Food & Drink

America's Most Underrated Wine Regions

If you casually browse your local wine shop, you might notice a theme: most bottles come from California (but mostly Napa), Washington (but mostly Columbia Valley), New York (but mostly the Finger Lakes), or Oregon (but mostly Willamette Valley). It's easy to understand why, as those four states are the country's top wine producers.

Still, the rest of America deserves consideration for your wine cellar, or, if you're less fancy, the space on your counter next to the microwave. So we asked two pros, Geoff Kruth of GuildSomm and Stephanie Frederick of the Sommelier Society of America, to recommend a few areas in totally different states, plus some regions in the dominant states that aren't quite as obvious. Get your corkscrew primed -- a bunch of suggestions are coming your way.

Old Mission Peninsula & Leelanau Peninsula (Michigan)

Stephanie says: They’re making a lot of nice wines in Michigan. In the peninsula which borders Canada, they make some good cold-climate wines up there. As a matter of fact, Madonna’s father owns a winery up there. Ciccone [Vineyard and] Winery, which is getting a little bit of a reputation.

Geoff says: I would probably put Michigan as having some of the most interesting wines, particularly Riesling. Left Foot Charley is a great place to start.

Monticello (Virginia)

Stephanie says: Virginia’s had a wine industry there since the days of Thomas Jefferson. He was a big wine lover. But now that whole area down there, outside of Charlottesville, is a wine mecca. Donald Trump bought the winery that was founded by Patricia Kluge. She put a fortune into her winery down there and I’m pretty sure it went bankrupt, and it was acquired by Trump. His son Eric is running it now, and they produce some fantastic wine. What I like from Virginia is they make a fantastic viognier in that area, if you like that. That would be my favorite white from Virginia.

Geoff says: In Virginia, I would look at Barboursville [Vineyards]. My favorites are the nebbiolo and viognier.

Hill Country (Texas)

Stephanie says: There’s some very nice wine being made in Texas, in the Hill Country. It’s up and coming. They make a nice merlot there, and I’ve also had a couple of very good Texas sangioveses. That’s of course a Tuscan grape, and it’s not an easy grape to grow. It’s fickle, it’s got to be grown in the right places. But I've had a couple from there, that if you tasted it and didn’t know what it was, you might think it's an easy-drinking chianti. It’s kind of an old-world style as opposed to a big, super-ripe California style.

Geoff says: I would look at McPherson [Cellars], particularly their roussanne. They’re probably the best stuff coming out of Texas.

Anderson Valley (California)

Stephanie says: Napa is the one that gets the most press, even though it’s only responsible for 5% of wine produced. I like the wines up in the Anderson Valley and Mendocino, which is the nothernmost point in California where they make wine. They’re the same place, really. It’s cold-climate wine.

Columbia Gorge (Oregon)

Geoff says: In Oregon, the Columbia Gorge is the most exciting thing happening. It’s much cooler and redder. You get higher precipitation there. You can make sparkling wine, aromatic white wines, pinot noir. Analemma Wines is the place I'd recommend.

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Kristin Hunt is a staff writer for Thrillist. She's only ever been to Monticello the home, and now desperately wants to go to the wine region. Follow her at @kristin_hunt.