Photo Credit: Angela Llop

There’s no doubt about it: Vineyards are incredibly popular tourist attractions. Where they were once considered afterthoughts for those who were looking for last minute ways to kill a little time, today’s vineyards are sought out specifically by oenophiles and other wine lovers with great enthusiasm. Grapes can be grown in a surprising number of different climates, so it’s easy to find local vineyards to tour in seemingly unusual places. Thanks to the widespread availability of vineyards across the United States, they can be incorporated into just about any kind of vacation or excursion imaginable.

Choosing the right area of the country to visit during a wine country vacation can be tricky. It’s important to keep in mind that they can be found in several different parts of the country. From Santa Fe to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, vineyards have sprouted up in a number of offbeat places. In fact, the best thing to do is to select a region first – then research where its very best vineyards are located. In this way, everyone in the traveling group gets to enjoy something that they like – and the oenophiles do, too.

Serious wine lovers can easily plan trips from one end of the country to the other, in which they can sample the many unique wines of a number of different regions. It’s amazing what a difference a little bit of geography can make in terms of the flavor and quality of wines that are available. Along the way, it’s fun to learn about the different customs and traditions of winemakers around the country. Consider one of these key places to kick-start your wine country excursion plans:

Santa Fe Vineyards – Santa Fe, New Mexico

With its state of the art wine tasting room and the eclectic labels that it uses for its bottled wines, the Santa Fe Vineyards as an excellent place to include during any foray into the Southwest United States. This small, cozy vineyard is the perfect place for people to visit when they want to learn more about winemaking in general – and to get a feel for what regional wines are like. You don’t have to worry about leaving empty handed, either, since plenty of bottles are always available for sale.

Lakeridge Winery – Orlando, Florida

Without a doubt, most of the adults who visit the Orlando area with kids in tow eventually reach a breaking point, when they need to get out and enjoy some adult-oriented activities. A stop at the nearby Lakeridge Winery, then, is always a great option. Tours and tasting sessions are available in abundance here, making it a snap to include a visit on virtually any Orlando vacation. The 127-acre estate itself is sumptuous and stunning, allowing visitors to immerse themselves in the grandeur of what was once the central part of Florida’s grape-growing region.

Orfila Vineyards and Winery – San Diego, California

By taking a thirty minute drive north of San Diego proper, travelers can enter the San Pasqual Valley and stop in at the Orfila Vineyards and Winery. This boutique winery has won numerous awards through the years and is one of the top-rated wineries and vineyards in this part of California. Many other vineyards dot the region north of San Diego, making it prime wine country and a wonderful addition to any California vacation. Cool coastal breezes lend these vineyards an unique and very pleasant atmosphere, and their proximity to the Pacific Ocean make them stand out among many other vineyards across the United States. Oenophiles won’t be able to get enough of the delicious wines here, and will probably have to bring home their own bottle!

Simon Creek Vineyard and Winery – Lake Michigan Region, Wisconsin

The Lake Michigan region of Wisconsin is incredibly picturesque, and Door County – which sits on a peninsula that juts out into the Great Lake – is one of the premier Lake Michigan regions in the state. In addition to offering many prime outdoors activities, Door County boasts several great vineyards. If you’ll be in the area, stop in at the Simon Creek Vineyard and Winery to sample some amazing examples of local wine. Free tours of the facilities are available, and wine tastings are a regular event. Be sure not to miss out on the amazing Merlot that is bottled here.

Threefold Vine Winery – Upper Peninsula, Michigan

Michigan’s Upper Peninsula – or UP – is a world unto itself. Vacationing there is a truly unforgettable experience, and if you’ll be in the south central part of the peninsula you can sample some of the efforts of the region’s local vineyards. The Threefold Vine Winery in Garden, Michigan is a prime example of the topnotch establishments that can be found in this scenic part of the state. The vineyard has produced many award-winning wines, and regular tours are available for anyone who is interested in learning more.

Smoky Mountain Winery – Gatlinburg, Tennessee

With all of the hullabaloo and family-oriented activities, it may surprise some that Gatlinburg actually has its very own wine making region. Indeed, this section of Tennessee does produce its own wines and they can be sampled over at the Smoky Mountain Winery in Gatlinburg. Since 1981, this winery has been producing some of the very best wines in the area. Set against the scenic backdrop of the Smoky Mountains, a visit to the Smoky Mountain Winery is one that you won’t soon forget – and your taste buds will thank you for it, too.