There’s something about the perfect pour of wine that’s instantly relaxing, which is why wine vacations are often the best vacations. Swirl, sip, smile—you don’t to be an actual sommelier to appreciate the work and flavor behind a top-notch wine.
The best cities for wine snobs to visit, though, go beyond obvious bets like Napa Valley and Sonoma. While those California staples are packed with amazing wineries, it can be nice (and cheaper) to get off the beaten path a bit.
If you’re particular about the grapes in your glass, check out one of these four lesser-known cities for wine snobs. You won’t be disappointed.
Follow California’s coastline south from Napa and Sonoma and you’ll eventually end up in the chic beach town of Santa Barbara, which is home to the Funk Zone—a fun, sunny area packed with over twenty welcoming tasting rooms. The region is one of the most diverse for wines thanks to its many microclimates, while the relaxing atmosphere is a nice contrast to some stuffier wineries. The Funk Zone, as the name suggests, has artistic roots; you’ll find plenty of boutiques, murals and amazing beach views during your visit as well. If you’re feeling indecisive about which wineries to prioritize, definitely swing by the Santa Barbara Wine Collective, but you can also use the city’s Urban Wine Trail as a guide.
If you love Pinot Noir (and who doesn’t?), you’ll love Portland’s wine scene. Portland’s downtown area may be best known for Powell’s books and VooDoo Donuts, but it’s less than an hour drive to the Willamette Valley, where grapes are king. The region has hundreds of wineries dropped on top of beautiful, rolling landscapes. Numerous wine tours leave from downtown hotels or locations nearby; one picks up blocks from luxury hotel The Nines, for instance. When it comes to the best cities for wine snobs, the Pacific Northwest is where it’s at.
We can’t totally ignore East Coast winos, though. While many will say New York has some of the best wine regions on this side of the country, the South isn’t to be forgotten. President Thomas Jefferson first planted grapes in Charlottesville, Virginia during his presidency—a trendsetting move in hindsight. The region now has over 300 wineries, including Michael Shaps Wineworks, named the 36th best winery in America by The Daily Meal. That makes it ones the highest ranked stops not based in California, Oregon or Washington. For folks who prefer organized tours, one four-stop wine tour picks up at the Omni Hotel, Homewood Suites Charlottesville, and Residence Inn Charlottesville, making it quite convenient for out-of-town wine snobs.
Out-of-towners may not think of wine when they think of Texas, but true wine snobs know the truth. The small town of Fredericksburg is the highlight of Texas Hill Country, housing nearly half of the region’s wineries. Inwood Estates Vineyards is a must-see, as it was ranked in the top 50 for domestic wineries last year and is run by a pioneering winemaker named Dan Gatlin—an early commercial planter of a grape called Tempranillo. A Texas town with German influence, the vibe of Fredericksburg couldn’t be further from that of Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone. And yet, they’re both highly desirable cities for wine snobs. Because once again, it’s all about the grape.