10 Best Wine Travel Destinations 2016
Wine’s transporting experience is one of the reasons we continually come back for more. Like sound and smell, taste is a sense that can vividly recall a moment, whether it’s sipping Cabernet in a lush Rutherford vineyard, swirling a glass of Malbec next to a roaring Argentinean asado, or just a great armchair voyage with a glass of Portuguese Vinho Verde. Tasting wine is a trip unto itself, but visiting the places in which wine is made truly adds to the magic.
Each year, our editors traipse the globe in search of the world’s most exciting wine destinations. From the iconic Old World to surprising newcomers, the following list will shape your travel year to come.
Click below to jump to any of these destinations, or view the slideshow.
Bet on finding the world’s most prized bottles in this dazzling desert destination.
Without a single vineyard in sight, Las Vegas is still one of the world’s top stops for wine lovers. In addition to one of the highest concentrations of Master Sommeliers outside of San Francisco, Vegas celebrates wine on its own exuberant terms: flashy trophy bottles, whimsical wine tastings and ultraluxurious pairings in some of the nation’s glitziest dining rooms. And while insiders buzz about downtown Las Vegas for its up-and-coming eateries, visits are still firmly centered on the neon-lit Strip, a veritable gold mine for wine lovers. —Alexis Korman
Where to Dine
To catch a show while dining, reserve the kitchen table at Delmonico Steakhouse and watch the back-of-the-house action through glass windows. Off-menu dishes are available, paired with wines from a 2,300-label list overseen by Master Sommelier Kevin Vogt.
Head to the Bellagio’s newest hotspot, Harvest, for its 90-percent American, small producer-focused wine list and farm-fresh dishes.
Where to Stay
Book a night in one of The Cromwell’s 188 boudoir-style rooms for a respite from the Strip’s crowds. Bonus: it houses celebrity chef Giada De Laurentiis’s only restaurant, GIADA, which hosts winemaker dinners, bottomless mimosa brunches and offers a 450-label wine list that skews Italian and American.
The 9,500-square-foot Marcus Aurelius boasts a 24-hour butler who can access a private wine cellar stocked with 160 Champagnes.
Hit the jackpot? Spring for one of Caesars Palace’s private villas. Once reserved exclusively for celebrities, royals and high rollers, the 9,500- square-foot Marcus Aurelius boasts a 24-hour butler who can access a private wine cellar stocked with 160 Champagnes (rates start at $25,000 per night).
A guided night tour at The Neon Museum’s boneyard, displaying cast-off casino signs, is a must for trivia lovers and design geeks. If you consumed too much Champagne, spring for bubbles of a different sort with a detoxifying treatment at the desert-inspired Sahra Spa & Hammam. The Turkish-style “soap ritual” promotes purification after a wine-fueled weekend.
Hop aboard The High Roller—the world’s tallest observation wheel—for happy hour at 550 feet. Take in sweeping city views and unlimited drinks during the half-hour ride for $30.
When to Go
Though Las Vegas bustles year-round, late fall means cooler weather and slightly smaller crowds than expected during the holidays.
Where to Taste
It’s hard to top Aureole’s 30,000-bottle wine collection. The restaurant is famous for its four-story stainless steel and Lucite bottle tower accessed by “wine angels” who zip to the zenith via harnesses. Fittingly, verticals are a focus: think Château d’Yquem, Château Pétrus and Screaming Eagle. Keep an eye peeled for the custom wine trolleys created for sommelier service.
The Michelin two-starred Guy Savoy emulates the Parisian restaurant, but also offers a Cognac-themed lounge. Expect a 90-percent French wine list with 2,100 selections and artful cuisine, plus perfume- and flower-free environs so guests can fully appreciate the aromas of the wines and food.
Carbone’s 550-label list includes legendary Italian vintages dating back to 1929, a selection of orange wines and 27 by-the-glass picks.
For spirits fans, Southern-inspired Yardbird stocks 100 Bourbons, but make the bar’s signature Old-Fashioned your nightcap: it’s infused for 24 hours with house-smoked pork belly.
Local in the Know
Master Sommelier Jason Smith, director of wine at the Bellagio, advises visitors to ditch the Strip one night and explore Las Vegas’s little-known Chinatown.
“Chada Thai and its offshoot, Chada Street, offer incredible, Riesling-focused wine lists and excellent Thai food,” says Smith. “Also, the little ramen stops in Chinatown are open late night. Inexpensive joints like Monta Ramen cater to wine industry insiders, so you’ll see the town’s top sommeliers when they get off their shifts.”
The degustation menu at Picasso should make any wine traveler’s short list, matching some of the world’s top pours with French- and Spanish-inflected dishes in a nod to the artist whose works adorn the walls.
If you can afford it, opt for The Fleur Burger 5000 experience at Fleur by Hubert Keller. The Wagyu beef, foie gras and truffle burger is served with a side of 1996 Château Pétrus for $5,000.
New hotels and chic eateries freshen up one of France’s most famous wine regions.
Bordeaux is the second-most visited city in France, trailing only Paris. With beautiful architecture, a thriving restaurant scene, new shops and tourist developments in the works (like a high-speed train from Paris planned for 2017), travelers find strolls through the medieval streets or along the riverfront a joy.
