George Washington with his whiskey and Sam Adams with his Boston beer set great traditions on the East Coast hundreds of years ago, but in the last 50 years, California's "Crush" season has stolen all the beverage-industry harvest headlines.
However, that doesn't mean that an East Coaster wanting a fun, tipsy weekend needs to book a ticket out West. Though they may not get as much national attention, East Coast tasting trails from the Canada border all the way to North Carolina, provide an unpretentious, easily accessible wine country experience.
Niagara Wine Trail
Thanks to its ice wine and a certain famous water feature nearby, the Niagara wine region is one of the area's most famous and quite diverse in its non-wine agri-tourism offerings. The Niagara Wine Trail is a collection of about a dozen wineries, all located between the Niagara Escarpment and Lake Ontario, with tasting facilities ranging from stately manor homes to classic red barns. Homestead farms, orchards, inns, and berry patches are along the trail, though not officially "part" of it. Niagara's harvest season begins the last weekend in September. (Photos courtesy of Niagara Wine Trail)
All rolling hills, quaint farmhouses, and picturesque pastures, the Hudson Valley is lovely in a peaceful, understated way. It's an easy drive from New York City, and seems to be in an altogether different dimension — one where everyone goes to bed by 10 p.m. and the strongest thing anyone drinks is sweet wine. First-time visitors may be surprised by how developed for wine production and tourism this region actually is. It claims the distinction of being the first region in the United States to grow grapes, with one vineyard tracing its (literal) roots back to 1677. There are multiple trails, but the Shawangunk Wine Trail, with 11 member wineries and a fun, well-organized event schedule, may offer the best route to start exploring the region. For those who enjoy rural festivities, the next event is Wreath Fineries at the Wineries, November 20, 2011. (Photos courtesy of Shawangunk Wine Trail)