Off the Radar American Wine Regions

Napa. Sonoma. Willamette Valley. Columbia Valley, Washington. Santa Barbara County.

These regions dominate the American wine narrative and take up the most space on wine shop shelves. Though wine is now produced in all 50 states, a handful of small, emerging regions are providing wine sippers serious options for great new wine.

Read up on these five emerging American wine regions:



One of the most notable emerging American wine regions, the Commonwealth of Virginia is home to over 250 wineries and is the fifth largest wine grape producer in the states (tied with Texas). The Commonwealth has a long history with the grape — from Act 12 of 1619, one of the nation’s earliest laws passed by the Virginia House of Burgesses. It required each male colonist to plant and tend at least ten grapevines, a historical marker of  Thomas Jefferson’s well-documented viticulture attempts and failures. The state’s wine industry has come a long way since the beginning of the modern-day industry in the late 1970s.

Best known for Bordeaux-style red blends and Viognier (the state’s official signature grape), other varieties like Petit Manseng, Vermentino, Cabernet Franc, Tannat, and Petit Verdot are thriving there.

Of Virginia’s seven American Viticultural Areas (AVAs), the Monticello AVA in the central part of the state,  is home to many of the state’s most notable wineries.

Seek out wines from these Monticello AVA wineries: Keswick Vineyards, King Family Vineyards, Trump Winery, Veritas Winery & Vineyards, Gabriele Rausse, Grace Estate Winery, and the celebrated Barboursville Vineyards & Winery.


Hudson Valley, NY

Located about 90 minutes north of New York City, the Hudson Valley region may be better known for charming small towns and a burgeoning farm-to-table movement… thanks, in large part, to the Culinary Institute of America based in Hyde Park.

But, a handful of dedicated winegrowers are raising the stature of this small wine region. The Hudson Valley region is home to more than 40 wineries and a dozen cideries spread up-and-down the Hudson River.

Like Virginia, the Hudson Valley region is rich with wine history — the first vines were planted in 1677, about 100 years before the first vines were planted in California. The first commercial winery in the region, then known as the Jacques Brothers Winery (and renamed Brotherhood Winery in 1885), was established in 1837.

Wineries to seek out: Hudson-Chatham, Millbrook Vineyards & Winery, Tousey Winery, Benmarl Winery and Brotherhood Winery, America’s oldest operating winery.


Horse Heaven Hills, WA

Bordered by the Yakima Valley on the north and by the Columbia River and Oregon on the south, the Horse Heaven Hills region is situated in southeastern Washington.

A relatively new AVA (as of 2005), the Horse Heaven Hills AVA is home to just seven wineries and two dozen growers. It’s an interesting region for winos with their eye on up-and-coming wines to explore.

Horse Heaven Hills producers to seek out: Alexandria Nicole Cellars and Columbia Crest.


Livermore Valley, CA

Less than an hour drive east of San Francisco, the Livermore Valley wine region is home to over 50 wineries, most of which are small and family-owned. It’s one of the oldest wine regions in California. In fact, the first commercial grapevines were planted there.

Wineries in the Livermore Valley were the first to bottle  Chardonnay, and nearly 80% of the state’s Chardonnay vines find their genetic roots in the region.Wine lover’s seeking a respite from the busy wine trails in Napa and Sonoma will find excellent Chardonnay, Petit Sirah, and Cabernet Sauvignon in the Livermore Valley.

Look for the wine from: Concannon Vineyard, The Steven Kent Winery, Murrieta’s Well and Wente Vineyards Estate Winery.



Yup, Maryland.

Better known for blue crabs and other seafood, Maryland is emerging as a serious location for wine. It’s home to 70 wineries and grows each year.  Varieties like Albarino, Syrah and Cabernet Franc are thriving in the state.

Look for wines from: the state’s oldest winery Boordy Vineyards, Black Ankle Vineyards,and newcomer Old Westminster Winery.

These lesser-known regions may not have the name recognition or caché as larger regions but the winemakers are every bit as committed to making world-class wines. As always… drink what you like with people you like!