And then there’s the renowned wine, of course. Bordeaux has its own festivals, including Bordeaux Fête le Vin in June. La Cité du Vin, a futuristic wine center and exhibition, is scheduled to open in June 2016. The city makes a fine base for tours to iconic vineyards nearby, so taste during the day and enjoy all that Bordeaux has to offer at night. —Roger Voss
Where to Dine
With as many restaurants as there are cuisines, Bordeaux’s high-end options and big-name chefs have increased in recent years, and today, it’s a Who’s Who of the restaurant world. The toque with the most Michelin stars, Joël Robuchon, has a restaurant in La Grande Maison hotel. Philippe Etchebest rules over Le Quatrième Mur, housed in the spectacular Grand Théatre. And just across the road, Gordon Ramsay is muscling in at the Grand Hôtel de Bordeaux Le Pressoir d’Argent. A more relaxed option is Le Bistrot Gabriel in the magnificent Place de la Bourse.
Where to Stay
Bordeaux accommodations have grown in grandeur over the last few years. The ultraluxurious six-room La Grande Maison is the first Relais & Châteaux hotel in the city. The Grand Hôtel de Bordeaux, located in the city center, is an opulent choice. For more modest accommodations, try the old-fashioned Hotel Majestic, and don’t miss its lobby art collection. Those who prefer modern hotels with a bit of funk should try the Seeko’o Hotel, near La Cité du Vin.
Bordeaux has great art and music, from photo exhibitions to jazz concerts in cellars. The Musée d’Aquitaine offers classical works as well as local art. A branch of the museum, the Centre National Jean Moulin, is a moving reminder to how Bordeaux survived during World War II. Want to learn about wine? The Musée du Vin et du Négoce provides a great explanation of how the Bordeaux trade works.
Go to the Sunday market on the riverfront of the Quai des Chartrons, and stock up for a day out.
You’ll have to get up early to catch the daily Marché des Capucins—it’s both a spectacle and a great source for cold cuts and cheeses.
When to Go
Visit any time of year, except around Christmas, the New Year, and in August, when everyone is on vacation.
Where to Taste
From the city, you can go in three directions to the main vineyards and top estates. North is the Médoc with grand chateaus. Visitors need to make appointments for the best visits, but Château Pichon Baron and Château Mouton Rothschild, both in Pauillac, are hospitable.
Bordeaux’s high-end options and big-name chefs have increased in recent years, and today, it’s a Who’s Who of the restaurant world.
South of the city is Graves, the original Bordeaux vineyard. Go to Château Smith Haut Lafitte in Martillac for fine dining at the family’s restaurant, Les Sources de Caudalie. East of Bordeaux is the medieval gem of Saint-Émilion. Go to the stately Château Soutard, or Château Villemaurine to view its underground caves. With advance notice, many Bordeaux chateaus will organize private lunches, and some offer accommodations.
Wendy Narby teaches at the École du Vin de Bordeaux and travels the world promoting Bordeaux wines.
“The old city is a place to wander,” Narby says. Her favorite quarter is the warren of streets near the Place des Grands Hommes. Its 18th-century Salle Capitulaire hosts art exhibitions and occasional outdoor summer concerts.
The Sarget passage nearby “is like going back in time, despite the fact it’s full of funky little shops, including the best hat shop in Bordeaux, La Boutique à Chapeaux,” she says.
With nearly 9,000 estates in the Bordeaux region, wines range from the simplest to the grandest in the world. Most are red—mainly blends of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot—but don’t forget about the dry whites, typically made from Sauvignon Blanc or Sémillon. Above all, take time to visit Sauternes and Barsac to revel in dessert wine. Inexpensive reds and whites are sold as Bordeaux or Bordeaux Supérieur. Go to Planet Bordeaux, just outside the city, to taste and buy from a huge range of producers.
Bordering the sea, this burgeoning Australian region is awash with great wines.
The Margaret River wine region lies on the western edge of Australia, an easy three-hour drive south of Perth. Stretching 50 miles from “cape to cape” (from Cape Naturaliste in the north to Cape Leeuwin in the south), Margaret River is lined with pristine beaches and some of the best surf breaks around. In just 48 years, Margaret River has become one of the world’s most renowned regions for Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. Comparisons to Bordeaux and the Napa Valley abound, but ultimately, this proud, stately region moves to its own beat. —Christina Pickard
Start with a hearty weekend breakfast (like brioche French toast or omelettes) and the perfect cappuccino at Morries Anytime. For lunch, head to one of the many excellent winery restaurants like the Cullen Restaurant at Cullen Wines, where homegrown, biodynamically farmed produce rules. At dinner, rub shoulders with winemakers at Settlers Tavern, where an outstanding wine list outshines the pub grub. More upscale meals can be found at The Studio Bistro or Lamont’s Smiths Beach, which also hosts an onsite wine shop.
Where to Stay
Renting a vacation house or apartment is a popular choice, with a variety of options catering to most budgets (stayz.com is a popular resource). Or you can go green at Burnside Organic Farm, where guests can stay in eco-friendly bungalows, tour a working biodynamic farm and experience life almost entirely off the grid. If five-star luxury is more your speed, Cape Lodge—with spa treatments, cooking classes and a supreme restaurant—is a must.
