Every wine lover knows that there ain’t no vacation like a winecation (wine vacation), but where in the world should you go? Should you keep it domestic, or (if you can afford it), should you go international? Which regions are the best choices if you’re a fan of red wines? How about whites? Are you interested in visiting historic vineyards, or are you more focused on visiting new vineyards that use modern viticultural technology?
Wine.net has spoken with the experts, and the recommendations they have provided will serve as an excellent first step for planning any trip. Get out your maps, pack your suitcases, and buy those plane tickets, because we are about to whisk you off on a fantastic winecation. Bon voyage!
1. Languedoc-Roussillon (France)
Our friend Adam Morganstern recommended we include Languedoc-Roussillon, which is a region of southern France. He writes that “you may be more familiar with Bordeaux or Burgundy, but Languedoc-Roussillon, bordering Spain and the Mediterranean Sea, is France’s largest wine region. Over the years it has made the transition from providing the country’s bulk wine to creating distinctive vintages of great quality. Along with beautiful vineyards and rich historic sights, it also has the luxury hotels and restaurants to make it a perfect wine country vacation.” This region produces around one-quarter of all French wine and is a hot, dry region with a distinctly Mediterranean climate.
According to its official website, “Languedoc-Roussillon is the largest vineyard area and wine-producing area not only in France, but in the world. Because of this, the wines of Languedoc offer an exceptional selection of quality, value, and character, reflecting the elements from which they come. The wines are blessed by an auspicious blend of natural factors, such as abundant sunshine, the Mediterranean Sea, mountains, as well as history and culture and a revolutionary spirit. These are some of the most authentic wines in France.” One of Languedoc-Roussillon’s most prominent varieties is their Southern red blend, which is a combination of grenache, syrah, and mourvedre. The region is also known for cabernet sauvignon, merlot, chardonnay, and viognier. When you visit, we recommend the following wines:
Domaine Sainte Eugenie Le Clos ($10), a spicy red blend
La Noble Chardonnay ($12)
Hecht & Bannier Languedoc ($12), an organic red
Domaine Cazes Le Canon du Maréchal Muscat-Viognier ($15)
HB Picpoul de Pinet ($10)
Adam Morganstern is a photographer and organic wine expert who often contributes to Organic Wine Journal. You can learn more about Adam by visiting www.adammorganstern.com or @adammorganstern on Twitter.
2. Atlantic City (New Jersey)
The Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa’s winecation is truly the ultimate package for wine lovers. It features a stay in one of their exclusive hotel rooms, a vinotherapy spa treatment, a wine dinner, and a wine tasting. The vinotherapy spa treatment features “a refining exfoliation followed by a moisture-replenishing massage and a mineral moisturizing mask enhanced with wine country pure essential oils. Enjoy a hand massage and extra nourishing care for the eyes. Finish with a protein enzyme moisturizer rich in antioxidants, nourishing vitamins, and replenishing oils. This indulgent treatment will leave you and your skin feeling euphoric.”
Next, enjoy a three-course prix-fixe wine dinner at the Borgata’s Fornelletto Cucina & Wine Bar. Finish with a wine tasting at Vintage Wine Boutique, which “offers over 200 labels of wines, champagnes, and sakes, as well as a complete line of wine accessories, including books, decanters, and more.” Fornelletto Cucina & Wine Bar’s wine list is 27 pages long, which makes there is definitely something for everyone. We recommend the following:
David Gordon’s Bacchus Chardonnay (California, $36)
Paul Blanck Riesling (France, $44)
Bodega Catena Zapata Malbec (Argentina, $29)
Maison Perrier Jouët Grand Brut (France, $104)
Winebow Bisceglia ‘Terre di Vulcano’ Muscat (Italy, $33)
The Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa opened in 2003 and is a hotel, casino, and spa offering an unparalleled travel experience on the East Coast. Learn more about www.theborgata.com and @BorgataAC on Twitter.
3. Mendoza (Argentina)
According to Self Magazine, Terrazas de los Andes in the heart of Mendoza is “the premium Argentinean winery and pioneer of high elevation vineyards in the area since the 1950s.” The winery features a six room guesthouse and “a typical Argentine barbecue featuring handmade empanadas and their famous grass-fed beef slow-cooked over a wood fire, wine and barrel tastings, and horse riding through the vineyards.”
Self Magazine is the authority on health, fitness, beauty, and style for the woman who wants to achieve her personal best in all aspects of her life. Learn more at www.self.com or @SELFmagazine on Twitter.
Terrazas de los Andes is known for their malbecs, but they also produce a delicious cabernet sauvignon, syrah, merlot, petit manseng, and torrontés. “Visitors can enjoy fresh, local cuisine paired with Terrazas Reserve or Single Vineyard wines, or explore [their] local cuisine by taking a cooking lesson and learn[ing] about native regional dishes.” We recommend the following Mendozan wines:
Trapiche Malbec ($7)
Terrazas de Los Andes “Cheval des Andes” Bordeaux Red Blend ($75)
Antigal 1 Uno Malbec ($16)
Bodegas Caro Cosecha Cabernet Sauvignon-Malbec ($52)
Gouguenheim Valle Escondido Malbec ($10)
Terrazas de los Andes was founded in 1898 and is located at the foot of the impressive Andes Mountains in Mendoza, Argentina. Visit www.terrazasdelosandes.com for more information.
