Suppose you want to kick back after a long day at work. You light a candle and put on some quiet music but realize the evening isn't complete, so you run out to your local liquor store, looking for the perfect bottle of wine to cap the evening. What will you buy? When you see all the choices, you will probably look for a brand you tried before or a name you recognize-perhaps White Zinfandel by Sutter Home, the California winery.
What you might not realize is the wines that are stocked in local liquor stores tend not to be local, but are from the largest wineries that can afford a wide distribution. Often, small, local wineries have a smaller distribution, and even though their wine is better, you will have a harder time finding it unless you buy from the winery itself.
There are probably many local wineries within a short drive of your house. A quick online search reveals that, around Detroit (for example), wineries exist in Ann Arbor (less than one hour away), Albion (less than two hours away), and even in south-western Ontario (less than one hour away). All fifty states have wineries, and each winery often produces their own distinct-tasting wine. A merlot, for example, will taste different depending on geographic location and the particular winery. Some wineries specialize in creating basic wines (i.e., merlot) while others focus on creating fruit or specialty wines (i.e., blackberry merlot or ice wines).
One way of discovering these wineries is to take a day, perhaps on a weekend or during a vacation, and visit several of these wineries. Because of the conditions needed to grow and harvest good grapes, many wineries are often clustered together along a very scenic "wine trail." Following a trail can be very informative and educational, as you learn about wine-making and taste many of the different wines the wineries make.
Once you have followed your local wine trails, you will know how to pick out a good local wine you will enjoy. You'll probably even buy several bottles from the wine trail you visited! Not only will you be drinking good wine that you didn't know about before, but you will be supporting your local economy.
Another benefit to visiting a wine trail is that you can turn the visit into the perfect family trip. Many wineries have U-Pick fruit orchards, so you and your family can pick fresh fruit during your winery visit.
One way to begin learning more about wine and local wineries is to make a commitment to following one wine trail each month. You can begin in your home state, visit a few wineries, and then begin branching out to other nearby states. By the end of a year, you will have visited many of your own local wineries, as well as wineries in many other states!
Jim and Laura Hofman are avid travelers who enjoy exploring and learning about various wineries and wine regions in the United States. Known as unofficial "travel advisors" for their family, friends, and business associates, the Hofmans enjoy the simple pleasure of sharing a bottle of wine and enjoying life. Subscribe to their free, monthly online newsletter at