Time a November visit to coincide with the Margaret River Gourmet Escape, a region-wide festival featuring a smorgasbord of wine events along with top international chefs like Heston Blumenthal and Antonio Carluccio. If you miss it, console yourself with a cooking class at The Larder or farm-based culinary school Foragers. Surfing, mountain biking, and caving are also favorite regional pastimes.
Margaret River produce is incredible, so be sure to rent accommodations with a kitchen. Stock up at the farmers’ market or at Blue Ginger Fine Foods & Café, and, if you’re wined out, do like the locals and grab some “tinnies” (cans of beer) at the drive-thru Bottlemart.
When to Go
Exchange a northern hemisphere winter for summer Down Under. Avoid school holiday crowds and go in November, February or March.
Where to Taste
Margaret River has become one of theworld’s most renowned regions for Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay.
Mix it up with visits to wineries large and small. Start in the Wilyabrup subregion at one of Margaret River’s oldest wineries, Vasse Felix, and try its outstanding Heytesbury Chardonnay. The boutique Grace Farm is also worth a stop for its bucolic surroundings. Don’t let the unassuming tasting room at Woodlands fool you—it boasts some of the region’s premier Cabernets.
West of Margaret River town, McHenry Hohnen, cofounded by David Hohnen, the man behind Cloudy Bay and Cape Mentelle, pours biodynamic wines, including varieties like Marsanne and Zinfandel.
Further south is the atmospheric Leeuwin Estate. Sip through the winery’s renowned Art Series range and try to finagle samples of older vintages.
Finally, head east to the appointment-only Si Vintners. Its wines are natural and made outside the family home by a young couple, Iwo Jakimowicz and Sarah Morris.
“Hit the postcard-perfect beaches,” says Ben Thomas, who holds a Ph.D. in wine tourism and is the founder and managing director of Vine Collective, a Western Australia-focused online wine retailer and tourism platform.
“One of my favorite spots is Point Picquet, near the famed Bunker Bay,” says Thomas. “It’s one of many sandy patches to soak up the sun and turquoise blue waters. It’s also a stone’s throw from Wise Wine and Eagle Bay Brewing Co., both perfect places for lunch and a wine or beer on the way back into town.”
Margaret River has built its reputation on world-class Cabernet Sauvignon, grown mainly on gravelly, sandy loam over granite in a distinctly maritime climate. The best Cabs walk a tightrope of elegance and power, possess a signature eucalyptus-and-pencil-shavings quality and will age as long as many top Bordeaux. The grapefruit-forward Chardonnays are also splendid, particularly those made with native yeasts and lees stirring, which add phenomenal texture and complexity amidst gum-tingling acidity. While the region’s intensely vegetal Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc wines seem to be waning in popularity, alternatives like Malbec and Chenin Blanc are on the rise.
Stunning natural scenery meets high-altitude whites in this impressive winemaking region.
Wedged between Austria and Switzerland in the dramatic Italian Alps (also known as the Dolomites), Alto Adige is Italy’s northernmost winemaking region. The area belonged to the Austro-Hungarian Empire until annexed to Italy after World War I, so you’ll find both Italian and German speakers here. While visitors rightly expect world-class skiing and breathtaking scenery, Alto Adige is also celebrated for its mountain cuisine and outstanding wines. Fresh, mineral-driven whites dominate, but the area produces savory reds, too. From light and silky to full-bodied and velvety, the region’s wines soar. —Kerin O’Keefe
Where to Dine
The Michelin-starred restaurant La Stüa de Michil in Corvara is celebrated for Nicola Laera’s traditional cuisine with a splash of innovation, not to mention its extraordinary wine list. At Gourmetstube Einhorn in Campo di Trens, Peter Girtler serves a creative fusion of Alpine-Mediterranean cuisine using farm-to-table ingredients. Find heartier fare in more informal eateries, like Laubenkeller in Merano. There, try the spinach dumplings with gorgonzola sauce.
Beautiful Parc Hotel Am See, located on the shores of Lake Caldaro and equipped with an onsite spa, is a wonderful base to explore southern Alto Adige. Vineyards surround the romantic Hotel Schloss Korb, where you can dine in restored castle ruins. The magnificent Hotel Adler Dolomiti, in Val Gardena, features one of the area’s best spas. It’s the place to stay for skiers, hikers and outdoor enthusiasts.
Alto Adige is a haven for outdoor activities. The astonishing Dolomites—a UNESCO World Heritage Site—offer world-class snow sports, hiking, cycling and mountain biking, not to mention swimming, sailing and kite surfing on the region’s many lakes. Don’t miss a stop at the majestic Castel Tirolo, which features impressive frescoes.
Spend an afternoon at Lake Caldaro, the warmest lake in the Alps. Complete with dazzling vineyard views, it’s the best for summertime swimming and water sports.
When to Go
Outdoor fun, including skiing, hiking and wind surfing, make Alto Adige a year-round destination.
Where to Taste
The South Tyrolean Wine Road (or Weinstrasse) is a great way to tour the area’s wine country and vineyards. Beginning in Nals and winding 26 miles to Salurn, the scenic road traverses 85 percent of Alto Adige’s vineyard area. The route’s 66 wineries encourage travelers to come and taste. Be sure to stop at the award-winning cooperative winery, St. Michael-Eppan, the pioneering Franz Haas Winery, storied St. Pauls and the innovative Elena Walch Family Estates.
