Ernest Hemingway put it best when he said, “Don’t bother with churches, government buildings or city squares. If you want to know about a culture, spend a night in its bars.” But the United States is huge, and traveling to all 50 states would be quite an undertaking. So to help you get to know the U.S. a little better, we chose our favorite wine, beer, spirits and dining destinations from coast to coast.
Alabama’s commercial alcohol production is still comparatively low, primarily due to the state’s complex liquor laws. But that hasn’t stopped its largest city, Birmingham, from becoming a world-class dining destination with an impressive drinks scene. It’s easy tof see why it’s dubbed “The Magic City,” with restaurants like Chef James Boyce’s Galley and Garden, which has over 500 wine labels to pair with its New American cuisine. Meanwhile, institutions like James Beard Award-semifinalist Atomic Bar and Lounge, with their legendary “Sex Panther” cocktail, continue to impress without losing their casual, Southern charm.
Alaskan Brewing Co. 2015 Smoked Porter; $9, 95 points. Never one to disappoint, ABC’s annual vintage-dated Smoked Porter is always a winner, delicious both upon release but also after years in the cellar. This 2015 release is still young and bold, with upfront aromas of smoked malt and campfire that are grounded by notes of dried black fruits, raisin, tobacco leaf and chocolate. The big, lush palate boasts a smooth and creamy texture, with immensely attractive flavors of malted milk balls, chocolate syrup, molasses and roasted coffee beans. Hints of s’mores and hickory-smoked bacon linger sweetly on the close. A hedonistic pleasure to enjoy now, this will only continue to gain complexity and nuance in the years, and even decade, ahead. Cellar Selection. —Lauren Buzzeo
Callaghan Vineyards 2013 Buena Suerte Red (Sonoita); $N/A, 87 points. Savory aromas of brandied cherry, cedar, licorice and vanilla open on the nose. The palate shows riper fruits in tones of raspberry and plum, with flavors of clove, oak and more vanilla. Gentle, dusty tannins lend structure to the palate, while a healthy vein of acidity keeps the fruit flavors juicy. Red cherry lingers on the finish with an undercurrent of leather. —Fiona Adams
Rock Town Four Grain Sour Mash Bourbon; $40, 89 points. This Bourbon is made with 72% corn and 9% each of wheat, rye and malted barley, then is aged for 20 months. Notes of clove, cocoa and leather wrap around an oaky core, finishing with maple sweetness. —Kara Newman
Matchbook 2016 Estate Bottled Old Head Chardonnay (Dunnigan Hills); $15, 92 points. This wine from Matchbook has been improving steadily over recent vintages and now it’s taken a big step toward more finesse and less flash. A very soothing mouthfeel and generous, but not overt, flavors make a great combination in this creamy, yummy and full-bodied wine. It has everything from toasty oak and lemon curd to mild marzipan nuances that interlace with good acidity for a balanced palate and a lingering finish. Best Buy. —Jim Gordon
The Infinite Monkey Theorem 2016 Cabernet Franc (Grand Valley); $25, 89 points. Magenta in color, aromas of blueberry and pomegranate are muddled with strawberry, white pepper and vanilla on the nose of this delightful Cabernet Franc. The palate is juicy and bright in tones of pomegranate and red cherry, tempered by white pepper, vanilla and fine grained tannins. The juicy fruit flavors pleasantly linger, leading to a second wave of white pepper on the finish. —F.A.
Two Roads Sauvignon Gose; $13, 90 points. This is a brisk and refreshing pour, with bright notes of tart white grape, lime, tart wheat and a touch of salty sea breeze. The palate follows suit, with a light body, medium carbonation and an acidic seam that complements the crisp fruit flavors. There’s a kiss of bitterness on the close, followed by more saline and lime peel characteristics that linger softly. It’s well balanced, easy to drink and wonderfully refreshing, perfect for warm-weather enjoyment. —L.B.
Dogfish Head Mixed Media Vino-esque Ale; $14, 91 points. Brewed with grape must, this is a lovely beer-wine hybrid that will appeal to cross drinkers. A clear golden-straw color, with a thin white head, the nose leads with vinous scents of white grape, sweet grass, cracker malt and yeasty spice that all carry through to the lightweight and refreshing palate. A vibrant, acidic streak is partnered with assertive yet fine carbonation, finishing bright and clean, with a hint of white pepper. —L.B.
