Too often, a winery’s tasting room can be more of an exasperation than an experience.
However, if you’re willing to spend a bit more, you can secure winery experiences that offer a lot more. Here are 11 such winery destinations around the world.
Antinori nel Chianti Classico
A family winery that spans 26 generations, Antinori has made Tuscan wines since 1385. It’s now run for the first time by women, sisters Albiera, Allegra and Alessia. For centuries, this winery known for its Chiantis and super Tuscans had its own castle in downtown Florence. In 2013, it relocated to a Chianti Classico estate on the road to Siena.
There, the winery’s “Bottaia CRU Tour” dazzles with architecture and insights into winemaking. The tasting includes five wines from top Antinori estates, including its famous Tignanello. At lunch, there are three more wines, which include the lesser-known dessert wine, Muffato della Sala from Umbria. (About $180 per person, lunch included)
Punta del Este, Uruguay
Neighbor to Argentina, Uruguay is an emerging wine region where premier vineyards face the Atlantic Ocean. Businessman and vintner Alejandro Bulgheroni enlivens this sleepy area with luxury-level, Bordeaux-style wines from his Bodega Garzón estate, which features a golf resort surrounding the winery.
Argentine celebrity chef Francis Mallmann is the culinary director at the restaurant, El Garzón, which offers a cooking course that demonstrates how he prepares select dishes. The result is a four-course lunch, available Wednesday through Saturday, alongside Garzón wines. Guests walk away with a Bodega Garzón apron and infinite bragging rights. (About $220 per person)
Château de Pommard
Just south of the walled medieval French city of Beaune, Château de Pommard appeals to those who love Pinot Noir and seek to better understand the concept of terroir. Most Burgundy vineyards are shared among multiple winemakers, but a few have single owners, called monopoles.
The largest one in the region, Clos Marey-Monge, surrounds Pommard. Marey-Monge is made up of seven plots, each with its own microclimate and soil type, that produce a singular cuvée before assemblage. For the ultimate experience in blending, guests learn about six of the wines and why each is different, then blend a cuvée to take home. (About $90 per person)
Château Guiraud sits on a ridge that overlooks the distant Garonne River, just down the road from its famous Sauternes neighbor, Château d’Yquem. Guiraud concedes nothing when it comes to hospitality in this region famed for its rich, sweet wines. Each fall, fog from the river envelopes the vineyards, located about 30 minutes southeast of Bordeaux. This climate encourages Botrytis cinerea, a fungus that drains the ripened grapes of water, which leaves behind a succulent nectar.
Open daily, Guiraud includes a gourmet restaurant and a variety of tasting options. Atop the list is a special luncheon built around a vertical tasting of Guiraud wines. It’s paired with the bounties of the Bordeaux region like caviar, truffles, foie gras, oysters, poultry and breads. Guests receive copies of the featured recipes. (About $175 per person)
Most classified-growth Bordeaux wineries impress with verticals of wine vintages, but only Château Mouton-Rothschild can also amaze with its vintages of great art, one for each year’s wine label. Located at Pauillac, in the heart of Médoc, Mouton has commissioned top artists annually since 1945. Look for works by Chagall, Picasso, Dalí, Warhol, Haring, Hockney and Jeff Koons.
Guests can visit the winery’s Museum of Wine in Art and also tour the vat room and cellar before tasting Mouton, Château Clerc Milon and Château d’Armailhac. Don’t forget to take a selfie in front of the zen garden with the elegant château in the background. (About $72 per person)
One of the hottest new wine regions is also one of the coolest: England. For centuries, the British Isles have been home to voracious wine consumers, snapping up offerings like Hock from the Rhine, Claret from Bordeaux, Port from the Douro and Sherry from Jerez. Now, due to the effects of global warming, England is a credible producer of sparkling wine, although Champagne doesn’t have to worry just yet.
Located in Kent, just inland from the chalk cliffs of Dover, Gusbourne has made delicious sparkling wines for about 15 years. Its “Estate Tour” starts in the vineyard, goes to the winery and finishes with a three-course lunch with local ingredients. Taste eight wines, including library selections, on this sparkling visit. (About $125 per person)
The vineyards may look ordinary in the summer, but visit Canada’s Niagara Peninsula in the winter to see shriveled grapes still on the vine until temperatures dip to at least 17°F. That’s when they can be made into luscious Icewine. A variety of grapes can produce the sweet confection, but most popular are Cabernet Franc, Vidal and Gewürztraminer.
Wineries are open all year long and produce table wines, but Jackson-Triggs has a special treat for visitors when the famous falls are frozen and Icewine production is underway. In January and February, you can watch Icewine being made in the winery, with stops along the way to pair them with cheeses, chocolates and other goodies. (About $19 per person)
Maison M. Chapoutier
In Hermitage, the storied mountainside vineyards that overlook the Rhône and produce some of the world’s best Syrah, visitors may notice three things. Depending on the season, they could see large horses being led down steep paths after a day’s work. There are also signs—almost like the famed Hollywood sign—that bear names of world-famous producers. The third is a handful of small buildings once used as housing for vineyard workers.
Maison M. Chapoutier owns one of those signs, as well as a small white cottage with two rooms. With a kitchen/dining area downstairs and a bed and bath upstairs, it’s the perfect weekend gîte (cottage) for a couple who likes to hike, bike and cook. Walk into Tain Hermitage, a few hundred feet below, to enjoy restaurants, wine bars and shops. (About $245 for two-person gîte—$310 per weekend)
Santa Cruz, Chile
Montes, a pacesetter since its launch 30 years ago, is about a two-hour drive south from Santiago to Apalta in the Colchagua Valley. Nature lovers can take the hiking tour along a nearly four-mile path that winds through the vineyard and up the mountainside. Along the way, there are more than 100 species of indigenous trees, bushes and other plants to go with beautiful views of the valley. When finished, guests can relax with a tasting of four Montes wines. (About $35 per person)
Until they were destroyed by the flood of 1966, the islands in Italy’s Venice lagoon were home to many small vineyards. In 2002, Prosecco producer Gianluca Bisol found an ancient vine of the grape variety Dorona. A relative of Garganega used in the production of Soave, the producer decided to plant a vineyard of Dorona on the island of Mazzorbo. He named the small estate Venissa, and a gourmet restaurant and small hotel soon followed.
Venissa offers a package that includes a water taxi from the Piazza San Marco or the mainland, a glass of Venissa’s golden wine served in the historic walled vineyard, an eight-course tasting menu and return to the main city. Take an extra hour or two to enjoy the colorful shops of sister island Burano, just across a connecting bridge. (About $195 per person)
There are wine museums, and then there’s the incomparable Vivanco Museum of Wine Culture. Next door to the Vivanco winery, the museum has five permanent exhibition halls and thousands of items on display, from ancient to modern times. There’s also an outside garden vineyard with 220 grape varieties from around the world.
Vivanco is located in Rioja, the northern Spanish wine region south of Bilbao known for its Tempranillo-based red wines. It offers a Vivanco Experience tour that includes a guided walk-through of the museum paired with a seasonal four-course lunch and its wines. (About $105 per person)