[White varieties] thrive in the area’s high-altitude vineyards, where warm days and cool nights lead to a long growing season that generates intense aromas.
Don’t want to drive? Take a wine safari, a guided tour with winery stops organized by the South Tyrolean Wine Road Association. Further north, a trip to the spectacular Abbazia di Novacella is a must. Besides touring the winery and tasting, visit its monastery garden, late-Baroque church and beautiful library.
Among the region’s many wine events, the Merano Wine Festival is outstanding, showcasing wines from around the world.
Former fitness coach Andi Punter, now director of sales and marketing at Franz Haas Winery, recommends a bike trail located on part of the Vecchia Ferrovia, an old railroad line.
“My favorite bike trail starts from Ora and goes all the way up to Trodena,” says Punter. “It’s amazing and scenic. It’s 25 kilometers long and climbs almost 1,000 meters. It crosses stunning vineyards, including those of our Pinot Noir.”
Alto Adige turns out savory Pinot Grigio, rich Gewürztraminer, elegant Chardonnay, crisp Sauvignon (as Sauvignon Blanc here is generally referred to) and lively Pinot Bianco. These and other white grapes thrive in the area’s high-altitude vineyards, where warm days and cool nights lead to a long growing season that generates intense aromas. Sleek, fragrant Kerner, made in the highest, coolest altitudes, is fast becoming the trendiest white. Schiava—the most widely planted red grape—yields fresh, fruity wines that, when chilled, make the perfect summer red. Pinot Noir ranges from easy-drinking to intense, while the native Lagrein yields solid, full-bodied and deeply colored reds.
Hit the hills for prestigious California wines and prime hospitality.
Within the last five years, the chasm between Paso Robles’ award-winning wineries and the region’s lackluster hospitality options closed. Today, the former cowboy town is a buzzing hive of wine country tourism, with enough activities to entertain travelers for an entire week. Conveniently located midway between San Francisco and Los Angeles and just a half-hour east of the Pacific Ocean, Paso Robles combines bucolic estate settings in the surrounding foothills with a vibrant tasting culture downtown. And the amenity upgrades show no signs of slowing. —Matt Kettmann
Where to Dine
Across from downtown’s picture-perfect square, Executive Chef Chris Kobayashi’s stylish Artisan led Paso Robles’ farm-to-table charge, followed by Thomas Hill Organics. The Italian cuisine is exquisite at Il Cortile Ristorante, whose Executive Chef, Santos MacDonal, also serves Spanish fare at La Cosecha.
Winemakers can’t stop talking about the Southern comfort food at The Hatch, or the seafood and Tequila at Fish Gaucho. All the restaurants are walking distance from one another, but drive to either Niner Wine Estates or Justin Winery’s onsite restaurants for gourmet vineyard dining.
The centrally located Paso Robles Inn has been housing guests since the Wild West days. Boutique hotel lovers should check into the luxurious, 16-room Hotel Cheval. Bargain hunters score modern comforts at The Oaks Hotel, and Ayres Hotels’ 171-room Allegretto Vineyard Resort raises the region’s overnight ante.
Schedule your trip around a world-class concert at the beautiful Vina Robles Amphitheater (you can sip the vineyard’s wine onsite, too). Then hit Firestone Walker Brewing Company and BarrelHouse Brewing Co for an ale fix, or go on a zipline vineyard tour at Ancient Peaks.
When to Go
Visit Paso Robles year-round, but late summer and early fall can be excruciatingly hot, although air conditioning helps and the nights are pleasant.
Explore the creative juices at Tin City, an industrial complex where Field Recordings, Nicora, Giornata and others make wine in warehouses. Highway 46 West Wine Trail also offers a treasure trove of tasting opportunities. At Epoch Estate Wines, York Mountain tradition is modernized. Tooth & Nail Winery is an edgy brand that took over a castle, and Peachy Canyon pours balanced Zins galore.
Ditch the car entirely to try the Rhône varietal wines of Anglim Winery, visit the Bordeaux specialists at Parrish Family Vineyard, and say hello to the colorful LXV downtown—its labels are inspired by the Kama Sutra.
Englishman Neil Collins started making wine in Paso Robles in 1991. Today, he oversees Tablas Creek Vineyard and his own label, Lone Madrone. He also crafts more than a dozen types of cider at Bristols Cider in Atascadero.
“There’s such a good variety of stuff to do: The Pour House for having beers, Villa Creek for cocktails and, for a mellow place, Los Robles Café,” says Collins. “But for my old-school, classic French tastes, the best food in town is Bistro Laurent.”
The sprawling region recently welcomed 11 subappellations, a hint that most grapes can excel depending on their site. Old-school Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon have traditionally stolen the show and are increasingly well-made, but rich, concentrated Rhône-style blends began to shine a decade ago. White Rhône-style blends and Sauvignon Blanc are good white options.
Expect unique wines and boundary-pushing cuisine in this ruggedly beautiful region.
The Basque Country, or País Vasco, in northern Spain includes the must-visit cities of San Sebastián and Bilbao. Its arresting terrain lies between the Bay of Biscay, the Ebro River (which nourishes the vineyards of Rioja and Navarra) and France.
