Some LOVE wine, some only LIKE wine, some could take it or leave it but appreciate the science and craft that goes into wine production. For many people, wine is a huge part of their holiday. So stoke your oenophilia and wanderlust with these top destinations…
*WIN WINE* & chat about wine holidays in this week’s TravelTalk 2019 – Episode 13
Posted by Strawberry Holidays on Tuesday, 2 April 2019
Separated by the Mayacamas Mountains, at the Napa and Sonoma Valley speak to some of the most gently beautiful scenery in the whole of California. There seems to be a bed and breakfast or spa for every great on the vine and tourism is gaining online production of the wine countries leading industry.
Heading into the more temperate Napa and Sonoma Valley from San Francisco can feel like entering another country. Here around 30,000 acres of vineyards, feed hundreds of wineries.
In reality just 5% of Californian wine comes from the region, but what it does produce if some of America’s best.
Despite the close proximity to each other Napa and Sonoma offer different types and different flavours of the drink and the wineries are all different in what they are for visitors. Most offer tastings and a majority offer tours too.
Napa Valley is a 30 mile stretch and lush hilly countryside. It actually looks more like a bit of Europe. Peak season is May to October especially at the weekends. Expect packed tasting tours, full hotels and lots of traffic. For a quieter alternative route to the loaded Highway 29, The Silverado Trail between Napa and Calistoga, is highly recommended.
While you’re visiting the area, Calistoga spas and mud baths are world famous. Take the opportunity to soak in soothing hot water, the bubbles appear from deep in the Earth. A multitude of spas and volcanic mud bath together with a health-conscious Californian atmosphere beckon tourists like you.
On looks alone the Sonoma Valley beats Napa Valley hands down. It’s smaller, more rustic and the stretch of land curves between oak covered mountain ranges Santa Rosa community. The wineries in the valley are generally smaller and more casual than their Napa counterparts. Even though the Sonoma Valley fathered the wine industry from which Napa derives its fame.
In 2015, we visited the Sonoma wine valley and Benziger winery in Glen Ellen. A family owned winery, they store their barrels in warehouses carved out of the mountainside. The grapes are also grown completely pesticide free thanks to a gorgeous insect garden which attracts predator insects. Keeping the wine 100% pesticide free.
We also enjoyed one of my favourite brunches ever. The Sunflower Caffé in Sonoma, was picture perfect and a great spot. It had a wonderful community feel, with local artists creations for sale from it’s walls.
There are so many ways to visit the wine country in California, by car, by train or by bus. you can even enjoy a birds eye view on hot air balloon rides. Even a wine trolley, kitted out like a San Franciscan tram! On an organised tour you can enjoy 3 or 4 wineries in a day. Along with special wines comes plenty of fine dining. The region is home to some of the best restaurants and should be named the wine and food country.
New Zealanders are justifiably loyal to their local winemakers. Who now produce wines that are seen as some of the best in the world, especially white wines.
Probably the most famous of New Zealand’s major wine areas is Marlborough. Seventy per cent of New Zealand’s grapes are grown around Blenheim and Renwick, with a huge range of vineyards. Several of which have fine restaurants. Most famous for its Sauvignon Blanc, the region also produces excellent Pinot Noir.
Head a few kilometres west Of Auckland, and you’ll find Henderson and Kumeu. Most of the wineries here source their grapes from elsewhere so I makes it a good place to sample wines from around the country. Chardonnay and Merlot are particular highlights. This is particularly great if you’re limited on time in New Zealand – for example if you’re on a cruise.
When your cruise ship docks in Auckland, don’t miss the chance to taste a variety of New Zealand’s wines on a fun and informative winery tour. Visit two or three wineries, and enjoy the views of the Tasman Sea along the way! With a choice of morning and afternoon shore excursions, you can choose the tour that best suits your cruise itinerary.
