Wine in the Wild
More and more vacationers are looking for upscale adventures. Here are our top picks for outdoor adventures where great wine and food are travel essentials.
More and more vacationers are looking for upscale adventures. Here are our top picks for outdoor adventures where great wine and food are travel essentials.
Maybe it's because 21st-century urban professionals are looking for new ways to blow off steam, or maybe because folks who used to pitch tents at K.O.A. campgrounds have a few more dollars in their pockets, but one thing is for sure: Upscale adventure travel is on the rise. And it only stands to reason that travelers who can afford $4,000 safaris aren't going to be satisfied with rations of pork and beans out by the campfire, washed down by some river water.
Wilderness adventure companies are discovering that people who sign up for whitewater rapids expeditions and cattle drives through Montana are often the same people who get a rush navigating book-length wine lists. With this in mind, many high-end adventure outfitters are building up their wine cellars and hiring chefs who can do wonders with local produce and small-herd, grass-fed beef. We've found eco-lodges that reward long days of hiking with fireside glasses of 1982 Bordeaux, and guides with whom you can rappel over Andean cliffs by day, and taste Chilean Carmenères in the evening.
Grab a life preserver and a corkscrew—have we got some adventure-filled destinations for you.
More Great Adventures for Enophiles
The Lodge at Keyah Grande
This eight-room luxury wilderness retreat on 4,000 acres in the San Juan Mountains has a 3,000-bottle wine cellar that is heavy on Bordeaux. Leisure activities include fly fishing, an equestrian center and hiking, as well as cross-country and downhill skiing nearby.
13211 Highway 160 West, Pagosa Springs, Colorado. Tel.: 970. 731.1160; www.lodgeatkeyahgrande.com
Rainbow Ranch Lodge
Parts of the movie A River Runs Through It were filmed on this property, which is 10 miles north of Yellowstone National Park. Here, herds of elk rove the Gallatin River. In summer there's horseback riding, fly fishing, whitewater rafting, kayaking, hiking and mountain biking. In the winter, try snowshoeing and backcountry skiing. Décor is haute Western with antler chandeliers, scuffed leather sofas, a massive fieldstone fireplace and a 12-person outdoor hot tub. Many rooms have their own river-rock fireplaces. 42950 Gallatin Road, Gallatin Gateway, Montana.
Tel.: 800.937.4132 or 406.995.4132; www.rainbowranch.com
· South Africa
Phinda Forest Lodge
At this glass-walled "Zulu Zen" reserve guests can see lion, elephant and leopard on game drives, soar above the herds on an air safari, and go scuba diving and snorkeling. South African winemakers host stylish bush banquets in the outdoor, lantern-lit boma. Head Office: Conservation Corporation Africa,
Tel.: 035.562. 0390; fax: 035.562.0661; www.ccafrica.com
Nine opulent raised tents connected by walkways allow game to wander freely through the camp, and animals sometimes take refuge under the rooms. The lodge only offers African wines, with a wide range from South Africa. The thatched wine cellar has a charcoal cooling system where water is trickle-fed through charcoal brick walls, allowing evaporation to stabilize temperature.
Tel: +27.11.327. 5803; www.wilderness safaris.com
· New Zealand
Across from the main lodge under a knoll, the vaulted wine cellar holds thousands of bottles of New Zealand wine. Sporting opportunities include rainbow trout fishing, water skiing, tandem skydiving, jet boating, white and black water rafting and wild boar hunting.
Salmon River Outfitters
A thousand feet deeper than the Grand Canyon, the Salmon River cuts through 2.3 million acres of wilderness ruled by bear, bald eagle, bighorn sheep and elk. With no road access, the only way in is by plane, boat or horse. While Lewis and Clark retreated before its fury, calling it the "River of No Return," Salmon River Outfitters can guide rafters safely though.
"I only got into one of those little inflatable kayaks after the river guide assured me, 'Don't worry, you won't die, there's no big hole at the bottom where you can get sucked in,'" recalls recent guest Jean Odmark. "'If you're lucky you'll stay in the kayak,' he said. 'If you're not, you'll get flipped out.' I managed to stay upright through some big rapids. Then thinking I was so great," she laughs, "I took a series of little rapids and immediately got washed over the side."
