No matter where you happen to be in the United States chances are good that there is a wine trail near you. Almost every state in the union now has at least one wine trail, but this was certainly not always the case. New York’s Cayuga Lake Wine Trail, which claims bragging rights as America’s first organized and longest running wine trail, was established in 1983, when four wineries joined forces to discuss common goals and come up with creative tactics to attract new customers. Today the Cayuga Wine Trail includes some 16 wineries along its route as well as a handful of cideries, four distilleries, and a meadery.
On its current website, America’s Wine Trails (an LLC partnership) lists 289 wine trails across the US, and there are scores of others not affiliated with this company. Wine trail organizations are generally formed when a group of wineries bands together to share ideas, time and resources. Many wine trails receive funding from outside sources: the Southeast Nebraska Winery Trails Association, for example, receives funds from the Nebraska Department of Economic Development administered by the Nebraska rural Development Commission; the Heart of Iowa Wine Trail lists 22 local companies that help support, and the Yadkin Valley Wine Trail of North Carolina is backed by a variety of organization, including a number of chambers of commerce and convention and visitors bureaus.
California, not surprisingly, has the greatest number of wine trails in the nation--some fifty of them at America’s Wine Trails’ last count--sprinkled along the length and breadth of the state from the Oregon border down to Tijuana. By contrast, Mississippi, with only 3 wineries, does not yet seem to have a wine trail listed with America’s Wine Trails, nor do Nevada and Mississippi, with three wineries each. Some wine trails meander through more than one state. Case in point is the Nuevo Spanish Wine Trail, which extends through five states (Arizona, Texas, California, Oregon and Washington). The Coastal Wine Trail, with fourteen wineries, runs through southeast New England including Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut.
Many wine trails offer one version or another of “passports” to the various member wineries, which give visitors access to various tastings (barrel tastings, for example), discounts, raffles and the like. They also highlight special events taking place at wineries along the trail. If you happen to be in Pennsylvania on the 11th or 12th of February and are looking for a winery event with a romantic theme you might head on over to the Lehigh Valley Wine Trail. Stop in at the Galen Glen Winery, where author Autumn Jordan will be signing her latest romance novel “Perfect Hearts” (and while you’re there, be sure to taste Galen Glen’s Grüner Veltliner and/or Cabernet Franc).
Should you find yourself in Kansas in March, head south of Topeka for a tasting of wine, cheese and Irish Whiskey at Crooked Post Winery. Crooked Post is on the Glacial Hills Wine Trail, which got the name from the unique terroir that was created when the glaciers gravitated northward.
Don’t wait too long to sign up for the Vines and Wines Trail’s "Wine N Bloom" in northeastern Ohio, for this popular event fills up every year. As always, it will take place on the first two Fridays and Saturdays in May (this year May 5-6 and 12-13, from noon to 6). At each stop along the self-drive route participants will be treated to appetizers and wine, as well as to a flowering spring bloom to plant in their own garden.
If you’re a Civil War buff as well as a wine lover, you’ll want to make your way to the Antietam Highlands Wine Trail, which includes several Civil War battlefields as well as 8 wineries. (Don’t miss the high-end wines at Knob Hall and Big Cork.) And if you’re still in Maryland on St. Patrick’s Day check out Perigeaux Vineyards on the Pautuxet Wine Trail, which meanders along a spit of land between the Pautuxet River and the Chesapeake Bay. Perigeaux will be celebrating St. Paddy with corned beef, cabbage, soda bread, and wine, of course, plus live music.
Wine and chocolate tastings are popular in any season up and down the country’s wine trails, but especially around Valentines Day. Washington’s scenic Olympic Peninsula Wine Trail is offering a Wine, Cider and Chocolate tour over two weekends (February 11 & 12, and 19 & 20, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.) On the other coast, you and your Honey can celebrate New Jersey’s Wine and Chocolate Wine Trail Weekend on February 11 and 12. In Texas, you could head over to the Bluebonnet Wine Trail’s Wine and Chocolate tastings the second weekend in February.
Don’t like chocolate with your wine? I’m not much of a fan myself. If cheese is more your style, the Wine & Cheese Lovers’ Getaway might be just the thing to please your palate. You’ll visit the wineries along the Keuka Lake Wine Trail in the Finger Lakes February 18 & 19 sampling wines and savoring cheese-centric foods such as tomato soup with grilled cheese sandwiches, and cheese tortellini with vodka sauce.
Meanwhile, back where it all began, the Cayuga Lake Wine Trail will be plenty busy the rest of this year with events such as the Annual Wine & Herb Festival, Mardi Gras, and the 3rd annual Bacon on the Lakein. No, that’s not a typo. On March 18 & 19, visitors will be able to taste a special bacon-infused dish participating winery along the trail. Past offerings have included bacon and jalapeno cornbread; bacon sriracha potato salad; onion, balsamic and bacon jam; bacon wrapped bananas; and bacon meatballs with maple chili sauce. Recipes are included but you’d better make those reservations before tickets to the popular bacon blitz sell out.