The region’s complex history has yielded a fiercely independent spirit preserved in Basque wine and cuisine. Traditional yet trendsetting and abundant in local seafood, renowned Spanish Chef Ferran Adrià has called San Sebastián’s food, “The best in the world.”
In the towns along the coast, medieval cathedrals and winding cobblestone streets sit alongside modern architectural marvels, all within a stone’s throw of scenic Atlantic beaches, not to mention bars offering pintxos (small plate appetizers) with each glass of delicious wine. —Mike DeSimone & Jeff Jenssen
Juan Mari Arzak has been consistently cited as one of the world’s top chefs for adapting traditional Basque cooking to his high-style cuisine. His restaurant, Arzak, has garnered three Michelin stars since 1989. Under Chef Andoni Luis Aduriz, Mugaritz, located in the middle of a beautiful oak forest in Erenteria, has long been considered a temple to gastronomy. It artfully bridges the gap between avant-garde and traditional Basque food.
Hotel Maria Cristina, located in the center of San Sebastián’s historic district, lies just steps away from the city’s pristine beaches. Its 107 rooms and 25 suites are decorated in the Belle Époque style that was popular when it opened in 1912. Meet friends for a drink in the elegant Dry San Sebastián bar, and continue on for a memorable meal in the hotel’s Asian-themed Café Saigon or its regional gourmet restaurant, Pensión Easo.
Scenic walks abound in the region. Head from the town of Zarautz to Zumaia, taking in views of vineyards and seaside cliffs. Cross a stone bridge from Bermeo to the island of San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, and climb 241 steps to a tiny church dedicated to John the Baptist. It’s a perfect way to work off those rich Basque meals.
If you plan to visit the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, buy a Bono Artean ticket—the discounted price of $15 gets you into the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum, too.
The best times to visit are spring and fall, before and after the crush of summer tourist season.
Where to Taste
In San Sebastián, stop by Lukas Gourmet Benta-Berri. The wine shop also has a bar and restaurant on premise, and it’s a terrific place to taste (and load up on) new releases of Txakoli, the region’s zesty white wine. The Basque Country is also famous for rustic, lively cider houses (or sagardotegi). Cider season kicks off in mid-January and runs until April or May, but Sidrería Petritegi, located about 15 minutes from San Sebastián, is open year-round. It offers tours of its apple orchard, as well as hearty cuisine and cider tastings.
The region’s complex history has yielded a fiercely independent spirit preserved in Basque wine and cuisine.
Venture to the walled village of Laguardia for a traditional wine-tasting experience at Bodega El Fabulista. It has a wine press from 1903 and ancient stone vats where grapes were once crushed by foot.
Dhane Chesson, who grew up summering near San Sebastián and now works for Wines of Rioja in the United States, recommends visiting Zarautz (nine miles from San Sebastián) for its beautiful beach and wonderful restaurants. Among her favorites is Kirkilla-Enea Jatetxea. The traditional décor contrasts the inventive cuisine prepared in the open kitchen. Tasting menus are accompanied by wine and cider from the extensive list.
Fresh and slightly effervescent Txakoli wines offer crisp flavors and bright acidity that pair well with local cod, shrimp and tuna. Txakoli is made predominantly from Hondarrabi Zuri grapes, which grow on vines kissed by sea spray, adding a soft touch of salinity to many expressions. Since portions of Rioja Alavesa cross into Basque Country, look for bottles of Rioja Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva to enjoy alongside Iberian pork or chuleton de buey (ox steak). Nearby Navarra is known for its Garnacha wines, so seek out fruit-forward reds and refreshing rosés made from this native Spanish grape.
This picturesque South African village offers distinctive wines and food plucked from the valley.
Franschhoek, or “French corner,” gets its name from the French Huguenots who settled there in the 17th century. Fleeing religious persecution, the Huguenots brought their winemaking knowledge to the region, and their heritage is commemorated by the many wineries bearing French names.
Today, visitors flock to the busy, tourist-oriented town. Located just 30 minutes from Stellenbosch, it’s widely regarded as a gastronomic capital. Impressive moun-tains flank the town. It’s also dotted with both modern and traditional Cape Dutch-style wineries, with vineyards that stretch up the slopes and run down to the river. —Angela Lloyd
From wild flowers to mushrooms, freshly foraged ingredients are part of Chef Chris Erasmus’s tasty, attractive dishes at Foliage Restaurant. The Tasting Room, inside Le Quartier Français hotel, is celebrated for its African-inspired, eight-course menu created by acclaimed chef Margot Janse. Sample an array of dishes inspired by local and indigenous ingredients at Ryan’s Kitchen. Recipes brought by 17th-century settlers, accompanied by vegetables from the farm’s organic garden, are a feature at vineyard eatery Pierneef à La Motte. Celebrity Chef Reuben Riffel’s flagship restaurant—Reuben’s—is right in the heart of town, boasting high-end cuisine and an impressive wine list within a casual, welcoming atmosphere, but you can also experience his culinary talent at the Racine restaurant at Chamonix, right at the base of the Franschhoek Mountains.
Where to Stay
The Leeu House, situated on Franschhoek’s main road, offers 12 luxurious rooms with marble touches and natural linens. At Akademie Street Boutique Hotel & Guest House, three suites and three art-filled cottages are set in a rambling garden, Authentically restored with Cape Dutch furniture and yellow wood ceilings, the 19th-century Rickety Bridge Manor House provides a taste of life on a wine farm.
