The Perfect DIY West Coast & East Coast Wine Tours Are Under $300 Each

Whether you drink it from a box or prefer a nice Chianti with a side of fava beans (hold the liver, please), you don’t need to be a connoisseur to tour a vineyard or sip Rosé at a hip wine bar.

Historically, wine-centric travel has been associated with, well…snobs. Thank the 2004 movie Sideways for that (“If anyone orders Merlot, I’m leaving”), or maybe it’s because at certain highfalutin’ establishments you’re supposed to spit out the wine after you take a taste (um, no thank you). But you don’t need to rent a Maserati or be going through a mid-life crisis to enjoy a trip through wine country.

To prove it, we here at Wanderu developed two routes of 10 cities each through prime U.S. wine regions, one on the West Coast and one on the East Coast, that can be traversed exclusively by bus and train. We’re talking Napa, the Willamette Valley, the Finger Lakes—international hotbeds of grape growing and wine production—with the total travel for each itinerary coming in at less than $300.

And since these are just average ticket prices, there’s a chance you could take the entire tour for even cheaper.

The best part of it all? Because these destinations are connected by bus and train, there’s no need to arrange a designated driver, rent a vehicle or blow any dough on gas. Sure, you might splurge on a rideshare or a bus tour to specific vineyards outside the city, but directions and sobriety are not your concern, which is all the reason to order a second glass. (Not that you needed a reason.)

So remember, there’s no shame in swallowing—just ignore that sommelier’s side eye. Pick a coast, prep your palate, and get ready to start sipping.

Select a region:

West Coast East Coast

 

West Coast Itinerary

Travel
Mode
Route Ticket
Price
San Francisco, CA to Napa, CA $31.00
Napa, CA to Sacramento, CA $32.82
Sacramento, CA to Redding, CA $29.58
Redding, CA to Klamath Falls, OR $29.34
Klamath Falls, OR to Salem, OR $45.83
Salem, OR to Portland, OR $15.45
Portland, OR to Bingen, WA $13.70
Bingen, WA to Hood River, OR (rideshare app) $14.07
Hood River, OR to Bingen, WA (rideshare app) $11.50
Bingen, WA to Pasco, WA $34.88
Pasco, WA to Spokane, WA $22.95
TOTAL: $281.12

*Prices are based on the average fare for a one-way bus or train trip for the featured routes over a 30-day period.

Our West Coast route kicks off in San Francisco, CA, and finishes in Spokane, WA. Stops along the way include those in the Napa/Sonoma area, in Oregon’s famous Willamette Valley, and along the gorgeous Columbia River gorge. In sum, you can complete the entire tour by train for an average price of about $281.12.

With the full route mapped, let’s now take a look at each individual leg of the itinerary.

1. SAN FRANCISCO, CA

Photo from the 2010 San Francisco Chronicle wine competition, with Alcatraz in the background.

The 415 is an embarrassment of riches when it comes to food and wine. So we’re gonna keep this simple: It begins and ends with Verjus.  

Near Jackson Square, the wine bar/restaurant has not stopped astounding since it opened. Snack on small plates of mussels, foie terrine brioche, salted radishes, charcuterie, and more while you taste your way through their European-style wines. Then come back the next day and do it all again—the space is that great.

S.F. is well-known for being bike-able. Break up your imbibing with one of these four awesome bike routes around the city. Just don’t overdo the vino before jumping on that cycle—one wrong turn down Lombard Street and you’ll find yourself headfirst in a flowerbed.

2. NAPA & SONOMA, CA

Closeup photo of grapes from a winery in Napa, California.

Napa gets the lion’s share of the buzz, but with that name recognition comes higher price tags and chances of pretension.

True, destinations like Heitz Cellar and Vincent Arroyo Winery offer free tastings, but in general, insiders instead steer you to Sonoma County, a more laid-back place to venture with at least the same caliber of grapes. (About a 25-minute Lyft ride from Napa proper.)

If you’re into sparkling wine, you won’t do better than Iron Horse Vineyards. Quivira Winery features organically farmed wines—with views for days, estate tours (make a reservation) and a variety of wine-tasting options.

Is it beauty you seek? Scribe Winery handles that from landscape to bottle to taste. Managed by fourth-generation farmers (and brothers!), the land was the forerunner back in the pre-prohibition days of wine-making, and remains true to its terroir above all else.

