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Culture: The Best Wine Regions to Retire In

Culture: The Best Wine Regions to Retire In

When thinking about where to retire, some important factors to consider are affordability, access to quality healthcare, weather and proximity to family. But for connoisseurs of wine, an abundance of wineries and vineyards in the area may be just as crucial.

“Retirement is the longest vacation of your life,” says certified financial planner Amy Irvine, the founder of Rooted Planning Group and host of the Wine and Dime podcast. She advises that those on the verge of retirement “think of what things you like to do on vacation. Where do you go? What are the activities that you’d like to get involved in?” If wine tourism has always been a passion, there’s every reason to look to wine regions for your future home.

Many of these regions are even “focusing on creating a community,” she says. This is extremely important in what she calls the “go-go years.” In this first phase of retirement, retirees are often busy and active and may seek like-minded seniors to spend time with.

While any wine region can be a viable place to live, certain ones are particularly ideal for retirees. Here we highlight the best wine regions to retire in if your ideal lifestyle involves more glass-swirling than golf.

Lancaster Valley, Pennsylvania

Getty Images

According to the most recent ranking by U.S. News and World Report, five of the 10 best U.S. cities for retirement are in Pennsylvania. This is based on affordability, access to healthcare, tax rates and the happiness of local residents. Bonus: They’re largely centered around Lancaster Valley AVA.

Though Pennsylvania’s wine scene may still be emerging, Lancaster Valley has predominantly limestone soils, which are ideal for Bordeaux varietals such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Sémillon. With its easy-to-access southeastern Pennsylvania wine trails and world-class dining and culture in Philadelphia, Lancaster Valley is an excellent choice for oenophiles, and an exciting one for retirees looking to explore.

The Finger Lakes, New York State

Fulkerson Winery Vineyards
Image Courtesy of Fulkerson Winery Vineyards

Riesling lovers, rejoice! As a resident herself, Irvine especially recommends the Finger Lakes as a top retirement option. “There’s some very reasonable cost of living here,” she says, which is especially true if you’re not trying to live right on the lakes.

“The Finger Lakes wineries offer fantastic opportunities for retirees to connect with other cool-climate wine lovers through winery events like wine club social gatherings and winemaker dinners,” says Kyle Anne Pallischeck, executive director of Finger Lakes Wine Alliance.

With both Rochester and Ithaca close by, home to the University of Rochester and Cornell University respectively, the greater Finger Lakes region offers top-tier healthcare amenities for retirees. Additionally, new residents can take advantage of cultural opportunities such as art museums, lectures and performances.

Not to mention that the Finger Lakes are rich in natural beauty—Ithaca is gorges, after all. In addition to its stunning Rieslings, the region is home to many jaw-dropping waterfalls and hiking trails.

Willamette Valley, Oregon

Willamette Valley vineyard
Image Courtesy of Mike Haverkate / The Willamette Valley Visitors Association

If your favorite wine region seems out-of-budget initially, Irvine recommends casting your net a little wider. In this case, the greater Willamette Valley is a viable option if you know where to look. While Portland may be out of range, “there are different parts of that valley that are very affordable, like Sublimity, as an example,” she says. Eugene, at the southernmost end of the Willamette Valley, also scores favorably on U.S. News and World’s Report’s retirement city rankings, at number 25.

You May Also Like: 8 Must-Visit Willamette Valley Wineries, According to Insiders

Lovers of red Burgundy will be delighted by the Willamette Valley’s emphasis on equally terroir-driven Pinot Noirs. The French producers who have snapped up land in the area have merged a European winemaking vibe with a deep community spirit. “The valley combines vineyards, family farms, urban access, restaurants and small-town hospitality like nowhere else in the country,” says Tom Denowski, president of the Oregon Wine Board. “The Willamette Valley’s many wine communities are perfect places to make new friends and start new chapters.”

For especially active retirees, the Willamette Valley even plays host to the annual Oregon Senior Games. And with Oregon’s 0% sales tax, destination-worthy hiking and skiing and a temperate climate, the Willamette Valley has much to offer retirees both in and out of the glass.

