Where to Paddle Your Way to Wine

Leave the car behind and really get to know a wine region through kayaking its rivers. The best part? Your hard work is rewarded with winery visits.
Natural Habitat Adventures in Portugal / Photo by Pedro Soromenho

Adventure outfitters are offering a variety of guided kayak and canoe tours that combine paddling with wine tastings and vineyard visits. From half-day float trips on lazy rivers to multi-day expeditions, these tours allow guests to immerse themselves in the landscapes and local cultures that bring wine to life.

Vermont

Water & Wine Canoe Trip, Vermont Canoe & Kayak

Vermont Canoe & Kayak
Vermont Canoe & Kayak

This bucolic northern Vermont adventure starts in Jeffersonville, located about 45 minutes from Burlington. Guests can choose a single or tandem kayak or canoe to paddle 4½ miles down the Lamoille River to Boyden Valley Winery & Sprits, headquartered in a renovated red carriage barn built in 1875.

“It is a completely natural, non-commercialized Vermont river, and what you can expect is a very relaxing, quiet paddle down a river in nature with a smattering of civilization here and there,” says Diane Oustinoff, manager of Vermont Canoe & Kayak.

Boyden Valley offers paddlers a feast of local Vermont Cabot Cheddar and fresh baguettes along with samples from more than 20 wines, ciders and spirits.

“We hope to educate our guests on Vermont wines and alpine-style grapes,” says Bridget Jones, general manager of Boyden Valley Winery. “There is something to suit any palate on our list, from traditional grape wines, Vermont ice wines unique to colder climate areas, fun fruit wines, sparkling hard ciders and even brandy and cream liqueur.”

Jones says, “We occasionally have guests that arrive truly concerned about having to paddle back upstream after their wine tasting with a case of wine in their boat.” But no need to worry. Vermont Canoe & Kayak (which also offers a Kayaks & Cocktails trip that washes ashore at Smugglers’ Notch Distillery) shuttles guests back to Jeffersonville afterward.

Duration: Approximately 3 hours

Skill Level: Beginners and beyond

Cost: $60 per person

Cascadia Expeditions
Cascadia Expeditions / Photo by the Cascadia Paddle Crew

Oregon

Paddling for Pinot Kayaking & Winery Tour, Cascadia Expeditions

Starting near Corvallis, customized tours are offered for groups of 10-18 paddlers. Early season (April-May) trips are pretty adventurous, which employ inflatable kayaks to tackle the Marys River, a tributary of the Willamette with areas of Class II whitewater. For most of the season, however, tours meander down the peaceful Willamette River aboard traditional kayaks. Paddling up to three hours at a stretch can be strenuous.

“We tell people: Expect to exercise a bit,” says Brett Gallagher, owner of Cascadia Expeditions.

A typical day starts with a training session on land before a morning paddle, followed by a riverside picnic lunch. It’s not unusual to spot osprey, kingfisher, bald eagles, blue herons or ducks along the way.

“We strive to help people learn about the environment,” says Gallagher. “Most days, we have the river to ourselves, and people say, ‘I had no idea it was this peaceful out here.’ ”

The group paddles until mid-afternoon, when it’s time pick up a wine glass. The tour might visit Airlie Winery, Cardwell Hill Cellars or Harris Bridge Vineyard.

“The more adventurous folks just love to combine it,” says Gallagher. “It’s a beautiful experience—a great way to experience the summer in Oregon.”

Duration: Customizable

Skill Level: Beginners and beyond

Cost: From $179 per person; call for pricing details

Kayak & Wine on the Delaware from NYC, Sourced Adventures
Sourced Adventures

New York/Pennsylvania

Kayak & Wine on the Delaware from NYC, Sourced Adventures

With round-trip transport from New York City, this adventure features a laid-back single- or double-kayak journey down a six-mile stretch of the Delaware River in Pennsylvania, from Matamoras to Milford.

“The scenery is quite lush and bucolic in the summertime,” says Eli Landau, operations manager at Sourced Adventures. “We’ve had guests who are shocked that you can have this sort of experience with nature so close to New York City.”

After the kayak trek, guests enjoy a catered picnic lunch by the river. Then they take a short ride to the Warwick Valley Winery & Distillery (or occasionally another local winery), in New York’s Black Dirt region of the Hudson Valley. There, they can sample a selection of four to five wines.

“Our guests can hang out, grab some wine, and enjoy the gardens on sunny days,” says Landau. “We are an adventure company, but pride ourselves on making the outdoors affordable and accessible for city-dwellers.”

Duration: 10–11 hours total (including about 2 hours of paddling)

Skill Level: Beginners and beyond

Cost: $115 per person

Getaway Adventures
Getaway Adventures

California

Napa Valley Pedal ‘N Paddle, Russian River Pedal ‘N Paddle Tour, Getaway Adventures

With two California kayak-and-wine itineraries, Getaway Adventures offers tours that splash through both Napa and Sonoma. But before any kayaking, each tour starts with a bicycle ride and two winery visits.

“Our guides have the freedom to customize the trip themselves, and the wineries can vary each time,” says William Ashton, the tour manager for Getaway Adventures.

The guides choose which wineries they would like to visit. Napa stops might include Liana Estates, Bouchaine, Ceja Vineyards, McKenzie-Mueller Vineyards & Winery, Etude or Starmont Winery & Vineyards. Frequent Russian River (Sonoma) tour destinations include Ektimo Vineyards, Red Car, Iron Horse Vineyards, Russian River Vineyards, Fog Crest Vineyard and Hartford Family Winery.