Wicked Dolphin Spiced Rum; $20, 92 points. Honey-hued and made with 100% Florida sugar, this small-batch spiced rum offers complex aromatics: vanilla, allspice, nutmeg and a surprising lemon-peel note. That citrus note sings out on the palate, accompanied by vanilla and baking spice, leading into hotter cinnamon and black pepper. Sip or mix. —K.N.
Z. Alexander Brown 2013 Limited Release Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley); $120, 94 points. A partnership between the Delicato Family and Georgia-based country musician Zac Brown, this well-made wine shows a wealth of flavor and complexity, from dusty saddle and earth to black cherry and berry. Muscular and dense, it reveals plenty of underlying structure and grace, with a bright sprinkling of spicy pepper on the finish. Drink ideally between 2020 and 2023. Cellar Selection. —Virginie Boone
Ulupalakua NV Lokelani Sparkling Rosé Sparkling (Hawaii); $28, 87 points. Light-salmon in color, this Hawaiian sparkler surprises with ripe raspberry and white chocolate aromas. Vigorous bubbles clean up the strawberries-and-cream palate, enticing the drinker for yet another sip. Enjoy with creamy strawberry cheesecake. —Alexander Peartree
Huston 2016 Chicken Dinner White (Idaho); $16, 89 points. A blend of Riesling, Muscat Blanc and Roussanne, this shows aromas of sliced yellow and green apple, with floral and spice notes. The palate is bright and fresh, full of mango, pineapple and citrus flavors. It brings a lot of fruit forward appeal—a very fun wine. —Sean P. Sullivan
Oppidan Barrel Reserve Old Tom Gin; $30, 92 points. This is golden and bright in the glass, with warm, inviting honey, grapefruit and cinnamon aromas. The spiced palate shows oak and has an amaro-like roots-and-bark quality, finishing with tons of ginger and cinnamon on the fiery fade. Feels right for any drink made with sweet vermouth. —K.N.
Virginia Black American Whiskey; $35, 91 points. This high-rye Bourbon has a deep, tawny hue and a sweet scent that suggests raisins, dried figs and vanilla; it’s almost like an oaky Cognac. The smooth palate shows oak and vanilla, finishing long with hints of toffee, orange peel and baking spice. A collaboration between Brent Hocking (founder of DeLeón Tequila) and recording artist Drake. Sip or mix. Best Buy. —K.N.
Cedar Ridge Single Malt Whiskey; $48, 95 points.This layered sipper is full of surprises. Fragrant with fresh apple and honeysuckle, the drying palate suggests dusty cocoa, leather and vanilla midpalate, freshened by a hint of apple-blossom freshness at the core. A final smoky exhale is reminiscent of lightly peated Scotch. —K.N.
Tallgrass Brewing Co. Raspberry Jam Berliner Weiss; $13, 91 points. A new, seasonal addition to Tallgrass’s Explorer Series lineup, this raspberry-flavored Berliner Weisse is perfect for warm-weather enjoyment. Scents of tart raspberries dominate the bouquet, with supporting notes of citrus peel, fresh wheat and crisp salinity. The light-bodied palate is bright and refreshing, with lively effervescence and tangy flavors of sour raspberry, gooseberry and lime leaf. It’s well balanced and very easy to drink, and with a low alcohol level, it’s a sessionable selection that could easily become your new go-to for summer. —L.B.
Rabbit Hole London Dry Gin Kentucky Rye Barrel Finish; $36, 91 points. Look for a light straw hue and bright aroma showing white flowers and sprightly tropical fruit. The palate is lightly sweet, with delicate pineapple, lychee and ginger fading into mouthwatering lemon peel and white peppercorn. Seems ready for mixing into tropical-inspired or summery cocktails. —K.N.
Old New Orleans Cajun Spice Rum; $32, 92 points. Like it hot? Made with three-year-old amber rum, this “Cajun” rum is by far the spiciest in the category. Despite the mild aroma and initial flavor, the spice really explodes on the finish, with clove, ginger and cayenne-pepper fireworks. —K.N.
Cellardoor 2014 Blanc de Blancs Sparkling (Maine); $N/A, 81 points. A vanilla aroma explodes from the glass in this blend of Frontenac Gris and Frontenac Blanc, with additional tones of ripe yellow peach and freshly whipped cream. The palate turns sour with a searing lime note that rides over gummy peach and vanilla flavors. The bubbles are pillowy in feel while the finish brings flavors reminiscent of sour beer and sour lime candy. —F.A.
