Have you ever noticed how wine is made in the most beautiful places?
Shut your eyes and picture rows and rows of vines rolling across a hillside, stretching across a mountain ridge and nestled on a valley floor. Now picture the Golden Gate Bridge. Yes, wine is made near there, too.
For this story, we scoured the entire United States, simply looking at wine destinations. We wanted to find three spots that may not readily come to mind, but three definite stunning locations. We found what we were looking for in Traverse City, Michigan; San Francisco, California; and Loudoun County, Virginia. These three locations are more than just pretty faces – they are the perfect places to tour, taste and so much more.
So grab your glasses, your binoculars, your camera and a bottle of wine, and come along.
Traverse City, Michigan
At the foot of Lake Michigan’s Grand Traverse Bay, Traverse City, Michigan, has long been acclaimed for its sugar sand beaches, vibrant blue waters and breathtaking scenery. Whether you are in search of a stimulating culinary or wine experience, charming boutiques and shops, or extraordinary outdoor beauty, we think you can call a trip to Traverse City a win.
Traverse City wine country lies north of town on Leelanau Peninsula and Old Mission Peninsula. Both peninsulas have produced classic European vinifera vines for 40 years, resulting in many acclaimed wines like Riesling, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir. On Leelanau Peninsula, you’ll find 25 wineries and many local restaurants dotted along its 120-kilometer strip of Lake Michigan shoreline. But even more impressive than its wineries and tasting rooms are the peninsula’s jaw-dropping views. A drive down the shoreline frames excellent views of rolling landscapes against crystal blue water. A must-see on Leelanau Peninsula is the renowned Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, with a 103-kilometer curve of sweeping vistas, freshwater beaches and an abundance of hiking trails.
If you’re looking to relax, we suggest a peaceful drive along Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive. The Old Mission Peninsula, on the other hand, offers eight distinctive wineries, paired with amazing views of Grand Traverse Bay. The wineries are only eight kilometers apart. Old Mission Peninsula’s flat shoreline (and a few steep hills) is ideal for cycling, and you’ll feel rewarded by its excellent views of the bays and vineyards. If you’re lucky enough to visit Old Mission Peninsula in the summer, be sure to end your day with a refreshing swim at Haserot Beach.
Great spot to watch the sunset: Glen Haven Beach at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
Old Mission Peninsula in Traverse City wine country
San Francisco Bay Area, California
The San Francisco Bay Area may be overshadowed as a wine destination by nearby Napa Valley, but it still turns out a trove of exciting wine experiences.
It may come as a surprise that we’re naming the San Francisco Bay Area as our second pick, but this area has been churning out a trove of exciting wineries, tasting rooms and wine bars for quite some time. With dramatic bridges and beautiful architecture, we think San Francisco has earned its spot on our stunning wine destinations list.
There’s something for everyone in San Francisco. If you’re looking for outdoor adventure, book a cycling tour – where you’ll be able to get a glimpse of the city’s best views – or take a ferry to visit beautiful Angel Island State Park. In the heart of downtown, you’ll find the Palace Hotel, a San Francisco icon that greets you with stunning Austrian crystal chandeliers, Italian marble and baroque stained glass. The hotel has three great restaurants and an indoor pool and is perfectly located at the Gateway to Wine Country.
A tasting favorite is Rosenblum Cellars in Jack London Square across the San Francisco Bay in Oakland, adjacent to the Oakland Ferry Terminal. Rosenblum Cellars is one of California’s top producers of Zinfandel and Rhône-style wines. We think you’ll love the cellar’s atmosphere, with concrete floors, wood and steel furnishings, and an overall contemporary, rustic vibe.
Another favorite San Francisco gem is Treasure Island – a former naval base that has now become a venue for music festivals, markets and budding local wineries. Treasure Island has 14 wineries, all with an industrial ambiance and incredible views of the San Francisco Bay. Here you’ll find exciting wines grown from nearby vineyards in Marin County, Napa and Sonoma. Known as The Festival of the Bay, the Treasure Island Flea hosts fun events the last weekend of every month. You’ll find food trucks; live music; local craft beers, spirits and wine; and vendors selling original artwork, antiques and vintage apparel. The Flea also has a kid zone filled with fun activities. With so much to do, San Francisco deserves to be seen again and again.
Great spot to watch the sunset: Twin Peaks
Beautiful views of San Francisco
Loudoun County, Virginia
Loudoun County in Northern Virginia features rolling hills, winding roads, and exquisite wineries.
When we think of Loudoun County, Virginia, gorgeous, rolling hills and winding roads come to mind. With historic estates, horse farms and many recreation and tasting opportunities, Loudoun County is an ideal getaway. Located about 70 kilometers from the heart of Washington, D.C., this picturesque wine country will make you want to pack a bag and stay awhile.
For those who are counting, Loudoun County has 40 wineries and tasting rooms. The county makes it easy for you to find them all by grouping them into six clusters – Loudoun Heights, Waterford, Potomac, Mosby, Harmony, and Snicker’s Gap. Spending a day in each cluster is the best way to get to know Loudoun’s vineyards, winemakers and beautiful countryside. The Loudoun tourism office has come up with some fun and innovative itineraries for you to try. You can expect to taste Chardonnays, Cabernet Francs, Cabernet Sauvignons, Chambourcins, Merlots, Viogniers and Nortons (from a native Virginia grape).
Two itinerary favorites are “Architecture and Wine” and “Wine with a View,” both covering breathtaking vineyards. What’s more, the office offers “Civil War in a Day” to help you experience Loudoun County’s rich history. You’ll be guided through numerous historic grounds, like beautiful Morven Park – an estate with a mansion, a carriage house museum and 405 hectares of fields and gardens. The area is also known for its imaginative cuisine, using local, organic ingredients for a variety of culinary options from seafood to farm-to-table American.
Loudoun County welcomes outdoor recreation lovers with open arms, so don’t hesitate to bring along your family. We recommend hiking on the world-famous Appalachian Trail or biking or horseback riding on the Washington & Old Dominion Trail. If you’re seeking a little more adventure, try whitewater rafting on the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers. No matter what itinerary you choose, we know you’ll love the looks of Loudoun County.
Great spot to watch the sunset: Breaux Vineyards
Experience an outdoor wine tasting