Support your local wine region, even if you don’t care for the wines, the experience can be fun and you will be supporting a local business. Since wine is made in every state now, a visit to “wine country” doesn’t require a plane ticket. If you’re lucky enough to live near the vibrant wine regions of Virginia, Maryland, the Texas Hill Country, Michigan’s Old Mission and Leelanau peninsulas and, of course, New York’s Finger Lakes and Long Island, wine country is just a day trip away. Don’t neglect urban wineries either: What they lack in views they make up for in vibe.
The pandemic has changed the winery experience dramatically. More wineries are charging for tastings and requiring appointments. (To be sure, the pandemic may have accelerated, rather than caused, this shift.) So a visit to wine country — even the one near you — involves planning and a budget. (Pro tip: Check the websites of local winery associations for travel info as well as lists of wineries and their hours.)
When you do go, try to break away from the touristy faux chateaux and Tuscan-style vanity wineries, and seek out some mom-and-pops. Explore the Lompoc Wine Ghetto in an out-of-the-way industrial park in Santa Barbara County, or the newer (opened in 2021) Bacchus Landing in Sonoma County’s Healdsburg. In such places you can find artisans without the glitz and glam, just an intense focus on the quality of their wine.