Wine and food: During "Raft with the Winemaker" journeys, notable vintners—from wineries like Chappellet, Cakebread Cellars and Chateau Montelena—raft (and talk wine, of course) along with fellow adventurers. They bring carefully chosen wines to pair with each night's multicourse dinner. Chefs raise Dutch-oven cookery to an artform, creating dishes like duck with currant sauce and cheese soufflé, and red raspberries laced with hot fudge and Grand Marnier. Salmon River Outfitters, Inc., P.O. Box 1006, McCall, ID. 83638. Tel.: 800.346.6204; fax: 208.634.4426; www.salmonriveroutfitters.com. Six-day rafting trips, offered June through September, are $1,545 per person.
Papoose Creek Lodge
Next door to his 25,000-acre Sun Ranch which seems like a private Yellowstone Park—Silicon Valley titan Roger Lang has created a sumptuous ecotourism lodge. Surrounded by a blaze of wildflowers with names like Fireweed, Fairy Slipper and Scarlet Paintbrush, guests can hike to 9,500-foot peaks. "Horse whisperer" Roger Young, wrangler for Lang's 15 quarter-horses, also leads visitors through bush country so remote that encounters with grizzly bears, mountain lions and lynxes are common. There's world-class fly-fishing in the nearby Madison River, too. Built from reclaimed barn wood and Wyoming snow fencing, the Lodge's opulent "pioneer-style" accommodations have stone fireplaces, walkout porches and radiant-heat floor tiles.
Wine and food: The wine list boasts 1982 vintages of Lafite Rothschild and Haut-Brion, as well as Kermit Lynch wines like Les Clefs d'Or and Reverdy Sancerre. Chef Jeff Miller forges relationships with local organic farmers and uses nearby sources for small-herd, grassfed beef, and naturally raised lamb and poultry. He has created a "socially conscious, sustainable menu" featuring dishes like Montana pork tenderloin with grilled corn salsa. This autumn, he's planning a weekend forage for wild mushroom and truffles.
Papoose Creek Lodge, Highway 287 North, Cameron, Montana. Tel.: 888.674.3030; fax: 406.682.3031; www.papoosecreek.com.
The 2005 season runs from May 15-October 15. Three-night trips start at $1,300 per person, which includes meals, guided hikes, canoeing and use of all lodge facilities.
Triple Creek Ranch
After a day driving cattle through the jagged Rockies, Triple Creek guests don't snuggle into sleeping bags. They retire to sybaritic log and cedar cabins with wood-burning fireplaces, steam showers for two, and hot tubs overlooking the Bitterroot Mountains. Two of Triple Creek's keenest equestrians are winemakers Cyril and Blakesley Chappellet.
"The horses are exceptional," the Chappellets say. "We have our favorites—Rowdy and Beau—and love to ride to a lookout in the mountains for a gourmet picnic lunch with breathtaking views of the valley." Non-riders learn fly-fishing and whitewater rafting, or hike through miles of alpine valleys. Attempt the 5-mile-high Trapper Peak, and ask the chef for a celebratory Champagne lunch.
Wine and food: Triple Creek's new wine director, Colin Vance, used to work at the French Laundry. Here he presides over a 125-wine list, heavy on American labels, including Cristom's 2001 Marjorie Vineyard Pinot Noir from Willamette Valley, and K Vintners' 2001 Morrison Lane Syrah from Walla Walla. The Ranch's early summer Vintner Weekends are intimate affairs, complete with winemaker seminars. Chef Jason Willenbrock, who has worked under legendary French chef Roger Verger, welcomes guests into his new, state-of-the-art kitchen, where he rustles up creations like Copper River salmon medallions with salsify purée, lemon verbena and soy beurre blanc.
Triple Creek Ranch, 5551 West Fork Road, Darby, Montana. Tel.: 406.821. 4600; fax: 406.821.4666; www.triple creekranch.com.
Nightly rates from $510 per couple (plus tax and tip) include all food, beverages and ranch activities. Four-night cattle drives are $3,900 per couple; 3-night Vintner Series events from $1,530 per couple.
