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7 lesser-known U.S. wine regions to visit

By: Josh Lew on Jan. 17, 2013, noon
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Columbia Valley, Washington

Columbia Valley contains a number of small clusters of vineyards. This long valley covers a large part of this northwestern state and provides the perfect setting for winemakers to take their product from vine to bottle.

The state's first official wine-growing region (recognized as an American Viticulture Area) is found in Yakima Valley. There are now more than 80 wineries in this area, making it a great choice for people who want to explore the winemaking industry in a rural setting. Many vineyards are located down small country roads (some are not open for tastings or are only open occasionally for scheduled events). An even more rural grape-growing area can be found in the Walla Walla Valley. This relatively dry region is the birthplace of some of the West Coast's best red wines. 

Winery visits are casual affairs in Washington.  Though a little planning might be required to hit your chosen area's wineries when they are open to the public, it is a small price to pay for the beautiful scenery. Experiences here are focused on the wine and the winemaking process, not the occasionally pretentious culture surrounding the beverage.