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10 Under-the-Radar North American Wine Regions You Need to Visit

While we love Napa and Sonoma, there are many other wine regions to visit without leaving the continent that are just as beautiful. From British Columbia to North Carolina, these less crowded, more adventurous destinations allow you the chance to discover new wines in a more intimate setting, many of which you won’t be able to find back home. Explore the accompanying scenic landscape and chow down on great food for a multi-faceted experience of terroir. Here’s our guide so that everyone, even the designated driver, can have fun.Amber Gibson

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Finger Lakes, New York

Fly into Syracuse to explore the 11 pristine lakes and more than 120 wineries here. The cool climate is famous for aromatic riesling and Gewürztraminer although Fulkerson Winery, Bloomer Creek Vineyard and Heart & Hands Wine Company are also producing great cabernet franc and pinot noir. Tasting appointments are not needed, but you’ll want to book ahead for the Water to Wine tour, a wine-centered cruise around Cayuga Lake. Glenora Wine Cellars is the oldest winery on Seneca Lake, opened in 1977, and the 30-room inn attached is a quaint place to stay. Non-drinkers can try glassblowing at the Corning Museum of Glass, home to the world’s largest collection of glass art, before chowing down on fried chicken, ginger-crusted salmon, and vegetarian curry at Kindred Fare.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s The Finger Lakes Guide

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Guadalupe Valley, Mexico

Follow bumpy dirt roads to find gourmet restaurants, more than 50 new and old wineries, and charming bed and breakfasts in Mexico’s premier wine region. Begin your journey at the Vine & Wine Museum in the heart of the valley to learn about Baja California’s wine culture and viticulture history before visiting L.A. Cetto, one of Mexico’s oldest and most respected wineries and the largest producer in the country. Stop at new sustainable winery Clos de Tres Cantos followed by Adobe Guadalupe for a horseback ride through the vineyards. Have an elegant dinner at Laja or grab a casual bite at Troika, a food truck found just outside Vena Cava winery before retiring to an eco-friendly modern bungalow at Encuentro Guadalupe.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Valle de Guadalupe Guide

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This new wine region just an hour’s drive from Montreal has two primary wine routes: Route des vins de Brome-Missisquoi with more than 20 vineyards, and the smaller Route des vins de l’Estrie comprising seven vineyards. Domaine des Côtes d’Ardoise was the first winery to open here in 1980 and a wonderful place to taste red wine made from hybrid Maréchal Foch, De Chaunac and Chelois grapes while taking a stroll along the flowered paths and sculpture gardens. Visit Vignoble de l’Orpailleur, the largest winery in Québec, for award-winning ice wine along with Vignoble Le Cep d’Argent for sparkling wine and Vignoble Les Pervenches for organic chardonnay. Along with great wine, the region also makes ice cider and fire cider from its bounty of apples. Retire to Manoir Hovey, the only Relais & Châteaux property around, and dine at Le Hatley, where they make their own birch syrup and forage for wild mushrooms and herbs on property.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s The Eastern Townships Guide
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Yadkin Valley, North Carolina

North Carolina has historically been best known for producing tobacco, but many former tobacco farmers have turned to growing grapes. There are now more than 160 wineries in the state, mostly concentrated in the Yadkin Valley, 90 minutes northwest of Charlotte. Shelton Vineyards is the original and largest winery, while many smaller wineries shine with esoteric grape varietals. Jones von Drehle has an excellent Petit Manseng while JOLO makes an award-winning Chambourcin rosé and red wine lovers will enjoy McRitchie’s Ring of Fire blend. Stay at JOLO’s one-room guest house or the Victorian-style The Belle House bed and breakfast.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s The North Carolina Mountains Guide

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Santa Barbara, California

The humility and pure passion of winemakers here is a far cry from the uptight tasting rooms and manicured feel of Napa Valley. Life here is still bucolic, romantic, and uncomplicated. Sample flights of award-winning estate-grown wines from Dierberg and Star Lane Vineyard at their joint tasting room in the Santa Rita Hills. Then try the Rhône-style wines at Qupé; their elegantly spicy syrah is a favorite. Stay at the enchanting Spanish Colonial–style Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara, opened in 1927, and you’ll get to dine on fresh, local seafood at members-only Tydes Restaurant, where you can also enjoy a drink at the country’s only live-coral aquarium bar.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Santa Barbara and the Central Coast Guide