Looking for a break from the wine? Yeah, right. But for some other activities to supplement your kidney thrashing, check out our guide to Napa Valley.

Next Stop: 

Napa, CA to Sacramento, CA $32.82

3. SACRAMENTO, CA

Sometimes you want to go to the wine, sometimes you want the wine to come to you. Sacramento and the surrounding area provide opportunity for both. But if you’re coming from Napa, why not check out the urban winery side of things? (As if you needed further enticement, Sacramento also has the cheapest wine of any city in our ranking of Cheapest Drinking Cities in the U.S.)

First up: Revolution Winery + Kitchen. They dub their style “farm-to-fork to farm-to-glass,” and bring in local grapes to craft Old World–style wine in their midtown Sacramento spot.

Second, in list-order only: Bailarín Cellars, the eponymous Sonoma County vineyard’s downtown Sacramento tasting room, where you get all the wine and none of the work to get there.

Next Stop:

Sacramento, CA to Redding, CA $29.58

4. REDDING, CA

Photo of a lake near Redding, California.

Mountain valley, craggy peaks, high altitude and damn good wine. Almost sounds like a John Denver song, amirite? We’re actually talking Alpen Cellars, whose incredible vino is only made better by the fact that it’s adjacent to Trinity Lake, inside of a national forest. So get there already!

On the other side of Redding (that is, southeast), Alger Vineyards & Winery is relatively new to the scene, but its youth isn’t holding it back. Estate grown and certified organic, Alger’s grapes grow on sloping volcanic soil, are watered by snowmelt, and are available for $5 tastings every Saturday and Sunday.

5. KLAMATH FALLS, OR

Thou shalt not want for stellar wineries while in Oregon.

In Klamath, drink like the Klamathians do, downtown at Rosterolla Wine Company. The shop offers monthly, rotating six-wine tastings—and good bottles at low prices from vineyards throughout the nearby Umpqua Valley. We’re talking $5–$10 for a quality, well-sourced bottle, so stock up for the train ride later.

Outside of Klamath Falls, 12 Ranch Wines is the winery to see, and the one that validates that whole size doesn’t matter, it’s how you use it saying: Small lots of hand-picked grapes—constantly monitored during the growing stage, rather than adjusted in later stages—mean the natural terroir and flavor make it through to the bottles of (primarily) Merlot, Cab Sauv and Syrah.

Next Stop:

Klamath Falls, OR to Salem, OR $45.83

6. SALEM, OR

Find the Oregon Pinot Noir you’ve been looking for at Cristom Vineyards.

The winery is one of Oregon’s oldest, in operation since 1992, and its Pinot Noir—along with the winery as a whole—is regularly rated as one of the nation’s best. (We wouldn’t be surprise if one sip of that wine is what inspired Titus Andromedon’s song “Peeno Noir” on “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”…or at least one reading of the song.)

The expansive land has a cozy, farm–like feel rather than some of the more monumentally styled wineries around, which makes it all the more welcoming to indulge in one of their tasting options, one of which includes a private, prepared picnic.

Venture a short distance outside of Salem, northwest toward McMinnville, Dundee and Newberg to get a more rural taste of the famous Willamette Valley. If you can handle heights (if not, we prescribe two full pours prior to boarding), a gorgeous hot-air balloon ride over Yamhill County, courtesy of Vista Balloon Adventures, is a can’t-miss attraction.

7. PORTLAND, OR

Portland may be a craft-beer haven, but its proximity to the Willamette Valley means it’s certainly not wanting for good local wine, either.

We’re suckers for Les Caves, a subterranean (hence the name), rustic-with-raw-cement-and-pendant-lights-sort-of-way wine bar that is the urban home/tasting room for top Oregon wineries Ovum and Golden Cluster.

Dame restaurant/wine bar is also peak Portland in all the right ways (yes, the chicken is local), specializing in seasonal food and regional natural wine.

While in Portlandia, why not take some extra time to experience true Keep It Weird culture with these additional activities in our guide to the Rose City.

Next Stop:

Portland, OR to Bingen, WA $13.70
Bingen, WA to Hood River, OR (rideshare app) $14.07

8. HOOD RIVER, OR

Photo of rolling hills in Hood River, Oregon.

You simply must visit Cathedral Ridge Winery.