The Manor on Golden Pond
The image of loons skimming the surface of Squam Lake is familiar to anyone who saw the movie On Golden Pond. That was Hollywood's fantasy New England. In real life, as in the movies, small details can conjure whole worlds: a sail on the Manor's vintage mahogany Chris-Craft recalls the estate's aristocratic roots, and the clop of horses' hooves during a sleigh ride creates a Currier and Ives dream state. The promise of ravishing views drew one guest from before a crackling apple-wood fire to Rattlesnake Trail "for a breathless climb to the rock-covered summit" of a Squam range peak. Indeed, the pine-scented air and crystalline lake water are enough to entice guests outside of this English manor house, which has a commanding view of the White Mountains; kayaking, trout fishing, snow shoeing and hunting bear tracks keep them outdoors.
Wine and food: Chef Jeffrey Woolley's cuisine is New England seasonal; venison, chanterelles, ramps, fiddlehead ferns, cider and locally tapped maple syrup, all from surrounding hills, are frequent ingredients in his dishes. Chef Woolley also runs a private, two-night cooking retreat on request. He offers two wines with each course at his wine dinners—and with a 1,100-bottle cellar full of Bordeaux and California stalwarts (Dominus, Opus One) who knows what may be in store for you?
Manor on Golden Pond, Route 3, Holderness, New Hampshire. Tel.: 800.545.2141; fax: 603.968.2116; www.manorongoldenpond.com.
High season rates from $225, double occupancy, which includes afternoon tea and a full country breakfast. The cooking retreat ($999 per couple) includes two meals and tea daily, plus cooking classes and gratuities.
A day with this outfit's daring guides is guaranteed to get your adrenaline pumping. Guest Bill Taylor recalls lowering himself down a canyon "supported only by a rope and small piece of hardware" when he lost his footing and ended up in the path of a cascading waterfall. Guest Rob LaGrone fell out of the raft on Class V rapids through Inferno Canyon. "One thing's for sure," LaGrone maintains, "between the freshness of the water and the power of the rapids, the Futaleufu [River] will really cleanse your palate for the evening's wine tasting." Those who prefer to stay dry can test their mettle riding with local huasos (Chilean cowboys)—it's a good thing massages are included in the package. At the end of the day, adventurers retire to a quincho, a rustic circular building with a large central fireplace that overlooks the snow-capped Andes.
Wine and food: LaGrone feels that the program's Adventure in Wine tastings "are a lot like rafting—only much less scary…with adventures around every corner." One evening during the program, Sommelier Alex Ordenes teaches the technique of sensorial analysis using aromas and flavors of Chile's popular grapes, particularly Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Other tastings are devoted to Chile's top wines, including Concha y Toro's Don Melchor and Sideral's Altair Vineyard Cabernet blend, as well as native, organic wines and limited-production Carmenères.
H20 Patagonia, Tel.: 888.426.7238; www.h20patagonia. com.
Eight-day "Adventures in Wine" weeks, usually held in February (Chile's summer) are $4,000 per person including all wines, meals and sports. Other eight-day trips, such as whitewater rafting and women's multi-adventure, are $3,800 per person.
Explora's small Hotel Salto Chico is located on the windswept steppes of the 600,000-acre Torres del Paine National Park. Hikers are rewarded by up-close encounters with the jagged icebergs of Glacier Grey. Wildlife aficionados can trek through ancient lenga forests at the base of Torres del Paine pass, which swarms with more than 150 little-known species such as guanacos (what look like camel crossed with deer) and Darwin's rhea (nicknamed "South America's ostrich"). While the weather here is notoriously hostile—each of the four seasons can blaze through here in the space of 24 hours—guests are coddled in a chic, minimalist lodge where scenery is as simple and stunning as Andean peaks and waterfalls outside the soaring glass walls.
Wine and food: French-trained Executive Chef Lorenzo Pasqualletto has developed an ingenious antidote to this demanding environment: high-protein, low-viscosity "comfort" cuisine, which is light on oils, creams and fries. While meals are designed for easy digestion and sound sleep to prepare guests for the physical rigors ahead of them, diners still indulge in regional fare like slow-roasted Patagonian lamb, ceviche, lobster from the southern channels, and simple desserts like rosemary and honey-roasted pears. The resort's private Viña Gracia de Chile wine label includes the award-winning Pasajero 1999 Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon. For those who cast caution aside there are pisco sours and vainas, the latter a powerful concoction of Port, brandy, cocoa and cinnamon.