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Okanagan Valley, British Columbia

The 164 wineries in the vast Okanagan Valley plant everything from merlot and pinot gris to cabernet franc and Gewürztraminer. Several wineries, including Burrowing Owl and Quails’ Gate have guest rooms and farm-to-table restaurants on site. You’ll want to check out Nk’Mip Cellars, North America’s first Aboriginal-owned winery, as well as Platinum Bench Estate Winery, which doubles as an artisan breadmaker and sells local cheese and charcuterie for an indulgent picnic spread. Wine and dine while cruising the South Okanagan region on electric bikes with Heatstroke Cycle; the silent hub motor will propel you comfortably up hills and through winds. Or take to the lakes on a stand-up paddleboarding wine tasting with 3 Phase Adventures. Most visitors fly to Kelowna, but you can also take a one-day wine tour directly from downtown Vancouver with Sky Helicopters.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Okanagan Wine Country Guide

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San Luis Obispo, California

This coastal mountain region has an unhurried, beachy lifestyle and is known for producing some of California’s finest pinot noir and chardonnay just five miles from the Pacific Ocean. With fewer than three dozen wineries, the community retains an intimate nature with an emphasis on sustainable viticulture. Chamisal was the first winery to plant vines in Edna Valley in 1973, and is still one of the best, renowned for their crisp, tropical stainless steel chardonnay. Visit Talley Vineyards and Niven Family Wine Estates to try their latest True Myth chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon before dinner at The Spoon Trade or Mason Bar. Stay at the recently remodeled Inn at the Cove in Pismo Beach for great ocean views or the winery guesthouse at Claiborne & Churchill.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Central Coast Guide

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Willamette Valley, Oregon

Willamette Valley might be the most recognized region on this list. Pinot noir is the name of the game in this cool climate, which is often compared to Burgundy. While the grape is used predominantly to make red wine, Soter Vineyards also makes an excellent brut rosé in the traditional Champagne method. Oregon is at the forefront of biodynamic farming; Bergström and Left Coast Cellars are great examples. Several wineries, including Adelsheim and Left Coast Cellars are making a less common but crisp and food-friendly pinot blanc too, which pairs wonderfully with the wood-fired pizza served at Left Coast Cellars. The Allison Inn & Spa is easily the loveliest place to stay and the only upscale destination resort around. Try the signature mimosa massage at their full-service spa to start the morning and end your day of wine tasting with an interactive dinner at JORY Restaurant’s chef’s counter.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Willamette Valley Guide

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Grand Valley, Colorado

The red rock valleys and mesas here are home to more than 20 wineries and vineyards. At growing elevations of up to 7,000 feet, these are among the highest vineyards in the world, with hot days and cool nights. There are no tasting fees here, so visit Canyon Wind Cellars for their great Bordeaux varietals, Colterris for a remarkable rosé, and Red Fox Cellars for a whiskey barrel–aged Bordeaux blend. There are also many local orchards, ranches, and an organic lavender farm to continue the agricultural exploration. Enjoy the famous peaches at the annual Palisade Peach Festival in August and see how alpaca fibers are spun into yarn at SunCrest Orchard Alpacas. Wine Country Inn is a conveniently located home base for your Grand Valley adventures.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Steamboat Springs and Northwest Colorado Guide

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Lodi, California

It's hard not to feel immediately at home in Lodi’s boutique family-owned wineries. The AVA produces more than 40 percent of California’s premium zinfandel, with many low-yielding old vines still planted on their own roots. First-time visitors should be sure to visit Lucas Winery, one of Lodi’s first wineries, along with Oak Farm Vineyards and Michael David Winery, where you can also have lunch at their rustic farm café. Try the chicken tortilla soup and homemade pies filled with fruit from the family’s own garden. Adventurers can get their heart rates up by skydiving or kayking on Lodi Lake Park then fall into a plush, oversized bed at Wine & Roses. This former country farm estate is now a charming boutique hotel, with a great restaurant and spa.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Lodi Guide