Willamette Valley (pronounced "wil-LAM-it," if you don't want to sound like a tourist) wineries specialize in distinctive and award-winning pinot noir. Oregon 99W is the main highway, connecting Portland to Newberg in the north and to McMinnville in the south — though your wine country exploration could take you as far south as Eugene. Signs advertising tasting rooms, cozy inns and country restaurants dot the scenic drives among country towns. Valley bistros pair Willamette reds with cuts of local meat, farm-fresh fruit and homemade cheese. The International Pinot Noir Celebration, a full three days of talks, meals, demonstrations and wine tastings, is held in late July or early August. For more information about the Willamette Valley wine regions, visit OregonWineCountry.org. — Photo by John McAnulty/Corbis
Good soil, lots of sunshine and reliable rain make for fantastic wine country — and the United States has plenty, beyond the usual California vineyards. Lesser-known regions produce brilliant wines of all varieties. With a designated driver, a good local map and a taste for gastronomic adventure, try these seven wine regions — all within easy driving distance of a major city.