The mountains surrounding Franschhoek are great for walking, cycling and horseback riding, with trout fishing offered on some farms. Festivals abound throughout the year: Bastille Day is celebrated in July, while the Cap Classique & Champagne Festival (November) and the Literary Festival (May) are not to be missed.
The Franschhoek Wine Tram offers service to seven wineries on each of two routes, plus a transfer to and from your destination for R200 (approximately $14.50).
When to Go
Visit in early summer (October through November) for fine, cooler days. Or you can experience harvest time from January until March.
The close proximity of Franschhoek’s wineries allows visitors to taste at a leisurely pace. Appreciate the different styles of Sémillon at Rickety Bridge, Haut Espoir, GlenWood, Boekenhoutskloof and Franschhoek Cellar. Chardonnays from Chamonix, Môreson and Maison Estate reflect the elegant, citrusy complexity common to the area’s wines. Cabernet lovers should visit Stony Brook Vineyards and La Motte. Solms-Delta puts Shiraz in a tasty Rhône-style blend, along with innovative bottlings.
Chardonnays from Chamonix, Môreson and Maison Estate reflect the elegant, citrusy complexity common to the area’s wines.
There are also many options if you’d like to relax with a glass of bubbly. Cap Classique specialists include Le Lude and Colmant, but excellent examples are also had at Black Elephant Vintners and many other wineries along the length of the valley.
Marc Kent, winemaker at Boekenhoutskloof and a member of the Franschhoek Wine Valley Tourism Association Board, recommends checking out the Museum van de Caab and Music van de Caab Centre at Solms-Delta.
“They offer fascinating snapshots of the social and cultural heritage of the region,” says Kent. “The archeological site continues to unearth early- and middle-age references that reflect the use of the site by hunter-gatherers 6,000 years ago.
Sémillon is historically associated with Franschhoek; the oldest of several venerable vineyards dates from 1905. These wines are distinctive and mature well, becoming more sumptuous and honeyed with age. Chardonnay, whether grown on the mountain slopes or closer to the river, shows complexity, elegance and freshness, a description that generally typifies Franschhoek wines. The area’s Cabernet Sauvignon is notable for its streamlined structure and pure cassis fruit in a refreshing style. Several producers specialize in Méthode Cap Classique sparkling wine made from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir—there’s even a wine road, the Franschhoek Cap Classique Route, devoted to it. Sauvignon Blanc and Shiraz are other valley favorites.
Rustic charm meets ready-to-drink reds in Portugal’s most relaxed winemaking region.
With miles of vineyards and cork oak trees, historic hilltop cities and deserted beaches—not to mention increasingly varied hotels and restaurants—Alentejo has something for every visitor. Portugal’s largest region, Alentejo covers a third of the country, stretching north and east of Lisbon, south toward the southern Algarve coast and east to Spain. Known as the breadbasket of Portugal, there are mountains in the north and vast plains of cereals in the south. —Roger Voss
Where to Dine
Alentejo cuisine is simple, often revolving around large portions of meat and vegetables. More sophisticated interpretations are popping up as tapas (called petiscos in Portuguese). Go to Tasquinha do Oliveira in Évora for an authentic husband-and-wife-run restaurant. There are six tables and, beware, the petiscos just keep coming before the main course. Further east, dine in a former jail at A Cadeia Quinhentista in the hilltop town of Estremoz. Stop for a drink at the rooftop bar before descending into the depths of a former prison tower for dinner. The spacious Restaurante Herdade do Esporão provides a true winery restaurant experience, boasting a terrace and the chance to taste high-scoring wines from its 4,000-acre estate.
Over the last decade, contemporary hotels, restored convents and winery B&Bs have sprung up in Alentejo. For a modern hotel experience within historic environs, stay at M’AR De AR Aqueduto (formerly the Sepulveda Palace), which boasts minimalist decor and a pretty courtyard. The luxurious Convento do Espinheiro is housed in a beautifully renovated 15th-century convent and offers tours of the ornate chapel and cloisters. Herdade da Malhadinha Nova offers B&B-style accommodations in the heart of a winery and vineyard, including activities like horseback riding and art exhibitions.
If your luggage space allows, don’t miss a visit to Arraiolos, north of Évora. Its long history of making carpets and tapestries dates back as far as the Moors. Dozens of small shops line the town’s narrow, winding streets, inviting visitors to admire traditional designs featuring flowers, animals and stylized patterns. A few more adventurous souls are making modern designs. In addition to the region’s wines, these hand-stitched textiles make the ultimate souvenirs.
Thanks to a minimum of pollution, Alentejo is one of the dark sky regions of Europe. Lake Alqueva is a Starlight Tourism Destination, an international designation based on atmospheric conditions, the number of observing nights and tourism linked to the night sky. Don’t miss the Dark Sky Party held each July.
When to Go
Summers can be hot (90–100˚F), so it’s best to visit in the spring and fall. Winter visits are also a possibility, when you can warm up with a log fire at the end of the day.
Most Alentejo wineries welcome visitors with tasting rooms and shops, and some also have restaurants. Cartuxa winery and monastery is located just outside Évora (try the legendary Pêra-Manca wines), and João Portugal Ramos also makes enjoyable and affordable wines at Vila Santa outside Estremoz. Plan ahead for a tour, lunch and visit to the shop.