Flying Dog Fever Dream Mango Habanero IPA; $13, 89 points. A recent addition to Flying Dog’s year-round lineup after a successful run in their Brewhouse Rarities series, this innovative IPA features the surprising marriage of mango and habanero with a hop-forward ale. It sounds like it might be a jumble, but the elements work surprisingly well together, leading with bright tropical-fruit tones of mango, melon, pineapple and passion fruit that then yield to the spicy pepper, pine and rich malt flavors on the palate and through the finish. It’s a roller coaster of a drinking experience, with sweet highs and spicy lows that ride the medium-bodied mouthfeel through to the slightly bitter finish. —L.B.
UFO Apricadabra; $10, 91 points. A new spring seasonal to the UFO lineup, this unfiltered hefe is so bright, refreshing and fun, it’s hard not to like. A cloudy yellow color of liquid sunshine, scents of fresh apricot, peach and mango immediately waft from the glass. Those notes carry through to the medium-bodied palate alongside flavors of lemongrass, just-ripe banana, fresh bread and soft yeasty spice. Ample carbonation keeps the ripe fruit tones in check and results in a clean, brisk finish that leaves you ready for more. —L.B.
Dablon 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon (Lake Michigan Shore); $31, 90 points. Delightful aromas of red plum and cherry tomato float above bread dough and basil on the nose. The juicy palate brings tart cherry and more plum into the mix, with white pepper and green herb accents. This offers a light and easy mouthfeel full of vibrant acidity and structured by velvety tannins. The juicy cherry finish is utterly charming. —F.A.
Veil Caramel Flavored Vodka; $12, 93 points. Clear in the glass, this vodka offers a sweet, nutty scent. The slightly viscous palate leads with caramel sweetness and spice, winding into pleasingly a nutty finish reminiscent of pecan pie, plus a warming cinnamon-clove kick. Sip it straight or mix into dessert-style drinks. Best Buy. —K.N.
Cathead Pecan Flavored Vodka; $20, 93 points. This shows a honey hue and slightly cloudy appearance. The aroma is honeyed and rich, with a nutty hint, while the velvety palate carries a dry, walnut flavor into the clove-laced finish, showing only a trace of sweetness. Would be welcome at the dessert table or mixed into cocktails. —K.N.
Boulevard Smokestack Series Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale; $9, 91 points. Bold and intense, this brew was named for the brewery’s notoriously finicky fermenter #7, a tank they affectionately dubbed “the black sheep of our cellar family.” So naturally it had to be in that vessel that this wild brew would come together, with a sweet clementine and pink grapefruit citrus core kicked up with notes of crushed white florals and whole peppercorns. It’s creamy but clean and refreshing, finishing dry, with a soft hoppy bitterness. —L.B.
Ten Spoon Vineyard + Winery; $15, 85 points. Made in Montana with grapes from Yakima Valley, this wine shows aromas of tangerine, white peach and honeysuckle. The palate is juicy in ripe lime, fresh apricot and blossom tones, with enough acidity for balance. The finish is brief and peachy. —F.A.
What Nebraska lacks in wineries it more than makes up for in fine dining institutions with impeccable wine selections. If you find yourself in the Cornhusker State, The Boiler Room Restaurant in Omaha features an impeccable list of bottlings from Jura, Grüner Veltliner and even orange wine from Friuli, to pair with their seasonal cuisine. It’s propelled this restaurant to a coveted spot on our list of the 100 Best Wine Restaurants of 2018.
While only five commercial wineries exist in Nevada, due in large part to restrictive state laws that have only recently been rescinded, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a wealth of wine to be found in the Silver State. Las Vegas offers a wealth of world-class dining experiences, with wine lists to match. From the impressive Barolo selection at the Cosmopolitan hotel to the high-flying “wine angels” of Aureole, there’s ample reason we’ve cited the city as one of our 10 Best Wine Destinations.
Smuttynose Rhye IPA; $12, 90 points. Once a one-time offering in the brewery’s Big Beer Series lineup, then introduced as a seasonal selection and now available year-round, Smutty’s Rhye IPA is an India pale ale brewed with rye malt. Based off the brewery’s Finestkind IPA, but tweaked to include 30% rye malt, in addition to a few other small changes, it’s a flavorful beer that still manages to show great harmony between the hop, malt and rye characteristics. Spicy notes of black pepper, rye and resinous pine unfold throughout, grounded by a malty core of light caramel and nutty, toasty bread flavors that are smooth and satisfying. A pleasant bitterness and spicy rye character lingers long on the dry finish. —L.B.