This isn’t optional; it’s just how things are gonna go down (riiiight along with that glass of red). Our warning, albeit more of an invitation: Cathedral Ridge overlooks the Columbia River Gorge, and once you get there, you will not—ever—want to leave. But unless you can snag a job there, at 6 p.m. the premises close and you’ll have to say goodbye to the snow-capped peak in the distance.

But wine and dogs (puppies, not frankfurters) cure all, and you can drown the sorrow of that departure in another glass at the pet-friendly tasting room of Wy’East Vineyards, which is also one of the highest-altitude vineyards in the state. (And despair not: Wy-East, too, has views of snow-capped Mt. Hood. #altitudeperks)

Hood River is such an underrated destination that we also included it on our list of cheap, awesome getaways from Eugene, Oregon, where you can learn more about the town’s none-wine attractions.

Next Stop:

Hood River, OR to Bingen, WA (rideshare app) $11.50
Bingen, WA to Pasco, WA $34.88

9. PASCO, WA

Photo of the Columbia River from Pasco, Washington.

Pasco is one of Washington’s “tri-cities,” along with Richland and Kennewick. Together they’re home to more than 300 wineries and wine bars. TLDR: You’ve got options in this region. Don’t settle.

In the heart of the Columbia Valley just outside of Pasco is Gordon Estate Winery. The oldest estate winery in Washington, Gordon uses only estate-grown grapes (as they have since 1983), and this family-owned/operated outfit is just a cork’s throw from the Snake River. The catch—but one worth planning around: Tastings only happen the first Saturday and Sunday of each month.

In Pasco city proper, Bin No. 20 Wine Bar & Restaurant brings the tri-cities’ wine to you, pairing seasonal, farm-to-table small plates with top Columbia Valley wines. Hit it up Wednesday through Saturday, 4-6 p.m. for the Twilight Menu Special: three courses for $22.

Next Stop:

Pasco, WA to Spokane, WA $22.95

10. SPOKANE, WA

Some 450 feet above the Spokane River, cliff-dwelling Arbor Crest Wine Cellars sports sweeping views of Spokane and its surrounds. And twice weekly—all year!—they offer live music. It’s free October through April, and has a small cover May though September.

On the city side of things, Barrister Winery is quintessential Spokane, with two locations: its urban winery (open daily for tastings), and it’s downtown bookstore-adjacent tasting room, which stays open later in the evenings.

Wondering about the name? Two lawyers went on vacation with their families…and ended up with a five-gallon wine-making kit, which grew into the multi-award-winning institution that Barrister is today. All to say: Take this wine trip, and you might get an itch that morphs into a new career, too. It’s what we in the business call productive wine consumption. (Which is also, frankly, all wine consumption. Hello, resveratrol!)

 

East Coast Wine Itinerary

Travel
Mode
Route Ticket
Price
Richmond, VA to Charlottesville, VA $24.00
Charlottesville, VA to Baltimore, MD $34.43
Baltimore, MD to Harrisburg, PA $17.43
Harrisburg, PA to New York, NY $54.01
New York, NY to Poughkeepsie, NY $29.00
Poughkeepsie, NY to Syracuse, NY $49.04
Syracuse, NY to Ithaca, NY $13.86
Ithaca, NY to Geneva, NY $18.08
Geneva, NY to Niagara Falls, ON $48.00
TOTAL: $287.85

*Prices are based on the average fare for a one-way bus or train trip for the featured routes over a 30-day period.

Our East Coast route starts in Richmond, VA, and finishes in Niagara Falls. This itinerary winds up the Mid-Atlantic into the Northeast, including stops in Virginia’s rich wine country, in New York City to sample some natural wine, and up toward the fertile land surrounding the Finger Lakes. In sum, you can complete the entire tour by bus and train for an average price of about $287.85.

With the full route mapped, let’s now take a look at each individual leg of the itinerary.

1. RICHMOND, VA

Photo of a Maymont Park terrace in Richmond, Virginia.

Situated along the James River and about 75 miles from the coast, Richmond is right in Virginia’s wine-growing bread basket.

Start in the city at Secco Wine Bar with Mediterranean–style small plates and a massive selection of small-production Old World wines—including a constantly changing list of what they call “Secret Stash” bottles. Or check out C’est le Vin, an art gallery, restaurant and wine bar in one (triple threat!)—with the selections for each carefully considered.

