Even without snow and ice in the forecast, December and January temperatures have a way of keeping otherwise outgoing people indoors. So if skiing, snowboarding, or snowshoeing aren't exactly your cup of hot cocoa, you might be scratching your head wondering what to do with a few spare vacation days or a long weekend this winter. One idea is to hit the road with a wine tote, journal, and a designated driver. In the United States, star-studded California tends to be the biggest magnet for oenophiles, but the East Coast has dozens of its own wine trails too, many of which are a short drive from New York, Philadelphia, or Baltimore. Plus, by visiting some of these small wineries in the off-season, you'll avoid the crowds that can choke parking lots on warmer spring and summer weekends.
West of Manhattan, along the Pennsylvania-New Jersey state line, the Warren Hunterdon Wine Trail includes eight wineries spread out between Princeton and the Delaware Water Gap. In Ringoes, just north of the spot where Washington famously crossed the Delaware River, Unionville Vineyards opened to the public in 1993 and has collected an impressive number of awards in the years since. Located in a restored barn on Rocktown Road, their tasting room is open daily from noon until 5pm. Weekend tours are free, but a flight of five to eight wines runs $5 to $10 per guest.
Further south, the Brandywine Valley Wine Trail is made up of another eight wineries scattered between Philadelphia and Lancaster, Pennsylvania. At Penns Woods Winery in Chadds Ford, vintner Gino Razzi oversees the craft of the business while his daughter Carley manages the tasting room and markets their brand. Stop by for samples of Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, and Merlot, and make sure you don't miss Gino's Cabernet Reserve 2005, a wine that earned the title of best red in the state at this year's Pennsylvania Wine Competition.
In the Old Line State, head to Maryland's rural Eastern Shore to experience the Chesapeake Wine Trail, a route that links together 12 wineries from Elkton to Salisbury. Crow Farm & Vineyard is one such business and a newer member of the Maryland Wine Association. Besides a small vineyard and a tasting room in a renovated milk house, Crow Farm also features a three-bedroom bed and breakfast in a charming 1847 farmhouse. Try their Vidal Blanc, Rosé, or Sparkling Vidal on their own, or with the family's hormone-free, farm-raised pork.
And finally, dispersed among neighboring Delaware's three counties, a handful of boutique wineries and craft breweries have banded together to create the Delmarva Wine and Ale Trail. At Nassau Valley Winery just outside the beach town of Lewes, tastings and self-guided tours are free every day of the week. Guided tours are $7 and include a crystal tasting glass. The first winery in the first state produces 14 different wines from their own Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Caberenet Franc, and Merlot grapes as well as other regionally grown fruit.
So as the icicles hanging from the eaves of your roof grow longer while the days become colder, don't hibernate, find a wine trail near you and get tasting.
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