4. North Coast (California)
We also asked Rachel Rudwall, a TV host, explorer, creator, and blogger, for her opinions on the best spots for winecations. She shared the following: “As an adventurer and wine lover, I’ve enjoyed the good fortune of delicious wine across every continent but Antarctica. I’ve sipped sugar-sweet ice wines in Austria, throaty reds in Patagonia, and smooth chardonnays in Australia. I’ve enjoyed local blends in East Africa, plum wines in Japan, and sexy bubbles in the south of France. No matter how far I voyage, I always end up returning home for my favorite winecations: California.”
Ms. Rudwall’s tastes specifically favor the North Coast, which is spans more than three million acres and is California’s most prominent and distinguished wine producing region. She continues, explaining that “whether you choose to explore the newly renovated downtown Napa or the historical streets of Sonoma, you’ll discover a wide array of tasting rooms to excite your palate…Venturing beyond town, you’ll encounter wineries to suit every aesthetic–from the Tuscan-style luxury of Luna Vineyards in Napa Valley, to Sonoma’s gallery-esque Imagery Winery and memorabilia-filled Francis Ford Coppola Winery. No matter your tastes, you’ll leave Northern California satisfied…and perhaps a few cases richer.” When taking Ms. Rudwall’s advice and visiting the North Coast, we recommend these wines:
Opus One Bordeaux Red Blend (Napa, $292)
Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa, $27)
The Prisoner Wine Company Red Blend (Napa, $43)
Duckhorn Vineyards Merlot (Napa, $51)
Rombauer Vineyards Chardonnay (Carneros, $36)
5. Piedmont, Italy
The wine.net team also spoke with Ewan Murray of The Wine Society, which is the world’s oldest wine club. He recommended the Piedmont region of Italy, which is often described as the Burgundy of Italy, and is held in extremely high regard in the wine world.
According to Mr. Murray, “frugal but perfectly placed Italian ‘agriturismo’ cottages [are] often owned by growers and situated in vineyards, allow[ing] for simple and economical accommodation [and] for more money to be spent on excellent local wines and food.”
Wine-Searcher explains that Piedmont’s most prolific grapes are nebbiolo and barbera, but muscat is also on the rise due to “the 300% increase in Piedmont’s white-wine production over the past three decades.” When planning your visit to Piedmont, be sure to make note of the following wines:
Gaja Barbaresco Nebbiolo ($176)
Produttori del Barbaresco Nebbiolo ($33)
Gaja Darmagi Langhe Cabernet Sauvignon ($173)
Paolo Saracco Moscato d’Asti ($15)
Gaja Gaia & Rey Chardonnay Langhe ($188)
Wine-Searcher is a database and search engine that brings together over eight million wines and prices from almost 60,000 merchants around the world. Learn more at www.wine-searcher.com and @WineSearcher on Twitter.
6. Celebrity Cruises
Another excellent (and perhaps unexpected) option for any winecation is a cruise. Celebrity Cruises offers a Wine Experience package, which, according to their website, is “underscored with a vast wine list and one of the largest teams of sommeliers in the world [and] offers you an enriching wine-centric experience and knowledge that will be enjoyed long after your cruise is over.”
Celebrity’s onboard wine collection features over 400 choices and represents every major wine-producing region in the world. They offer 38 wine-by-the-glass choices, and have also developed an extensive Specialty Wine List. Their team of 200 certified sommeliers, servers, and cellar masters “are readily available to make suggestions and assist with your wine pairing questions.” Every Celebrity cruise ship features a wine bar and an 1,800 bottle two-story glass wine tower. When sampling Celebrity’s wines, be sure to look for these vintages:
Villa Maria Private Bin Sauvignon Blanc (New Zealand)
Pascual Toso Reserve Malbec (Argentina)
Joseph Drouhin Pinot Noir (France)
Esterházy Estoras Grüner Veltliner (Austria)
Champagne Tattinger Domaine Carneros (California)
7. Shenandoah Valley, Virginia
Our final outstanding winecation possibility is Virginia’s beautiful and historic Shenandoah Valley. According to Orbitz, “more than two dozen wineries are scattered through this spindly and vast region which is tucked in by the Blue Ridge Mountains to the east and the Alleghenies to the west. The area not only boasts about six different wine trails, but is also a treasure trove of colonial hamlets, college towns, and abundant natural wonders all within several hours drive from Washington, D.C. The combination of fertile soil and a warm growing season lends the region an abundance of varietals, including cabernet sauvignon, merlot, zinfandel, and many others.”
According to Wine-Searcher, this region “covers 2.4 million acres surrounding the Shenandoah River on its 150-mile course from western Virginia to its confluence with the larger Potomac River, of which it is a tributary…the growing season in the valley is distinctly warmer and drier than in neighboring areas, which don’t receive the same natural protection from the nearby mountains.” When you visit, we recommend the following wines:
Veramar Vineyard Cabernet Franc ($19)
Ox-Eye Vineyards Riesling ($18)
Virginia Mountain Vineyards Petit Verdot ($16)
Shenandoah Vineyards Chardonnay ($18)
Flying Fox Vineyard Pinot Gris ($18)