If it’s scenery you seek, try Ashton Creek Vineyard (it’s a frequent wedding venue) or James River Cellars, just 10 minutes north of the city and featuring $10 tastings of 12–14 wines ($12 if you want to keep the glass). Now that’s some math we can get behind.

2. CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA

Like your wine served alongside historic ruins à la a columned, Thomas Jefferson–designed mansion? Then Barboursville Vineyards is for you. (Jefferson himself was actually an amateur vintner, and today you can buy wine from the grapes on his property at Monticello, which also happens to be a stop on our tour of President’s Homes).

Besides the centuries-long agricultural history, the land produces some seriously good wines, and their most-awarded wine, Octagon, is not to be missed. Locals also recommend the charming Veritas Vineyard & Winery—just south of Shenandoah National Park in the Blue Ridge Mountains, it’s a perfect spot for a post-hike drink.

3. BALTIMORE, MD

Photo of Baltimore's Inner Harbor on a sunny summer day.

We’ve got a big crush on the Hampden neighborhood of Baltimore, and the 13.5% Wine Bar is not helping us get over it. Order a wine cocktail, a curated flight of three 3-oz. wines or let the staff guide you through their many other vintages, available in 3- or 6-oz. pours—or as retail.

Looking for a self-guided tour de bar? Newly opened Serenity Wine Bar in Locust Point features—and we’re not making this up—self-serve wine. Think soda machine but instead, wine. And pizza. And if you’re self-serving wine…you probably will need pizza.

Follow the recommendations in this guide to stay busy with other Baltimore activities—in particular, The George Peabody Library is sure to drop your jaw to the floor.

4. HARRISBURG, PA

Photo of the Pennsylvania state capital in Harrisburg.

No, you probably don’t think vineyards! when you think Harrisburg…if you think Harrisburg.

Get over it, and explore what the Keystone State’s got growing. There are plenty sweet- and fruit-wines on offer in the 15 wineries of Hershey and Harrisburg—and apple wine is a regional specialty. Armstrong Valley Winery has a host of dry reds (go for the Cab Franc, the oaked Chambourcin or the Stonehouse) and whites, too.

Or if you’re looking to lean into the more kitschy-campy side of things, hit up one of eight Buddy Boy Winery and Vineyards locations, where they pour out fun right along with the wine. (The bottles of which, we’ll also note, are hung with a surprising number of medals.)

Next Stop:

Harrisburg, PA to New York, NY $54.01

5. NEW YORK, NY

Photo of a busy Italian bistro in New York City.

A disclaimer, to start: We’re talking NYC. This list is the opposite of definitive, and in the interest of more sanity/time in bars, less on the subway, we’re limiting our picks to Manhattan and Brooklyn.

Starting in the latter borough, with The Four Horsemen, in Williamsburg. Owned by LCD Soundsystem founding bandmember James Murphy, Four Horsemen has an all-out crazy amount of natural wine from organic and biodynamic growers.

Meanwhile in SoHo, Charlie Bird serves up modern Italian, but the Old World wines are a draw above all else. And a few blocks from Madison Square Park, The NoMad Hotel’s restaurant cooks in the vein of its three-Michelin-starred sister, Eleven Madison Park, but at a lower price point (🙌) and with an acclaimed 94-page wine list.

If you’re looking to lounge or need a break from the Midtown madness in a space straight out of “Mad Men,” Aldo Sohm Wine Bar has mastered midcentury energetic-chill, and sports a tasting room with classes, too.

Wanna make the most of your time in NYC? Hit these 20 parks and museums you can visit for free, so you can put the rest of that cash-money toward more liquid courage.

6. POUGHKEEPSIE, NY

Clocking in at 130 acres with 30 dedicated to grapes, Millbrook Vineyards and Winery is a champ. A champ that also has views of the Catskill Mountains and Hudson Valley, summer evening jazz, Sunday sommelier-led wine classes, daily tours and tastings, and walking trails.

Oh, and wine. A lot of good wine.

Benmarl Winery also overlooks Hudson Valley, and has a different kind of champion status—that of the OG. It’s the oldest vineyard in America, and its New York Farm Winery License number? That would be #1. But Benmarl doesn’t rest on its longstanding laurels, and it’s putting out some top bottles. Bonus: There’s a B&B on-site, should one glass turn too many.

