Wine is made in many of the world’s most beautiful places, and it’s likely that the romance of a “winery wedding” has crept into most couples’ planning at some point. Now that all 50 states ferment grapes, the options to say “I do” in wine country are greater than ever. Though Napa and Long Island may be among the first to come to mind, why not consider a destination wedding in one of these scenic alternatives?
Long famous for its Icewine, Niagara is at its best during summer and fall. At its fertile zenith, this swath of farmland and vineyards turns brilliant green, its vines heavy with grapes, amid weather that stays refreshing due to the moderating influence of Lake Ontario.
Icewine has its place at the table, but nearly 100 wineries turn out variations on cool-climate wines from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir to Riesling. Ravine Winery, Cave Spring and Vineland Estates Winery all host weddings, while several more offer farm-to-table hospitality for pre- or post-ceremony tastings and lunches.
The charming village of Niagara-on-the-Lake provides an optimal base for wedding activities. It’s perfect for lodging, rehearsal dinners (try Treadwell) and day-after brunches. The town, tucked along the shore of Lake Ontario at the mouth of the Niagara River, is also only a 15-minute drive from the famed Niagara Falls and perfect for honeymoons. The area comes alive during summer when 19th-century homes restored into B&Bs welcome Torontonians who seek to escape the city.
Snake River, Idaho
Boise might not have the sexy ring to it that Napa has, but that’s all the more reason to consider Southern Idaho for a wine country wedding. The thriving state capital has a robust urban winery trail to entertain guests before you head out into the vines.
Conveniently, most wineries of the Snake River Valley American Viticultural Area (AVA) are just 40 minutes from downtown. That proximity allows for either a weekend getaway or a late-afternoon ceremony, followed by a reception back in the city. The high mountain desert landscape provides perfect pink skies for sunset photos, while its location in the rain shadow of the Cascades means brides needn’t worry about a big day washout.
Wineries hosting weddings include Sawtooth, famous for Tempranillo and Syrah, as well as one of the region’s oldest properties, Ste. Chapelle. Fans of big reds, not unlike those of eastern Washington’s Walla Walla AVA, will find affordable cousins in Idaho.
The father of American wine connoisseurship, Thomas Jefferson, tried for years to make drinkable wine at Monticello. He didn’t succeed, but his legacy serves as the foundation for the Virginia’s vibrant wine industry. A short drive outside of the historic downtown yields miles of bucolic farmland, rolling hills delineated by white picket fences, horses that graze on green grass, and, of course, gorgeous vineyards. Wineries that host weddings include Early Mountain, Keswick, Veritas and King Family.
Being a college town, historic inns, B&Bs, resorts and hotels abound here. There’s an option for every budget. Wines run the gamut from Viognier and Chardonnay for whites, to Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Pinot Noir for reds. While it’s easy to spend an entire weekend in the countryside, don’t miss the chance to walk the Lawn at the University of Virginia at dusk, backlit by the school’s glowing Rotunda. Jefferson’s architectural masterpiece has been recognized as a national historic landmark and UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Anderson Valley, California
About an hour north of Sonoma sits this beautiful valley of redwoods and vineyards. Of course, the distance from San Francisco and a minor mountain pass help retain its rustic charm. The result is a throwback to California’s early wine country days. Due to a lack of large-scale accommodation, small weddings work best here. But the Mendocino Coast, heart-stopping in its foggy morning beauty and dramatic cliffs, offers more options for overflow.
The Boonville Hotel will rent out its entire property and handle meals for weddings. Toward Philo, the Mediterranean enclave of The Madrones does small weddings and boasts pretty guest rooms and a restaurant. Wineries that host vows include pet-friendly Lula Cellars and Goldeneye Winery. Fans of cool-climate Pinot Noir and Syrah, as well as white Alsatian varieties, can explore the valley’s many wineries. French Champagne house Roederer Estate, long convinced of the region’s potential for top fizz, has a great patio for sipping bubbles.
Willamette Valley, Oregon
If a destination wedding in Burgundy is a stretch, consider the Willamette Valley. For Pinot-philes and Chardonnay lovers who appreciate a relaxed country vibe and proximity to nature, the Willamette Valley can’t be beat. Of course, a cadre of Burgundian winemakers, notably Domaine Drouhin, recognized the region’s potential for fine Pinot Noir and invested decades ago, so a Francophile fix can still be had.
Wineries that host weddings include Youngberg Hill, which boasts several modern guest rooms, as well as Zenith Vineyard and Willamette Valley Vineyards. Beyond the ceremony, the valley is home to hundreds of wineries with a range of offerings, depending on your wedding weekend goals. Plus, Willamette’s proximity to Portland adds to its appeal. While the valley is fairly quiet, the main town of McMinnville has several restaurants and bars suitable for rehearsal dinners and brunches. These offer everything from farm-to-table dining and pizza to picnic fare.
Santa Barbara, California
For a Southern California affair, Santa Barbara offers a splendid mix of options. From Spanish Colonial architecture, cute wine country towns and the clutch of urban tasting rooms in the Funk Zone, there’s something for every wedding style, whether upscale elegance or bohemian chic. And, of course, several stunning properties welcome vows and receptions.
Parties both small and large should consider Presqu’ile Winery in the idyllic Santa Maria Valley. Firestone Vineyard, in the undulating hills of Santa Ynez Valley, can handle up to 200 guests. For a quaint city affair, Margerum Wine Company specializes in intimate parties. And for Old World ambiance, Sunstone Vineyards & Winery, built with salvaged materials, evokes a 19th-century Provençal lavender factory.
A big and expensive fête in a vineyard isn’t necessary to soak up Santa Barbara’s wine country ambiance. The region’s famous wines—Pinot Noir, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay—can be found in most bars and restaurants. Plus, couples can organize a day trip for guests to Los Olivos, a pretty village of 25 tasting rooms.
Newport, Rhode Island
As summer sun warms the eastern seaboard, yachts and sailboats descend on the city of åfrom well-preserved wooden buildings to Gilded Age mansions that line Bellevue Avenue. In recent years, this jewel of the coast also has added wine to its list of attributes.
While the climate in New England doesn’t lend itself to easy viticulture, several vineyards have made impressive strides. In particular, Newport Vineyards produces a range of estate wines that include French-American hybrids and classic Vitis vinifera like Pinot Gris. The winery also hosts wedding-related events, from vows in the vines, rehearsal dinners, receptions, brunches and even custom-labeled bottles. Nearby Greenvale Vineyards offers site rentals of its pastoral vineyard and farmhouse, replete with views of the Sakonnet River.