Montevideo, Uruguay

Montevideo's coastline
Getty Images

According to Where to Retire magazine, as many as 300,000 retired Americans choose to live abroad due to lower cost of living and cheaper medical care. South American countries, in particular, are places where one can really stretch a dollar. Plus, they offer opposite seasons to those in the Northern Hemisphere—another option for retirees looking to chase the harvest.

John Sullivan, chief content officer for the American Retirement Association highlighted Montevideo, Uruguay in an article for 401(k) Specialist, citing its relaxed lifestyle, ex-pat community and reasonable cost of living. A Wines of Uruguay report notes that while Uruguay is the second smallest country in South America, it has the second highest GDP, and offers its population a life expectancy even higher than that of the U.S.

Wine-wise, Uruguay is rising in prominence for its success with Bordeaux varietals, making this a great retirement option for Bordeaux lovers on a budget.

Texas High Plains

William Chris Vineyards
Image Courtesy of William Chris Vineyards

Lubbock, Texas, was recently the cover story for Where to Retire magazine—good news for those who seek a warm retirement destination in the winter months. “If you’re the type of person who likes dry weather with just a little bit of coolness in the winter months, another state wine lovers don’t typically think about is Texas,” says Irvine.

Besides the emerging wine scene in the Texas High Planes AVA, adjacent Lubbock is an under-the-radar Texan city unto itself. Considered the state’s “hub city” for culture, Lubbock has numerous diverse events celebrating everything from wine and art to comic books, food trucks and cowboy culture.

“It’s a very active area and very community-oriented,” says Irvine, noting the feel-good spirit that can also be important for retirees. “That wine community is so collegial just in itself,” she says, “and you can see that the community really rallies around it.”

Acreage in Texas High Plains AVA is dominated by classic French varieties such as Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin Blanc.

Traverse City, Michigan

Bel Lago Vineyards & Winery
Image Courtesy of Bel Lago Vineyards & Winery / Ashley Wierenga named Traverse City the best and most affordable place to retire in 2022, and it’s extra appealing for wine lovers. The city is located on the 45th parallel—a geographical attribute shared with other notable wine regions, such as Burgundy and Piedmont. This should tell you something about its potential for great wine. The city is actually situated between the Leelanau Peninsula and Old Mission Peninsula AVAs. The area’s wineries are starting to make a splash with zesty sparkling and white wines, typical of cold climate regions.

Speaking of splash, consider also that Traverse City is located right on the shores of Lake Michigan. But if the cold is a deterring factor, Irvine advises looking into less expensive areas like Traverse City for a seasonal retirement home. “The winters are colder for sure,” she says, “but if you like to be out on the water, Michigan could be your summer home.”

You May Also Like: Lake Michigan Has a Bustling Wine Scene. Here’s How to Explore It

Algarve, Portugal

Cabrita Harvest Experience 2022
Image Courtesy of Cabrita Wines / Andy Mac

Among those who choose the expat life, Where to Retire cites Portugal as a top destination, particularly for its affordability among European countries, a robust network of expats and English-language medical facilities. Irvine concurs: “I’ve had so many retirement clients of mine tell me that the cost of living in Portugal is extremely reasonable,” she says, “and that it is just stunning for both culture and for exploring wine.”

Regardless of your wine, weather or cultural preferences, Portugal has many options for retirement-minded oenophiles. Consider Algarve, Portugal’s southernmost wine region, a coastal area with a Mediterranean vibe. With more sunshine days than any region in Portugal, the region produces bold reds from Portugal’s native grapes such as Negra Mole, Castelão and Trincadeira.

The Algarve also has a celebrated golf scene—meaning you don’t actually have to choose between clubs or Cab, or at least Cabrita, one of the Algarve region’s best-known wineries. According to a report by International Living magazine, Algarve’s golf culture also means that there’s high potential for earning rental income on your retirement home during periods when you’re away.

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