 

7. SYRACUSE, NY

Photo of foliage near Green Lake near Syracuse, New York.

Owera Vineyards is a family affair, but don’t let yourself think that means small ambitions.

With both estate-grown grapes and those purchased from elsewhere in New York, this woman-owned winery is putting out vintages as stellar as the design of its tasting room (that is: quite stellar).

Over at White Birch Vineyards, Old World techniques have found a new home. And like the Rhine region of Germany, which has a similar grape-growing environment, White Birch is the place to go for whites like Gewürztraminer and Riesling.

Also worth noting: If you’re traveling in autumn, chances are you’ll be treated to some spectacular fall foliage as you make your way Upstate.

Next Stop:

Syracuse, NY to Ithaca, NY $13.86

8. ITHACA, NY

Ithaca is the southern point of the Cayuga Lake Wine Trail, which encompasses 15 wineries and runs along its namesake Finger Lake nearly to Geneva.

Sticking close to Ithaca, Ports of New York is a small urban winery that, you guessed it, specializes in port wines. (That means high ABV for those of you prone to gulping, so approach with caution. Or don’t. 😉)

Bonus stop: Six Mile Creek Vineyards doubles as a distillery.

Next Stop:

Ithaca, NY to Geneva, NY $18.08

9. GENEVA, NY

It’s in the Finger Lakes, so it makes sense to start with a winery that’s…right on a lake.

Zugibe Vineyards has outdoor seating and views that kill with the (dry-focused) wines to match, and—major plus—the party bus crowd tends to not show up here, making for a more intimate experience.

Also not to miss: Ravines Wine Cellars, whose French influence epitomizes rustic-chic done right, and has been named among the world’s top 100 wineries by Wine Spectator.

10. NIAGARA FALLS, ON

Photo of Inniskillin Winery in Niagara Falls, Ontario.

For obvious reasons of, like, staying alive, we’ve gotta recommend you see the falls before you hit the vino. (It is, after all, one of our top 15 places in all of North America to visit post-college graduation.)

But do check out the vino: The Niagara Peninsula, a short trip west from New York’s Finger Lakes, is the most concentrated area of wine production in all of Canada.

Niagara College Teaching Winery, an active, commercial vineyard and wine-producer that teaches other vintners on site, is open to the public seven days per week for tastings, tours and teaching you about the process of getting the good stuff into your glass.

Then there’s The Hare Wine Co. and The Ice House Winery, which are all about the ice-wines: a special variety of dessert wine produced from grapes frozen right on the vine.

Between the Lines Winery features a big red barn on its 45-acre estate, and Chateau de Charmes sports grounds that suit the name, so scenery isn’t a problem here for all you Insta addicts.

How We Did It

The long and the short of it: There’s wine out there waiting for you. Just pick a coast, hop a bus or train and drink up!

Or in the market for a wine trip that’s a bit more international? Check out our route in France, where you can tour 10 cities for less than $150.

To book your tickets for any of these essential wine pilgrimages, go to Wanderu.com or download the Wanderu app—the best way to buy cheap bus and train tickets in one simple search.

To map these routes, we used Wanderu’s proprietary data on bus and train travel in the United States—including pricing, duration and schedule information from Amtrak and multiple bus carriers—to leverage our unique routing technology, which allowed us to route and build multi-stop travel itineraries using trips from various providers in real time.

The prices quoted in this article are based on the average cost of bus and train tickets available on Wanderu for each route over a 30-day period.

To ensure that this trip is more than just data science, the Wanderu algorithm used actual bookable trips to verify that this road trip was possible at these prices over multiple consecutive days.

You are welcome to use the information and maps on this page, crediting Wanderu. If you do so, please link back to this page, so that travel enthusiasts around the globe can check out all the available trips and find out how we came up with the itinerary.

Alyssa Konermann has hitchhiked through rural Thailand; lived next to the beach in Goa, India; danced to folk music in Las Pampas and to club music is Buenos Aires; road-tripped around Morocco on some winding mountain roads she should not have survived; eaten from a communal pot of snails in Barcelona—and is always planning her next trip, even if it’s just a weekend eating in NYC. A freelance writer and former editor at Cincinnati Magazine, the adventure she’s currently on is pursuing a graduate degree in creative writing.