From the numerous vineyards of South Australia comes a dazzling diversity of wines. Several are made from the oldest vines in the world. And the region produces more than half of Australia’s wines. The state has a long history of winemaking and is home to some very famous producers. Here you can enjoy tasting tours if Hardy’s, Jacobs Creek and Banrock Station.
South Australia has eight designated wine zones and within these there are many well-known regions. These include the Barossa which has been producing wine for 150 years; the Clare Valley which is noted for its Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz; and Coonawarra which is Australia’s best red wine region thanks to its soil.
The Barossa and Eden Valley, one of Australia’s most internationally famous wine regions is within easy reach of Adelaide. Next month (April) sees the start of the Barossa Vintage Festival which takes place every year.
Stroll the most graceful streets in France, eat well, drink better and then have the liveliest possible time in a city in touch with its Latin side. It’s no surprise that, following its classification as a World Heritage Site, Bordeaux also bagged the title of Europe’s Best Destination – against opposition from many of the continent’s finest cities. In the past, the place was indeed full of good taste and tradition. “The very essence of elegance,” concluded HM Queen last time she visited Bordeaux.
The region is home to a plethora of the world’s best known wine estates, but they comprise only a small proportion of the area’s 120,000 acres of vines that stretch right across the Gironde department in Aquitaine and likely trace their ancestral roots back around 2,000 years to when the Romans ruled the area.
As it’s a city there is no best time of year to travel, it’s attractions aren’t seasonal. And there’s even a wine museum!
When it comes to wine production regions that have stood the test of time, few can compare to Tuscany, one of the most-loved parts of Italy by wine lovers worldwide. Grapes were first cultivated by the Etruscans nearly 3,000 years ago, grown in such wide abundance that they were often sold overseas and quickly became the area’s most trusted cash crop.
The region’s capital, Florence, is home to some of the world’s most recognizable Renaissance art and architecture, including Michelangelo’s “David” statue, Botticelli’s works in the Uffizi Gallery and the Duomo basilica. Its diverse natural landscape encompasses the rugged Apennine Mountains, the island of Elba’s beaches on the Tyrrhenian Sea and Chianti’s olive groves and vineyards.
There are more areas of outstanding natural and manmade beauty here than you would ever think possible! So feast your eyes and feed your soul. The food’s not bad either.
We recommend sourcing a glamping site, or hiring a cottage or villa as a base and driving round the region. Total flexibility and you can enjoy all the local produce in your home away from home.
Other holidays for wine lovers
Wine River Cruise
Immerse yourself in the many flavours of Europe on one of AMA Waterways unique Wine River Cruises. They let you add a unique, epicurean dimension to a European itinerary. Like a standard river cruise, guests have the opportunity to join tours that highlight the famous sights in each port of call. These special itineraries, however, offer guests a perfect blend of wine-related experiences and excursions in grand capitals and charming towns. You’ll taste local cuisine, discover how wine is made and, of course, partake in tastings — all at no additional cost. Whether you have a seasoned appreciation for fine wine, or simply indulge in a sip here and there, this is a wonderful way to uncork the traditions of the local culture and learn about the region you’re visiting.
There are many options for wine lovers on ocean cruises – here are some hand-picked options:
Silversea – Enjoy lectures by world-class vintners and Silversea’s Wine Ambassador, with tastings and optional private tours to renowned vineyards and wineries.
Celebrity Cruises – Has partnered up with Channel 5’s The Wine Show, to bring guests some extra special wine-related experiences. Presenters Joe Fattorini and Amelia Singer have put together a series of recommended excursions. These include vineyard tours and tastings across Europe. They also often appear onboard to host talks and tastings on the ship. Celebrity Cruises also boast an enviable collection of rare wines at sea, and an expert team of sommeliers.
Cunard – Queen Mary 2 – Cunard offer a unique cruising opportunity onboard QM2, in that guests can earn themselves a Level 1 or 2 Award in Wines; a recognised qualification in the wine industry.
We didn’t even get to Great British breaks, South African holidays, South American trips and the many more opportunities there are out there to enjoy wine on holiday. We’ll think about adding them in future blogs!