William Heritage 2016 Estate Reserve Chardonnay (Outer Coastal Plain); $35, 87 points. Oaky vanilla and sweet spice overpower apricot and lemon aromas on the nose. A rich vanilla tone leads flavors of mango, apricot, and mandarin on the palate. The mouthfeel is soft, with balancing acidity and a clean vanilla and apricot finish. —F.A.
La Chiripada 2013 Winemaker’s Select Red (New Mexico); $33, 85 points. There is an initial impression of barnyard aromas on the nose of this blend of 40% Aglianico, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Dolcetto. Brandied cherry, raspberry, and cedar are coaxed from the glass after aggressive swirling. The palate opens up with flavors of black cherry, plum and raspberry hovering over bitter oak and black pepper. Intense tannic grip shrivels the mouthfeel, leading to a relief of acidity swooping in on the finish and lingering black plum and oak flavors. —F.A.
Hermann J. Wiemer 2016 Magdalena Vineyard Estate Bottled and Grown Riesling (Seneca Lake); $36, 93 points. This wine is sourced from a 24-acre vineyard on the northwestern part of Seneca Lake. While exuding ultraripeness in its plush stone fruit, pineapple and white blossom tones on the nose, there’s still great deal of balance and finesse. The palate is broad and expansive in flavors of soft yellow apple, juicy apricot and white plum, with a fresh line of acidity maintaining focus. White tea tannins offer some grip and astringency on the midpalate, extending into the long, lingering finish. —Alexander Peartree
Conniption American Dry Gin; $34, 89 points. The aroma is delicate and lightly fruity with lychee, faint banana and grapefruit peel notes. But the palate surprises with a punch of spicy-peppery heat up front, mellowing to rosewater and lychee midpalate. There’s a pleasing cucumber sweetness before finishing on more sizzling cinnamon and coriander, with alcohol heat on the finish. —K.N.
Whether it’s wine or beer, there’s no shortage of small craft producers in North Dakota. Follow a trail to discover the Flickertail State’s unique wine scene. More interested in craft brews? The members of the North Dakota Brewers Guild, founded in 2013, showcase both the variety and quality of this Midwest state.
Markko 2013 Select Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon (Ohio); $42, 88 points. Raspberry and pomegranate rise above aromas of white pepper and herbs. Tart cranberry, cedar and vanilla flavors are supported by chalky tannins and a vibrant vein of acidity, finishing on notes of cedar and raspberry. —F.A.
Success Vodka; $20, 90 points. Created by distiller/partner Jeff Thurmon, previously a distiller at Tito’s Vodka. Look for mild, coconut-like sweetness in this otherwise neutral, silky vodka, winding into hints of lemon peel, ginger and cayenne on the warming finish. Best Buy. —K.N.
Big Table Farm 2016 Chardonnay (Willamette Valley); $45, 95 points. This stunning wine was fermented in 10% new French oak and shows pinpoint stone fruit, Meyer lemon, butterscotch and toast flavors. Firmly anchored with bright acidity that underscores the fruit and lengthens the finish, it keeps going and going. Drink now–2028. Editors’ Choice. —Paul Gregutt
Victory Sour Monkey; $12, 90 points. This bottling is a wild spin on Victory’s Golden Monkey, the brewery’s Belgian-style tripel. A brilliant golden color, it’s a strong and intense brew, leading with scents of fresh citrus, freshly baked bread, dried grass, underripe stone fruit and green apple. There’s a pleasant weight and richness to the smooth palate that’s lifted through the close by bright, lactic acidity. Aside for the mouthfeel, the alcohol is well-integrated and balanced, while light carbonation assists in lifting the stone-fruit and citrus flavors and carrying them through to the dry, herbal finish. It’s not over-the-top sour, and is surprisingly easy to drink. —L.B.
Rhode Island might be the smallest state in the U.S., but it’s packed with world-class dining destinations. Known for its seafood and for having some beautiful wine country, it’s no wonder the Ocean State’s Jamestown FiSH, with its inventive dishes and over 650 wine selections, made it on Wine Enthusiast‘s Best Wine Restaurants of 2018. If you prefer beer and spirits, drive the The Rhode Island Brew Trail, which has 20 craft breweries and distilleries to explore.
