Have you been bitten by the travel bug? While every glass of wine is a journey, wine travel will deliver your wine experiences to new heights.
Enotourism is a relatively new travel concept, and it’s growing at a rapid pace. According to a 2007 study by the Travel Industry Association, wine tourism exploded during the first decade of the 21st century. Sixty percent of those surveyed expressed interest in food and wine related travel, while seventeen percent (or 27 million people) confirmed wine-related travel at least once during the previous three years. These numbers have surely increased over the past nine years.
That said, wine travel opportunities abound in all corners of the globe. Veer off the beaten path this winter and indulge in some enotourism, as recommended by some of the web’s top wine writers.
Without doubt, Terceira Island, one of the nine islands that make up the Azores, was my favorite wine region to visit. Volcanic soil, like rock, supported vines that were surrounded by stone walls to protect the vines from the daily 40mph winds and surf from the sea that cause devastation on a daily basis.
Rosemary. Lavender. Rosé. Just as the Eiffel Tour is synonymous with Paris, Big Ben with London and Lady Liberty with New York City, lavender fields and a glass of “pink” wine signify Provence. Made with grapes from an area with vines first planted by the Greeks 600 years before the birth of Christ, rosé is the oldest known wine, and Provence, the oldest wine region in all of the world.
From the South of France, a land of sun, wind and sea, comes a dry wine that pairs with all sorts of food — Asian, Indian, Mexican, Middle Eastern, Spanish, Thai, Italian, seafood and American, in addition to its own Provençal cuisine. But often one thinks of Provence as just one monolithic terroir, with one style of rosé, because we are limited in what importers bring to our stores.
Yet, I was surprised to learn of its diverse terroir, over a dozen grape varieties and 9 major AOCs produce wines with stylistic differences. I love the food, the wine and the idea of a year with over 2,700 hours of sunshine! There should be no better way to experience the diversity of Provence than from inside its borders.
From the mouth of the Rhône River, along the Mediterranean Coast to the foot of the Alps, even a lifetime of wine study will never be complete until I visit Provence.
A wine region I’m really looking forward to visiting soon is Salta in Argentina. This is not only their northernmost wine growing region, but also one with incredible vineyard elevations. In fact, the region’s vineyards start at just below 5,000 feet.
There’s something enticing, rugged and pure about mountain fruit that delights my senses. The elevation allows winemakers to craft not only high elevation wines, but multi-elevation offerings that showcase the unique characteristics of each. Of course malbec thrives there, but so does torrontés. Additionally there is some cabernet sauvignon of note as well as smaller quantities of other varieties.
I’ve tasted a number of exciting wines from Salta lately but none more so than Bodega Colomé’s Icon wine. For this and other high altitude expressions, I can’t wait to get to Salta.
Sitting at an elevation of more than 10,000 feet, the vineyard is the highest in the world. Dark, rich fruit aromas are joined by bacon fat on the stunning nose. Boysenberry, blueberry and a host of other deep, dark, juicy fruit flavors are strewn throughout the rich, layered palate. Firm acid, bits of roasted espresso and a dusting of cocoa are all evident on the persistent finish. This wine is big and rich but still fresh and balanced. It’s a terrific wine now and promises to improve with bottle age. As the vines themselves gain age, future vintages promise to impress even more.
Santa Barbara, California
Without a doubt, it was Sanford Winery in Santa Barbara County, California. This was the first time I was able to talk in depth with winemaker Steve Fennel about his vineyard philosophy and methods, and view the bottling process up close. I even was able to taste the wine after cold filtration process. I learned far more about what goes in to making a wine, and how many choices are involved in the wine making process, than I’d ever learned before, from a group of people who love what they do with a dedicated passion.
I’ve been to my share of wine regions, but it’s hard to pick just one as a favorite. What I will say, is that I’d love to continue to explore the wine regions of Italy that I have yet to travel to. Top of my list is the island of Sicily.
I travelled to Sicily many years ago, but it was before I became a true wine lover, so unfortunately I hadn’t visited any of the vineyards throughout the island. I’m intrigued by the wines grown on volcanic soil all throughout Italy, but would enjoy to make my way up to Mt. Etna to meet with some producers and get a full perspective on what makes those wines unique.
