When you think of wine, you probably think of France and Italy, or maybe Spain, Portugal, New Zealand or Chile. But there are wonderful wine regions in Canada and the United States too!
If you’re planning a trip to North America, and you’re interested in doing some tasting, here’s a select wine list to choose from.
Wine Regions in the USA and Canada: Cheers to North American Wine!
📌 Ontario, Canada
Home of the three natural wonders that comprise the magnificent Niagara Falls, the Niagara region is one of the two primary wine-growing regions in Canada and is known for its unique Icewine.
The grapes are hand-picked in winter after temperatures have been sustained at -8°C (17.6°F), and they’re pressed quickly before they thaw. The result is a wine that is high in sugar and acid and highly concentrated with rich flavors that pair deliciously with desserts and chocolate.
Viticulture is relatively new to Canada compared to some other countries, with the first commercial winery opening in 1866. But wine production there is thriving, with a focus on cultivating Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Franc, though you will also find other whites and a range of reds including the big and earthy Baco Noir that is rarely grown outside of Ontario.
You can visit the tasting rooms on one of the tours of Niagara Falls or take off on your own, perhaps on a scenic cycling trip through the region’s lush vineyards and dozens of boutique wineries.
A number of airlines worldwide offer direct flights to Ontario’s provincial capital of Toronto, and from there it’s an easy 116 km (72 mile) drive or train ride to Niagara Falls. You can fill your other time rafting, hiking, or golfing by day and hitting the many restaurants and pubs by night.
📌 British Columbia, Canada
On the other side of the country is Canada’s second-largest wine region, with 185 wineries spread across the Okanagan Valley within four official sub-regions, each with its own distinct soil and climate lending individual characteristics to its grapes.
The wineries feature a broad range of varieties including Merlot, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Riesling, and the aromatic and sweet Gewürztraminer.
In the central part of the province and about 297 km (185 miles) from Vancouver, the Okanagan Valley is surrounded by coastal mountains to the west and the Rocky Mountains to the east.
As a vacation spot, it offers skiing in the winter and hundreds of miles of lakeside beaches for summer activities. There are daily flights to the local airport from major Canadian and some US cities.
Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley
📌 California, USA
A beautiful 96 km (60 mile) drive north of San Francisco, this is the famed American wine country. While adjacent to each other and often spoken of together, Napa and Sonoma have two entirely different personalities.
The Napa Valley is just about 8 km (5 miles) at its widest point and runs north for thirty miles, with the city of Napa in the south, the town of Calistoga at its northern end, and the towns of Yountville and St. Helena between them. In general, the Napa Valley is pricier than Sonoma, with a reputation for being a bit snooty.
It’s home to many upscale restaurants, including chef Thomas Keller’s Michelin three-star rated French Laundry. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Chardonnay are considered among the best of Napa’s wines, and in keeping with its reputation, the wine tastings can cost up to $50 US and most tasting rooms require reservations.
The Sonoma Valley is about twice the size of its Napa Valley neighbor to the east, is more spread out, and definitely more laid-back. It runs from the city of Sonoma in the south to the cities of Santa Rosa and Healdsburg.
Among the more popular destinations are also a number of very small towns with family-owned wineries that are fun to visit. Among Sonoma’s most highly rated wines are Pinot Noir, Cabernet, Chardonnay, and Zinfandel.
Average wine tastings are $15-25 US (which is much more affordable than Napa) though some smaller wineries offer tastings at no charge or will waive the fee if you buy a bottle.
Both regions have many great choices for lodging and dining, and non-wine related activities on offer include hot air ballooning, cycling, art walks, and plenty of shops, boutiques, and galleries to wander.
Most Canadian and US wineries can arrange shipping for you, so if you fall in love with a special wine you can enjoy it long after you get back home.