Every wine aficionado dreams of visiting famous wine regions to talk to winemakers taste their wines and discuss. Invariably, these regions offer incomparable scenery and generally, remarkable restaurants. All are conveniently located close to wineries that attract their fair share of visitors. Some wineries operate award-winning restaurants.
If you want to do justice to your trip, rent a car, or better still, hire a taxi for a day or two. This will allow you to taste at your heart’s content without having to worry about driving under the influence (DUI).
Here are some destinations I recommend:
California’s Central Coast – filled with vineyards that offer samples for tasting. The highways are well engineered and wineries offer ample parking. Some charge for each wine tasted, and deduct the amount if you purchase a bottle, others have no restrictions. A few offer picnic tables at no cost.
Southern France (Languedoc and Provence) and Cotes du Rhone – all are famous for their cusisines and a range of wine. Cotes du Rhone is more famous for its red wines than white, but there are also many white wines that deserve the attention of wine drinkers.
Languedoc offers both red and white wines, while Provence is more famous for its refreshing rose wines that go well with the local cuisine based on tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, fresh vegetables, seafood, and herbs.
Many wineries feature tasting programs and you can buy the wine you like.
Cotes du Rhone is famous for its Chateauneuf-Du-Pape and Gigondas. In the Chateauneuf-du-Pape chateaux require reservations, roadside stands sometimes offer free tastings.
Barossa Valley, South Australia – this valley, located north of Adelaide, in South Australia was settled by Silesians and the architecture still bears witness to their ancestral profession of shipbuilding. The valley is scenic, famous for Shiraz, but also produces other wines.
Piedmont in Italy is considered the most interesting of all regions in the country. Villages are small and close each other. There are many world famous wines i.e Barolo, Barbaresco, Ghemme, Moscato d’Àsti Naturale, sparkling Moscato d`Àsti are just some of the famous wines. The cuisine is distinct and well worth experiencing. You can stay in one town, and drive around in different sub-regions, tasting wines as you please.
Mosel – the vineyards are on both banks of the scenic Mosel River. The highway follows one bank (east or west) of the river, and vineyards extend to the shoulders of the highway. Small villages dot the river. Many family operated restaurants offer fine food, but service is slow by North American standards for the simple reason that all orders are cooked to order.
Burgundy – is one of the most popular destinations because of its small size, and its fame. Beaune is the commercial capital, full with cellars of famous negociants.
In Beaune, don’t miss a visit to the Hospices de Beaune, and visit one the establishments that allow you to taste a wide range of local wines after paying a set entrance fee. Beaune is full of fine restaurants, as are small towns north and south of it.
Champagne –just an hour’s drive from Paris, offers a multitude of possibilities. In Reims, several large champagne houses offer tours of their cellars, at the end of which you are offer one or more glasses of champagne.
Epernay, close by, is smaller and less busy but equally charming.
Bordeaux – is a large region, relatively flat, and studded with thousands of chateaux.
All vineyards are meticulously lid out, and chateaux generally well maintained.
If you want to visit famous chateaux, you have to make reservations. Some chateaux do not accept visitors. A few offer spa treatments, and accommodation.
You can stay in the city of Bordeaux and drive north or south or east to visit a number of sub-regions i.e Medoc, Sauternes, and St. Emilion.
Tuscany in the heart of Italy is famous for its Chianti and Brunello di Montalcino. Tuscany offers cooking schools and fabulous food and many wineries have superb accommodation. Inventive Tuscans developed an agritourism industry. In
the town of Montalcino, the fortress offers a wine shop where one can purchase a wide range of wines, local pecorino, sausages, and honey. Tuscany is only 2 ½ – 3 hours drive from Rome.
Napa Valley –the first American wine region that garnered international attention for its fabulous wines.
It is close to San Francisco, but the town of Napa also offers suitable accommodation.
Practically all wineries offer tastings except Opus One. Some charge for each pour, others discount the cost of wine consumed should you purchase.
Some wineries offer two types of tasting – regular and V I P. The V I P programs offer better quality wines, poured by very knowledgeable individuals.
Mumm’s Napa, the sparkling wine establishment, operates a fine restaurant, but there are others that offer outstanding food.