: Plymouth is best known for its association with the California Gold Rush, but these days, travelers come here seeking great wine instead of precious metals. Fortunately, wine tasting is much easier than panning for gold, though, obviously, not as profitable—just visit one of the many small local wineries. One tip: Come to Plymouth on a weekend, as many establishments have limited tasting hours on weekdays.
Readers: Where are your favorite wine regions?
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