After an alfresco gourmet picnic, guests hit the river in double kayaks for a scenic afternoon paddle.

“Our guides are well-versed in the area history, flora and fauna, and the wine industry, and will educate them while we’re riding, kayaking and tasting,” he says. “It may not be for everyone, but I feel there’s more to the area than the average tourist gets to experience just driving around from winery to winery.”

Duration: Approximately 5½ hours.

Skill Level: “Energetic beginner” and beyond

Cost: $175 per person; group pricing available

Touring Chatham Vineyards with SouthEast Expeditions
Touring Chatham Vineyards with SouthEast Expeditions

Virginia

(Chatham Vineyards) Paddle Your Glass Off Tour, SouthEast Expeditions

This coast-hugging trip explores Virginia’s Eastern Shore between Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, as you travel through salt marshes and calm, protected nature areas.

“We launch next to the shucking house at an historic working wharf on the shore of Nassawadox Creek,” says Dave Burden, owner/guide of SouthEast Expeditions. “The coastline looks much like it would have in the 1600s, when Captain John Smith sailed into the creek.”

The easy, 60-minute paddle route immerses guests in a quiet ecosystem shared by osprey, herons and bald eagles before they leave their kayaks on the banks at Chatham Vineyards.

Guests enjoy a behind-the-scenes tour and tasting of Chatham’s Church Creek wines, where they can linger at tables that overlook the vineyard. Participants then return to their kayaks to paddle back to their starting point.

“It is very common for paddlers to come back from this trip saying that they were wary of paddling, or didn’t think that they really like wine as a gourmet experience, and that the trip has opened their eyes to a new experience they love and can’t wait to do again,” says Burden.

In fall, SouthEast Expeditions offers an additional oyster tasting to the kayak-and-wine tour, “Merroir and Terroir,” by special arrangement.

Duration: Approximately 3 hours

Skill Level: Beginners and beyond

Cost: $89 per person

Sedona Adventure Tours
Sedona Adventure Tours

Arizona

Classic Water to Wine Adventure, Grand Water to Wine Adventure, Sedona Adventure Tours

Setting out from Cottonwood, in northern Arizona, these half- and full-day inflatable kayak trips float down the gentle Verde River through limestone canyons vibrant with birds and other wildlife.

“The Verde Valley is a high-desert oasis, and we’re right at the edge of the Sonoran desert,” says Richard Lynch, founder of Sedona Adventure Tours. “But because of the river you have this lush corridor with towering cottonwood trees and willows. You’re floating on this magic carpet of liquid energy that glides you through this incredible desert environment.”

When the river trip ends, the vineyard tour begins. Guests walk through the vines to the Tuscan-style farmhouse at Alcantara Vineyards for a wine tasting. Classic tour guests then are shuttled back to Cottonwood, while Grand tour participants continue on to Page Springs Cellars, Javelina Leap Winery and Oak Creek Vineyards to sample more Verde Valley wines.

“People just say, ‘Wow, I had no idea this even existed,'” says Lynch. “It’s such a unique experience to be able to come to the desert, and one, find that there’s water and, two, that there’s vineyards and wine tasting rooms. And not just a couple. We’ve now got 21 wine tasting rooms, and new vineyards are coming in all the time.”

Duration:

Half-day Classic tour: 2½ hours (including 1½ hours of paddling);

Full-day Grand tour: Approximately 7 hours (1½ hours of paddling)

Skill Level: Beginners and beyond

Pricing for the Classic Water to Wine Adventure: $97.25 on weekdays and $107.25 on weekends

Pricing for the Grand Water to Wine: $157 on weekdays and $167 on weekends

All the prices above include a $20 credit for wine tastings, food and gifts.

Natural Habitat Adventures
Natural Habitat Adventures / Photo by Pedro Soromenho

Portugal

Paddling Portugal’s River of Wine, Natural Habitat Adventures

After assembling in the northern Portuguese city of Porto, guests on this multi-day tour travel about 100 miles by small train to the village of Pocinho, near the Spanish border. There, they embark on a 50-mile paddling journey through the high granite cliffs and ancient terraced vineyards of the Douro River Valley.

“This is such a multi-faceted trip, which is a big part of its appeal,” says Nick Grossman, marketing manager at Natural Habitat Adventures. “It’s an active adventure in the outdoors, with 4 to 5 hours of easy paddling per day. Guests are grateful for the exercise when it comes to burning off the lavish meals and free-flowing wine served each evening at the historic quintas and casas where we stay.”

Exploring the High Tides of Nova Scotia

Participants explore three UNESCO World Heritage Sites in a landscape steeped in history.

“Guests can expect a truly personalized experience, often visiting with family hosts who have been in the winemaking business in the region for decades or centuries,” says Grossman. “While this trip will make any wine aficionado very happy, it’s also well-suited for the non-expert wine drinker, who simply wishes to enjoy a wide range of the valley’s cuisine and wine.”

Duration: 9 days

Skill Level: “Guests need to be relatively fit for this adventure, ideally with some preparation in advance for using upper-body muscles while kayaking,” say Grossman. “It includes five days of flatwater river kayaking at a beginner level.”

Cost: $5,995 to $6,095 per person (double occupancy), including all wine, guests that would like a single room pay an additional $665.

Published on April 3, 2018
Topics: Travel



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