I was invited, along with several of my all-time favorite bloggers, to go to Spain by MGW Group, a group focused on promoting top-of-the-line wineries from different appellations or denomination of origin (Dos) in Spain. It was a trip of planes, trains and automobiles that allowed us to get a first-hand glimpse of some of the wineries in that beautiful country.
We visited three regions – Alicante, Bullas and Bierzo. These regions had weather and terroir that couldn’t be more different and our trip spanned from the south to the north. This is where my love affair with the monastrell grape and all things Spain began, where I ate my weight in Spanish regional specialties like paella, laughed so hard I almost cried daily and had a realization of how good a gin and tonic could truly be.
Last October my husband and I vacationed in Italy. We spent six days being tourists in Rome and cities in Tuscany and three days visiting wonderful wineries in Montepulciano, Montalcino and Chianti Classico. The entire trip was fantastic, but our three days in the Tuscan wine country were magical.
We chose to stay at an amazing winery, Terralsole, meaning “Land Toward the Sun.” The home and guest house was beautiful and surrounded by the vineyards. Our hosts, Mario and Athena, were incredibly hospitable. We participated in an authentic cooking class with Athena and made a wonderful dinner of farra, Tuscan rabbit and drunken pears. We cooked, laughed, ate, and drank outstanding Terralsole wines. It was such a memorable vacation and I now consider Terralsole our southern Tuscan home.
While staying at Terralsole we visited two wineries in Montepulciano, Avignonesi and Boscarelli. Both produce high quality Vino Noble as well as several Tuscan IGT’s and outstanding Vin Santo. In Montalcino we also visited Poggio Antico where we had a great tour, tasted their extraordinary wines and ate an amazing meal.
Finally, we had to end our winery visits with Chianti so we chose to visit one of the great wineries of Chianti Classico, Felsina. Again we were greeted with wonderful hospitality, a tour, and a delicious lunch paired with a variety of their lovely wines. Three days in Tuscan wine country promises great people, delicious food, and extraordinary wines. It was magical and memorable, and we made new friendships. I highly recommend visiting the Tuscan wine country and if you do you must stay at Terralsole!
Willamette Valley, Oregon
When a wine gal, such as myself, who is wholeheartedly charmed by pinot noir (and who also happens to live in the heart of Oregon’s Willamette Valley wine country) is asked where her most favorite wine vacation is, the answer is really quite simple: there’s no place like home.
My most favorite wine vacation begins the moment my husband and I step off our front porch and drive out towards the gently rolling and gradually cascading lush-green hills of Oregon’s breathtaking Willamette Valley wine country.
The ultimate start to a Willamette Valley wine vacation begins with a visit to downtown Dundee’s Red Hills Market where a picnic basket full of freshly baked Italian rustic bread, fresh salumi from Portland charcuterie specialists, Olympia Provisions, and a selection of artisanal cheeses from local producers like La Mariposa, Briar Rose Creamery and Fern’s Edge Goat Dairy would be pre-ordered and waiting for our pick-up (along with a couple of the best sandwiches imaginable).
Fabulous food from Red Hill’s Market demands the finest in wine, so to Stoller Family Estate we would go. We’d find two Adirondacks with an unmatched view and order a bottle of the 2010 Reserve Pinot Noir, with its lush nuances alongside cherries, earth and fall spices that lead to a super juicy, super long finish – perfectly balanced by crisp acidity and elegant, supple tannins.
Experiencing a legendary Willamette Valley earth-driven pinot noir that clearly showcases a sense of place while relishing in cuisine that’s been created from the bounties of local wild mushrooms and truffles is commonplace at the extraordinary Joel Palmer House, and is an ambrosial dinner one night. Overhearing remarkably unprecedented stories from Oregon’s brilliantly influential and notably honored wine pioneers is mainstream while playing a game of pool in The Back Room of the famed Nick’s Italian Café – located in the wine-centric town of McMinnville, which becomes the dinner-spot of gourmet appetizers and a casual good-time for the next night of my fine wine vacation.
This ultimate wine vacation does come to an end, but only after spending one luxurious night at the marvelously stunning Allison Inn & Spa – one of the top 500 resorts in the world. Ending a vacation at the Allison is like being riveted by the dazzling grand finale display of the best fireworks show that’s ever lit up the skies.