Explora en Patagonia, Hotel Salto Chico, Torres del Pane National Park, Chile. Tel.: 18.104.22.16860; fax: 22.214.171.12455; www.explora.com.
Four-day stays from $1,560 per person, based on double occupancy, which includes all food, beverages and excursions. Getting to this remote site takes four hours by plane from Santiago, then five hours by van to the hotel, half of that on dirt roads. The company also runs a desert resort near San Pedro de Atacama, only two hours by air, then 45 minutes by road.
"Nowhere else on our planet could you come face to face with the world's most effective killing machines in the afternoon, and nose to nose with arguably the finest commercial cellar of South African wines in the evening," observes guest Clive Pinder after a sojourn at Singita. Here, in the African wild, humans see the hunt up close (so close, in fact, that they practically become part of it).
"It's not uncommon for leopards, lions and cheetahs to sidle up to a Land Rover, using it as cover to stalk an unsuspecting buffalo, calf or impala," Pinder says. Inside Singita's lodges—some with timber and stone suites, and others with a more colonial feel—guests can also feel an intimate connection with wild creatures. Pinder was surprised to awaken one morning "to the submerged shimmer of a crocodile…lurking no more than a meter away at the edge of a water hole."
Wine and food: Approximately 12,000 bottles of premium South African wine are buried deep in cool rock cellars below the Ebony and Boulders lodges. Sommelier François Rautenbach has collected rare icons and limited-release wines from Vergelegen Wine Estate, Rustenberg, Veenwouden Private Cellar and Hamilton Russell Vineyards. Some are even hard to find in South Africa. Under a reed-enclosed, open-air boma, wines accompany a menu influenced by classic colonial and Cape Malay flavors, including dishes like roasted sweet potato and peppadew soup, and rack of Karoo lamb marinated in rosemary and red wine with Mandazi bread.
Singita Lodges, P.O. Box 23367, Claremont 7735, Cape Town, South Africa. Tel.: +27.21.683. 3424; fax: +27.21.683.3502; www.singita.com.
Rates are approximately $1,170 USD (6,800 Rand) per person per night, double occupancy. Includes accommodations, three meals a day, wine tastings and all beverages (excluding Champagnes), safaris, return surface transfers from Singita airstrip to lodges, and laundry and valet services. The resort group also has a retail outlet, Singita Premier Wine Direct, through which guests can courier bottles directly to their homes.
Wharekauhau Country Estate
On this 5,000-acre sheep station, one North American felt swept away by the boundless space. Perhaps it was the warm breeze gusting from Cook Strait that compelled guest Duff Trimble, sitting on his veranda high above the beach, to put his feet on the sand. "Dodging minefields of sheep manure—Wharekauhau is, after all, a working farm—I crossed quickly to the edge of the bluff. I proceeded with the rather treacherous descent and suddenly found myself within 100 meters of the ocean. …I spent the next two hours in a blissful trance, walking the beach." Those looking for an even greater adrenaline rush can indulge in horse trekking, hikes through the pristine forest and along the rugged coast, and hunting safaris for deer, pig and goat.
Wine and food: Wharekauhau's chef, Hemi Tahu, uses New Zealand staples like baby paua (abalone), pikopiko (fern frond) and horopito (native bush pepper). The wine list is especially strong in Sauvignon Blancs, and Pinot Noirs from nearby Martinborogh. Trimble enjoyed the renowned Ata Rangi 2001 Pinot Noir, and a Sauvignon Blanc from the lesser-known Staete Landt winery.
Wharekauhau Country Estate, Western Lake Road, Palliser Bay, RD3 Featherston, Wairarapa, New Zealand. Tel.: +64.6.307. 7581; fax: +64.6.307.7799; www.whare kauhau.co.nz.
Rates from $795 NZD (approximately $580USD) per person, double occupancy, plus GST. Includes accommodations, pre-dinner drinks, four-course evening meal and full country breakfast.