The three western states of California, Oregon and Washington produce at least 95% of the nation's wine these days.  Most people seem to think that the only spots to taste that huge amount of wine is in the culturally relevant centers of Napa, Sonoma and Woodinville.  Maybe they think of the Willamette Valley as well.  Here’s three lesser known spots to taste some of the nation's best wine. As someone who’s been part of the best wine club on the west coast for some time….I have a bit to share:

  1. Walla Walla: Most people seem to think that the Washington wine industry is based, like much of the economy in the state just outside of Seattle, Walla Walla though in many ways anchors the wine industry in the south-eastern corner of the state. Located in what has almost always been a major agricultural hub, Walla Walla’s farmers have figured out that grapes often garner a much higher price per pound than do, say, onions. Downtown has been revitalized and whether you’re looking for walkable downtown tasting rooms, or the chance to visit those shining wineries on the hill, there’s something for every wine drinker in Walla Walla.
  2. Santa Cruz Mountains: When you think of great spots for California Pinot Noir, Santa Cruz and the mountains surrounding it, often aren’t at the top of the list for many people.  They should be though. From the early days in the California wine industry, Santa Cruz has always stood alongside Napa Valley and Sonoma in terms of producing outstanding wine. The original Judgment of Paris looked lovingly on the wines from Ridge, grown in the Santa Cruz Mountains, although that small part of history is often forgotten these days.
  3. Rogue Valley Oregon: Southern Oregon’s wine country will make you check all of your preconceptions at the door.  It’s warmer than much of California, often well over 100 degrees in the summer and you won’t find a single Pinot grape for miles.  But, this is the chance to see a wine region really doing it from the ground up.  They’re not only selling often obscure grapes (Tannat as an example) but also their entire region and section of the state as well.

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