In the north of Alentejo, as the roads climb into the mountains toward Portalegre, make an appointment to visit the circa-1901 winery of Herdade do Mouchão. Its red wine is one of the finest from Alentejo, and is still made in open-top lagars (stone fermenters).
With a minimum of pollution, Alentejo is one of the dark sky
regions of Europe.
In the lower Alentejo near Baja, where the climate is hotter, visit Herdade do Rocim to taste the Olho de Mocho and Vale de Mata. Close by, in cooler Vidigueira, Cortes de Cima offers a wide range of wines in a comfortable tasting room at its hilltop winery, owned by the Jorgensens, a Danish-American couple.
Luís Duarte, an oenology consultant who produces a range of highly rated wines, recommends the restaurant at Herdade dos Grous winery, particularly its black pig dishes and organic vegetables.
For recreation, Duarte suggests Lake Alqueva: “It’s fun to sip Alentejo wine out on the lake,” he says.
After work, he likes to drop by Xarez restaurant in the medieval village of Monsaraz. “I like to go there to rest, and to have a beer at the end of the day.”
Like other wine regions in Portugal, Alentejo produces a wide range of wines using native grape varieties, mostly in blends. Many wineries also make single-variety wines. Some international varieties have arrived (Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc), but Alicante Bouschet is creating the biggest buzz. This red grape is right at home in the hot climate, making powerful wines that sing of sunshine and concentration. Some areas make surprisingly delicate white wines from Fernão Pires and Antão Vaz grapes, which benefit from cooler microclimates and modern technology.
Riveting reds and lakeside recreation await in Austria’s warmest wine region.
Just an hour by car from Vienna, Burgenland beckons. Dominated by Lake Neusiedl, which forms the border with Hungary, it’s an area that attracts nature lovers from around the globe. A portion of the lake serves as a natural reserve that harbors rare bird life in an immense reed belt, and there’s sailing and windsurfing for sporty types. But beyond its natural beauty, Burgenland is a true haven for wine lovers. Vineyards planted with the area’s indigenous varieties surround the lake and nearby villages, where a year-round program of classical music concerts complement winery visits. —Anne Krebiehl
Where to Dine
For upscale but authentic regional cooking, dine at Gut Purbach, where Chef Max Stiegl showcases local produce in perfectly executed dishes. His saffron-scented halászlé, a soup of lake fish, harkens back to the area’s Hungarian heritage. At stylish Mole West, located on a jetty, watch the sun set on the lake for dinner. The restaurant is also open for breakfast and lunch. Cutting-edge cuisine and an exemplary Austrian wine list are the draws at Taubenkobel, in the lovely village of Schützen am Gebirge.
Enjoy one of 12 individually furnished suites at Mooslechners Bürgerhaus in the historic town center of Rust, and if the weather complies, have breakfast in the scenic courtyard. Golfers, equestrians and spa addicts alike will find a match in the luxurious Reiters Supremehotel, located in the far south of Burgenland. Or stay on the banks of Lake Neusiedl and enjoy the thermal springs and wildlife watching at St. Martins Spa & Lodge.
In Burgenland, bicycles are for hire everywhere (there are more than 600 miles of cycle tracks on 29 sign-posted routes). The Nationalpark Neusiedler See Seewinkel offers regular wildlife watching excursions. Esterházy Palace in Eisenstadt, once home to composer Joseph Haydn, epitomizes Baroque splendor. And across Burgenland, there’s an active roster of classical concerts to enjoy.
A buschenschank is a winery pop-up where affordable, hearty food and local wine can be sampled (picture sausages and black pudding, fresh cheese and crusty bread). One of the best is Podersdorfer Weinstube.
When to Go
Since summers can be smoldering, visit in the spring or fall to catch cherry blossoms or autumnal foliage.
Where to Taste
Weinwerk Burgenland in Neusiedl is a great place to get a regional overview. This wine shop/cultural center offers almost 600 wines from more than 150 wineries across Burgenland, with many available to taste alongside other regional specialities. At Leithaberg Vinothek in Purbach, 64 wines are open for tasting.
Beyond its natural beauty, Burgenland is a true haven for wine lovers.
While there, check out the historic Kellergasse, or cellar lane, with its grass-covered wine cellars. Go on a sensory tour at Weingut Höpler’s Weinräume in Winden. Taste world-class sweet wines at the famous Weinlaubenhof Kracher (the $11 fee is refunded if you make a purchase). Sample everything from Sauvignon Blanc to Blaufränkisch at the modern Esterházy Winery in Trausdorf. Small groups can also arrange for cellar tours and vineyard picnics here. To try experimental and biodynamic wines, make an appointment at Gut Oggau.
Hardworking Georg Prieler, the winemaker at Prieler winery, recommends visitors hop aboard a pleasure boat and take things easy on a lake cruise. “This way, you can relax while taking in the contours of the Leitha Mountains, the vineyards and the movements of the lake,” Prieler says. “You can even cross the border into Hungary and then finish your excursion at the relaxed restaurant Haus im See in the Hungarian village of Fertőrákos.”