Jōcassee Gin; $37, 87 points. This “American Southern style gin” is very mild and gentle, just a step or two up from vodka-like neutrality. Look for faint hints of peppery spice, coriander and juniper, softened by a mellow, waxy honey fade. —K.N.
While not primarily known for wine, if you find yourself traveling to South Dakota, Sioux Falls is a must-visit culinary metropolis. The largest city between Denver and Minneapolis has no shortage of unique dining and drinking destinations. Bin 201, the city’s premiere craft wine bar, showcases hard-to-find bottles, and a stop at Monks House of Ale Repute will offer you 150 beers from around the world and 39 rotating taps to try. It’s a good time to be in the Mount Rushmore State.
Avery’s Trail Tennessee Premium Gin; $35, 89 points. The aroma suggests sweet spices: saffron, pink peppercorn, mint. The perception continues on the palate, layered with juniper, more fiery peppercorn, and a perky lime peel finish that calls for Gimlets, Rickeys and more lime-laden libations. —K.N.
Llano Estacado 2017 Signature Rosé (Texas); $10, 89 points. Enticing aromas of strawberry and freshly squeezed lemon juice are accented by white pepper on the nose of this blend of 34% Cinsault, 31% Carignan, 22% Mourvèdre and 13% Grenache. Ripe pink grapefruit and strawberry flavors are sunny on the palate, backed by juicy lemon-lime acidity that leads into a clean, zesty finish. Best Buy. —F.A.
Beehive Distilling Barrel Reserve Gin; $39, 90 points. This small batch gin starts with a classic London Dry profile, but takes a surprising turn, aged in charred French oak barrels that previously held white wine. The end result is a mild honeysuckle fragrance and warming, honeyed flavor with a spiced midpalate, finishing with juniper twang. —K.N.
Burnt Rock Bourbon; $60, 88 points. Made with 70% Vermont grown corn, the first impressions are intriguingly spicy and earthy, followed by a smoky note that suggests mesquite and a hint of burnt orange peel on the finish. The smoke integrates nicely without losing the bold flavor with water, and nudges the fruitiness forward. Sip or mix. —K.N.
Lovingston 2016 Gilbert’s Vineyard Pinotage (Monticello); $29, 90 points. Lush aromas of smoke, black cherry, clove, cinnamon and game lead the way to the palate. Full in body, with silky tannins and vibrant acidity, this wine offers a lingering smoky finish. —Carrie Dykes
Charles & Charles 2017 Rosé (Columbia Valley); $12, 90 points. This wine is a pretty, pale-salmon color. Aromas of strawberry bubblegum, herb, tropical fruit and citrus peel lead to dry fruit flavors, full of papaya, guava and pink-grapefruit notes with a tart finish. It flat-out delivers. Best Buy. —S.P.S.
Known for its stunning scenery, West Virginia is also home to some exceptional spirits producers. If you find yourself driving through the Mountain State be sure to give yourself enough time to travel the distillery trail. This route will take you to producers like Hatfield & Mccoy Moonshine, Appalachian Distillery and others, giving you a first-hand taste of the state’s spirited drinking scene.
New Glarus Wisconsin Belgian Red; $9, 96 points. Yet another world-class selection from New Glarus, this is brewed with whole Montmorency cherries, Wisconsin-farmed wheat and Belgian roasted barley, then lagered in oak tanks, hopped with Hallertau and aged for a full year in the brewery. The resulting beer is a masterpiece of balance, flavor and complexity. Ruby in color, it is brimming with forward aromas and flavors of tart cherry, with subtle accents of baking spice and pie crust. The carbonation is high, partnering with tart acidity to keep the mouthfeel from feeling too heavy or sweet. The refreshing, mouthwatering finish is long and clean, with yes, a strong, fresh cherry flavor alongside hints of sweet spice and oak. —L.B.
Wyoming Whiskey Outryder; $55, 90 points. The rich butterscotch scent doesn’t quite prepare you for the blast of alcohol heat that accompanies the very first sip of this 100-proof whiskey; underneath that, butterscotch and oak emerge on the palate. With dilution, the flavor softens to vanilla-almond flecked with cinnamon and clove. Made with rye, corn and malted barley. —K.N.