A trip to wine country can be romantic or relaxing, but it can also be a big drain on your wallet.
Sometimes, that's because you return home with a couple more cases of wine than you had planned for, but more often the costs of area hotels and the wine tastings themselves quickly run up the bill. (At least one Napa Valley winery charges between $30 and $45 for a tasting of just five wines.) Smart oenophiles, however, know that there are a number of other good options around the country.
The Napa and Sonoma Valleys might be world famous, but they're hardly the only region of the country that's making great wines. Looking for a getaway that's closer to home and/or doesn't carry a steep premium because of its reputation? Give one of these areas a try.
Finger Lakes, N.Y.
While Finger Lakes wines aren't the secret they once were, most wine enthusiasts don't realize exactly how good this region can be. With over 100 wineries across three lakes, this area has remained remarkably free of the tourist overrun so many other regions face. The lake views are breathtaking - and the Rieslings and Gewürztraminers are outstanding.
Paso Robles, Calif.
San Francisco visitors tend to head north to more familiar wine territory, but those who head south along the Pacific Coast Highway are rewarded with a strong collection of lesser-trodden wineries. Better still, the prices are a lot cheaper. Cabernet Sauvignon is the star, but don't overlook the Zinfandel or Merlot.
Texas Hill Country
If delicious brisket's not quite enough to entice you to visit this area outside of Austin, the wines might push you off the fence. Texas might not seem well-suited for growing grapes, but the nearly 50 wineries in the 60 mile region southwest of Austin are putting out some very impressive offerings. You'll find standards like Cabernet Sauvignon, but the real interesting work is being done with grapes like Syrah, Grenache and Tempranillo.
Smith Mountain Lake, Va.
There are a number of wineries in the Central Virginia area worth your time, but if you'd like to enjoy an especially scenic view as you explore, it's hard to top Smith Mountain Lake. The region is well suited for Viognier, Cabernet Franc and Chambourcin. There are 16 wineries in the general Roanoke area (including Smith Mountain Lake), so you won't feel rushed - and you'll be able to spend some time unwinding on the lake as well.
Columbia Valley, Wash.
Washington's largest wine region produces a number of fruit-forward offerings including Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Gris, Riesling and Merlot. The Walla Walla and Red Valley areas are the hubs, but you'll find plenty of good boutique winemakers outside of those regions who offer some unique takes on different styles.
WIllamette Valley, Ore.
Willamette Valley, Oregon - This region has become synonymous with great Pinot Noirs, so you're going to find more traffic here than you will in some of the other regions we've presented, but the wine is so good that it's worth the crowds (though, it should be noted, those masses are still much, much smaller than what you'll find in Napa/Sonoma). You've also got over 500 wineries in the 150-mile valley to explore. While Pinot Noir is, indeed, the main attraction, don't overlook the Pinot Gris while you're there. Willamette Valley is responsible for some of the best in the country.