Burgenland is famous for its indigenous red wines—spicy, peppery Blaufränkisch, cherry-scented Zweigelt and subtle Sankt Laurent. The warmth radiating from Hungary’s Pannonian Basin makes ripening possible. Three of Burgenland’s four Districtus Austriae Controllatus (DAC) appellations—Eisenberg, Mittelburgenland and Leithaberg—are dedicated to Blaufränkisch, and visitors will be delighted to discover their distinct character. Dry white wines to sample include those made from Pinot Blanc and Neuburger, but the area is also famous for its dessert wines—the moisture from shallow Lake Neusiedl creates ideal conditions for botrytized, ultrasweet wines.
Once known for its Shakespeare festival, wine now steals the show in Ashland.
The story of Oregon wine no longer begins and ends with Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, as many of the state’s most exciting new offerings hail from Southern Oregon. The region’s six American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) begin at the California border and extend north nearly to Eugene, with many of the 120 wineries clustered around the town of Ashland, famous for its annual Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Crater Lake, the Oregon Caves, Rogue River rafting and miles of pristine seashore are among southwest Oregon’s plentiful year-round attractions, rounding out a visit for any wine lover. —Paul Gregutt
In Ashland, head to Amuse for a French-influenced, locally sourced menu and an excellent wine list. At Liquid Assets Wine Bar, great by-the-glass options and a full bar go along with outstanding gazpacho. In warm weather, opt to try the French menu on the terrace at the intimate Loft Brasserie. Granola pancakes are the must-order dish at busy breakfast joint Morning Glory.
Roseburg is another source of great eats: Salud Restaurant & Brewery has a wealth of tapas and live music. Brix Grill serves a steakhouse-style dinner menu with local wines.
Where to Stay
Five acres of lush gardens, hiking trails, mountain views and live music events are highlights of the cozy Country Willows Inn in Ashland. Located downtown is the restored, circa-1925 Ashland Springs Hotel. For a Roseburg pick, Delfino Vineyards has a wine country cottage nestled in the midst of a picturesque ranch and vineyard. On a budget? The Victorian Hokanson’s Guest House dates to 1882 and offers comfortable, affordable rooms.
The Oregon Shakespeare Festival is the centerpiece of the summer season, but Ashland’s three stages host a wide range of both contemporary and classic works year-round. Don’t miss the region’s breathtaking natural scenery, including Crater Lake National Park (the site of an extinct volcano), hiking, rafting and fishing in the Rogue and Umpqua rivers, or the state parks along the Southern Oregon seashore.
Want to drink with the locals in Ashland? Join the crowd at Standing Stone Brewing Company downtown for a Double IPA. (You’ll find good, cheap eats here, too).
When to Go
Go in May or early June, when the blossoms are out and the roads are clear, or September and October for splendid, sunny harvest days and cool nights.
Along the I-5 corridor between Ashland and Medford are numerous tasting rooms, ranging from the rustic RoxyAnn Winery to the grandiose Belle Fiore Winery. Dancin Vineyards is one of the newest and most impressive, with an all-star lineup of Chardonnays and pizza.
Driving further west, you’ll find the Applegate Valley, a rustic hideaway that’s home to Cowhorn, a biodynamic vineyard and farm with exceptional Rhône-inspired wines.
In nearby Jacksonville, a charmingly authentic gold-mining town, stop at South Stage Cellars to taste wines from over a dozen wineries that use its grapes. Driving further west, you’ll find the Applegate Valley, a rustic hideaway that’s home to Cowhorn, a biodynamic vineyard and farm with exceptional Rhône-inspired wines. Nearby, Red Lily Vineyards has a well-appointed tasting room.
The city of Roseburg is another important location for wining and dining. Must-see wineries in the vicinity include Abacela, where Tempranillo and other Iberian grape varieties constitute the main focus; and Delfino Vineyards, a mom-and-pop operation with an excellent Dolcetto.
Marilyn Hawkins, president of public relations firm Hawkins & Company, lives and works in the Ashland area and is an unabashed wine lover. She recommends the Ashland Tuesday Market for everything from fresh salsa and chèvre to morels, Japanese eggplant, pottery and more.
Hawkins also recommends First Friday Artwalk. “Ashland has a strong and diverse art gallery scene,” she says.
And if you want views of the gorgeous Rogue Valley, get outside and take “an invigorating 90-minute stroll around Roxy Ann Peak, just east of Medford.”
The all-inclusive Southern Oregon AVA was approved in 2004. Wrapped into it are the Rogue Valley, Applegate Valley and Umpqua Valley AVAs, plus tiny Red Hill Douglas County and Elkton. Generally warmer and drier than the Willamette Valley, the region supplies much of the value-priced Pinot Noir in bottles labeled, simply, “Oregon.” Tempranillo is the defining grape—pioneered 20 years ago by Abacela, it’s now almost ubiquitous. Be on the lookout for racy Rieslings and Gewürztraminers in cooler locations. Rhône and Bordeaux varieties thrive, as do Chenin Blanc, Dolcetto, Mondeuse, Petite Sirah and even Zinfandel.
- 1Las Vegas | USA
- 2Bordeaux | France
- 3Margaret River | Australia
- 4Alto Adige | Italy
- 5Paso Robles | USA
- 6Basque Country | Spain
- 7Franschhoek | South Africa
- 8Alentejo | Portugal
- 9Burgenland | Austria
- 10Ashland | USA