Discover the essence of winemaking at one or more of these wineries.
By Lowell & Kaye Christie, F47246
According to Wine Business Monthly magazine, more than 5,000 wineries are located throughout the United States. They exist in all 50 states, but, because of the climate, almost half of them are in California. Here are 13 wineries that have public tours allowing a close-up look at the fascinating process of winemaking. And, of course, all of them have wine-tasting rooms.
1. Beringer Vineyards, St. Helena, California. Established in 1877, Beringer Vineyards is the oldest continuously operating winery in California’s Napa Valley. The entire winery was designated a Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places in 2001. You have a choice of three different winery tours, varying in price and length (30 minutes to 1½ hours). The tours include wine-aging caves that were dug into the hillside, where the temperature remains between 58 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit year-round (www.beringer.com).
2. Benziger Family Winery, Glen Ellen, California. At the Benziger Winery you can take a tram tour through the vineyards and check out the fermentation facility, crush pads, and barrel caves. The vineyards are certified biodynamic, which is the highest level of organic farming. Daily tours leave on the half hour starting at 11:00 a.m. (www.benziger.com).
3. Rutherford Hill, Rutherford, California. The Rutherford Hill Winery, founded in 1972, is another that uses underground caves for storing and aging wine. The tunnels, galleries, and passageways extend for nearly a mile and contain 8,000 oak barrels that age the wine at a constant 59 degrees Fahrenheit and up to 90 percent humidity. It is considered one of the most extensive wine-aging cave systems in America. Tours run three times daily, starting at 11:30 a.m. (www.rutherfordhill.com).
4. Robert Mondavi Winery, Oakville, California. This Napa Valley winery opened in 1966, and its architecture is based on the style of early California missions. Robert Mondavi was one of the first wineries to offer educational tours to the public and, by some accounts, the winery that made California wines competitive throughout the world. Many different tours are available daily (www.robertmondavi.com).
5. Stonington Vineyards, Stonington, Connecticut. Because of its proximity to the ocean, Stonington Vineyards has a long and relatively cool growing season similar to that in Bordeaux, France. The winery was constructed in 1989 and is open to the public every day. You can stroll through the vineyards and at 2:00 p.m. join a free guided tour of the winery explaining each step in the process of making wine (www.stoningtonvineyards.com).
6. Nassau Valley Vineyards, Lewes, Delaware. The Nassau Valley Vineyards is Delaware’s only farm winery, a place where grapes are grown, turned into wine, and sold at the same location. Although the vineyards were planted several years earlier, the winery didn’t begin operations until 1993. The winery is open year-round, and self-guided tours take you through five galleries that trace the history of wine through 8,000 years (www.nassauvalley.com).
7. Chateau Grand Traverse, Traverse City, Michigan. Founded in 1974, this is the oldest and largest commercial winery in northern Michigan. Climate is extremely important for growing wine grapes, and the waters of nearby Lake Michigan modify the temperature at the vineyard, allowing the growth of European varieties that normally would not survive in this area. Tours are available daily (www.cgtwines.com).
8. Renault Winery Resort, Egg Harbor City, New Jersey. Renault Winery was established more than 140 years ago and now grows 13 different types of grapes. The entire Renault site covers more than 1,500 acres, with almost 50 acres planted with grapes. Each year the winery handpicks more than 45 tons of fruit for its wines. Tours are offered daily and include a display of antique winemaking equipment, a pressing room, and a wine cellar. In addition, an antique glass museum contains priceless champagne and wine glasses dating back to medieval times (www.renaultwinery.com).
9. Pleasant Valley Winery, Hammondsport, New York. Established in 1860, the Pleasant Valley Winery has eight stone buildings that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Set in the Finger Lakes Region of New York, it claims that its Great Western Winery Visitor Center is the most comprehensive center of its kind in the world. The center contains historic exhibits, winemaking displays, a working model of the B&H Railroad, and a “Theatre-in-a-Wine-Tank” (www.pleasantvalleywine.com).
10. Chaddsford Winery, Chaddsford, Pennsylvania. Located in the Brandywine Valley in southeastern Pennsylvania, the Chaddsford Winery was founded in 1982. It is housed in a converted Colonial barn and is open to visitors year-round. The winery produces approximately 25,000 cases of wine annually, sold mostly on the East Coast. Tours are offered daily (www.chaddsford.com).
11. Newport Vineyards, Middletown, Rhode Island. Like many wine-growing areas that seem a bit too cold for vineyards to thrive, Newport Vineyards has a special microclimate created by nearby water. It is located approximately 2 miles from the ocean and the warm waters of the Atlantic gulf stream. That’s close enough to moderate the temperature, but far enough away to avoid the moisture from fog. The original plantings were made in 1977, and now the vineyards have grown to 60 acres. Two public tours are offered daily, at 1:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. (www.newportvineyards.com).
12. Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery, Woodinville, Washington. Chateau Ste. Michelle is Washington State’s oldest winery, located on 87 wooded acres 15 miles northeast of Seattle. Although this is a winery, you won’t find any vineyards on the site — the grapes are grown in other parts of Washington. During your tour you’ll visit the cellar, which includes the bottling room, the production room, and the barreling room where the wines are aged (www.ste-michelle.com).
13. Cedar Creek Winery, Cedarburg, Wisconsin. Located in a restored 1860s woolen mill, the Cedar Creek Winery was opened in 1972, first as the Newberry and later the Stone Mill Winery. In 1990, under new ownership, it became the Cedar Creek Winery. Three tours are offered daily starting at 11:30 a.m. After visitors are given a short history of the building, they go down into the cool, underground limestone cellars that provide an ideal environment for fermenting and aging wines in oak barrels (www.cedarcreekwinery.com).