NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -
One of the favorite fantasies of the affluent post-industrial age is the retreat to wine country.
Millions of dot-commers, investment bankers, entertainment industry mavens and average Americans have toyed with the idea of chucking it all and buying a small chateau or winery where they'll live happily ever after.
It's not just that they're looking through rosť colored glasses -- life among the vineyards really can be beautiful.
There are the vinescapes themselves -- grapes often grow in perfect settings, on rolling hills or in pleasant valleys and framed by lakes, seas, or mountains.
The vines are beautiful too. Their lovely deep colors and gnarled trunks can provoke passion in oenophiles and teetotalers alike. And heavy clumps of grapes hanging from slender tendrils make mouths water and palates tingle in anticipation.
Weather is fine
The climate in wine country is often very fine as well, although, as progress has been made in adopting European varietal grapes to sometimes harsh local conditions, wine grapes can increasingly be grown in much less temperate climes.
Still, in some of the best wine country, such as California's Napa and Santa Barbara counties, and the Willamette Valley in Oregon, the weather can be described as nearly ideal.
Even in more northerly grape growing regions such as the Finger Lakes and the North Fork in New York, the climate is softened by large bodies of water.
Lust for living
The grape-country lifestyle also hold attractions, even for non-drinkers. Many areas are hot beds of the burgeoning "slow food" movement, which encourages a turning back to traditional agricultural practices. It's not just wine; it's artisanal cheeses, wild mushrooms, heritage livestock breeds, and naturally raised fruits and vegetables.
Green markets and farm stands provide welcome alternatives to the supermarkets and big-box stores where most Americans shop.
Recreational opportunities are common. Many are adjacent to or near ski areas or close to the sea or large lakes.
Wine country is expanding. Fifty years ago it was almost wholely confined to California and a few small parts of New York, Washington, and Oregon. Production outside the Golden State was negligible.
How that has changed. For example, in the Finger Lakes, according to real estate broker Ron Miller, the number of wineries just keeps growing. In Washington, the state had only about 20 wineries in 1985. Today the total is 350 and counting. Wine country is coming to areas never associated with wine before; states as diverse as Texas and Maine produce wine.
So, drink a toast to the residents of wine country. May their lives be as lovely as their surroundings.
For a look at what a million dollars buys around the country, click here.
Curious as to how much would your house cost in wine country? Click here to find out.