We often write about travel destinations, particularly those that are wine related, says Gregory Dal Piaz. Today, I present you with some thoughts on the subject and some of the likely destinations that will enchant us all. These are some of the top eno-tourism destinations of the world.
We can’t present an inclusive list of every wine destination, so here are but a few locations with the requisite tourism infrastructure to ensure a spectacular stay for wine lovers and enthusiastic novices alike. After all, it does seem that when we go on our eno-vacations, a very willing and (hopefully) enthusiastic novice is often included in the package!
One of the big daddies of the wine world, Bordeaux is jam-packed with wineries. There are many small family operations that you’ve probably never heard of, as well as the famous chateaux. This diversity really allows you to indulge a wide variety of experiences whether they be on the right or left banks of the Gironde River or in the sprawling Entre-Deux-Mers region.
The region boasts a superb tourism infrastructure. Bordeaux city is very attractive, with a wonderful riverfront. After the relatively recent completion of a thorough cleaning, the formerly grey city is now quite sparkly and full of fun shops and restaurants. The surrounding countryside boasts plenty of history. The Arcachon Bay can supply you with your fix of oysters, bay cruises and fancy beaches. Plus, it is just an hour away, if you really need to convince a less than enthusiastic partner that the place is perfect!
One of Italy’s top wine producing regions, Piedmont is a small gem of a region with wineries that are relatively tightly packed. This is the land of Barolo and Barbaresco, of course, but it’s also the land of Barbera, Dolcetto, Pelaverga, Freisa and Moscato d’Asti. There is a wide range of wines on offer throughout the region in many styles and at virtually all price points.
Alba, the regional “big city,” is actually very small, with a few lovely restaurants and a very pleasant pedestrian core. There, you will find a rather compelling farmers market each weekend, replete with a satellite organic market! If your traveling partner is not too into wine, you better hope that food is his or her weakness. While the region boasts some truly incredible culinary treasures (truffles, anyone?), there is not a whole heck of a lot to do other than eat and drink. Of course, wasting away a few hours each day in the piazza while eating lunch and enjoying a long afternoon espresso is not too shabby a day in my book. Torino, another recipient of a recent facelift, is about an hour away and is a very attractive place to spend a few days indulging yourself with loved ones.
Queenstown, New Zealand
Central Otago is but one region in New Zealand, but it is probably the most prepared for hosting tourists. This small village is an international tourism destination, helped by the land of hobbits and lords that lies to the west. Yes, just west of Central Otago is where the stunning scenery that captured our imaginations in the “The Lord of the Rings” films was filmed.
Pinot Noir, and to a lesser extent Chardonnay and Riesling, is the wine to taste while down here. There are plenty of fabulous wines so you could spend a week here with no problem, though Queenstown might begin to seem small after that much time. The accommodations are top notch, as is the dining, and there are plenty of outdoor activities with which to while away the time. The region offers a rather special blend of highbrow and lowbrow pastimes that make it ideal for a family get away, assuming of course that Queenstown is convenient for you. In my book, it’s still worth making the effort to visit!
It always pisses people off when Napa and Sonoma are lumped together like this, but I have my reasons. Also, they are adjacent to each other. You see, there are plenty of great wineries in both counties, and I’d like to visit them all! The rub is that you can’t. You have to choose a place to stay that will give you the best access to all of them. For me that is Sonoma, which also can be less expensive and less crowded.
There are endless restaurants to explore in the region, along with lovely accommodations, but they don’t call this wine country for nothing. While there are some splendid drives worth taking, a visit to Napanoma is really a gastronomic tour.
Oregon’s wine scene is exploding. The majority of it is centered in the Willamette Valley, formerly the scene of bucolic farming communities. Unfortunately for some more demanding wine travelers, the region’s tourism industry has yet to catch up with the level of tourists the wine industry tends to attract. There are a few spots both to stay and to dine that are worthy wine country destinations, but the draw here is the wine. The selection is made up of brilliant Pinot Noir and Chardonnay for the most part, with Riesling, Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc also making things attractive.
Willamette is also a scant hour or so from Portland, one of the most exciting cities in the U.S. Portland is home to an amazing selection of inventive restaurants, top notch accommodations, amazing neighborhoods full of galleries and shops worthy of exploration, an attractive riverfront, great mass transit and a stunning hiking path through the city’s backyard! In short, it has everything a destination city should have. There are even a few wineries in the city, if you want to make wine an adjunct to a “real” vacation.