7 Highbrow Wine Experiences
We’ve got seven ideas for Valentine’s Day that go far beyond basic wine and chocolate pairings. Forget that old date-night combo of restaurant reservations and red roses. Impress your partner with these highbrow wine adventures that emphasize culture.
Dance & Drinks at New York City Ballet’s Ruinart Champagne Bar
Ballet and bubbly? We couldn’t imagine a more artful pairing. Head to the New York City Ballet from Feb. 13–15 to watch some of the nation’s finest dancers take on Romeo & Juliet, Shakespeare’s tragic tale of young love.
Can’t make it on Valentine’s Day? Opt for classic George Balanchine performances or “dancer chats” with the company’s ballerinas throughout the month. No matter which program you prefer, visitors can swing by the stately Ruinart Champagne Bar (located in the David H. Koch Theater’s lobby) between acts. Coming off its debut at the Fall Gala in September, the bubbly bar offers glasses of Blanc de Blancs Champagne ($23) and Ruinart Rosé ($23) from the Champagne house, founded in 1729.
Literature and Libations aboard the American Queen Steamboat, Memphis
Booze cruise, this is not. Whisk your wine- and literature-loving paramour away in high style on a cruise along the Mississippi River in the largest paddlewheel steamboat ever built. Guests can enjoy a bottle of bubbly like Perrier-Jouët Belle Epoque Champagne, or relax with a good read in the American Queen’s elegant, book-lined staterooms before exploring a plantation or historic town. Want to watch the world go by? Sip wines by the glass in an alfresco rocking chair, in the ornate ballroom set to live theatre, or in common areas like the Mark Twain Gallery, outfitted with vintage river maps and antique tomes. History buffs can try to stump the onboard “riverlorian,” a river historian who leads lectures on the Mississippi’s storied past.
Jazz & Wine at the Museum of Art and Design, New York City
At the Museum of Art and Design, visitors can explore fascinating galleries, participate in hands-on workshops inspired by current exhibitions, then ascend to the 9th floor to Robert, the museum’s restaurant, for a glass of wine and picture-perfect views of Central Park. The global wine list offers 18 by-the-glass choices from locales as diverse as New Mexico and Rías Baixas. An ambitious live jazz program entertains most evenings, highlighting musicians like David Demotta, the Rob Duguay Songevity Trio and the Bossa Jazz Duo.
Rum, History and Romance at the Vanderbilt Condado, Puerto Rico
Oenophiles can absorb Puerto Rico’s rich colonial history, and some of the island’s best wine-focused dining, at the recently restored Vanderbilt Condado Hotel in San Juan. The romance package includes a Champagne welcome and an ocean-view room. Couples will also enjoy dinner with wine pairings like salmon confit with roasted maitake mushrooms paired with a bottle of Beaux Freres 2012 Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley while dining at the hotel’s signature restaurant, 1919 (the year the hotel was built by the legendary Vanderbilt family). The package also features a 50-minute couples’ massage, a tour of colorful Old San Juan and a tasting at the nearby Bacardi Rum Distillery. After a day exploring the island’s rich culture, relax in the hotel’s Avo Lounge. There’s a cigar menu of 40 selections and 100 high-end spirits from around the world, including Laberdolive Armagnac 1970 and Rum Zacapa XO.
California Culture at the Fairmont Miramar, Santa Monica, CA
If you’re California dreaming, head to the historic Fairmont Miramar Hotel in Santa Monica. Set atop postcard-perfect bluffs, wine lovers can lose themselves in the sun, sand and sips synonymous with breezy California beach culture. Couples who book the romantic coastal comfort package stay in bungalows that have housed Hollywood stars (Greta Garbo lived there for four years), and enjoy an in-room bottle of Champagne with fresh fruit. Indulge in a wine-focused dinner at FIG restaurant, where chef Yousef Ghalaini culls local and seasonal ingredients from the nearby Santa Monica Farmer’s Market. Dishes pair perfectly with six California wines by the glass and 31 by the bottle. After dinner, head to the Santa Monica Pier. The package includes tickets to ride the famous Ferris wheel that overlooks the iconic Pacific coastline.
Equestrian Experiences at Salamander Resort, Middleburg, VA
Dreaming of riding off into the sunset? Visit this elegant, 340-acre equestrian estate set in prime Virginia wine country. Complete with onsite stables, you can arrange for horse-drawn carriage rides enhanced with local wine and cheese at nearby Boxwood Winery. Want to get in the saddle? Partake in early-morning yoga in the stable, followed by a one-hour trail ride through the countryside. Or, splurge on the “Equi-Spective Experience,” a six-hour program that focuses on personal discovery with your partner by connecting with horses. Featuring wine and snacks, it helps identify each participant’s authentic communication, leadership and relationship styles. Unwind with a Rider’s Relief massage—incorporating wine grape-focused Caudalíe products—followed by a wine flight from a local vineyard at the resort’s Gold Cup Wine Bar.
Deep South Sips & Food at Southern Food & Beverage Museum, New Orleans
It may be true what they say: the way to someone’s heart is through their stomach. Celebrating the rich food and beverage culture of the South, SoFAB (which also houses the Museum of the American Cocktail) offers the chance to do just that. Begin your visit with a drink at the bar in its onsite restaurant, Purloo. Choose from 15 worldly wines by the glass and six signature cocktails like the Yah Yah, with Mississippi Cathead Honeysuckle vodka, Satsuma syrup and vermouth, and then peruse exhibits, beverage in hand. Work up an appetite learning about the history of barbecue in the Trail of Smoke and Fire exhibit, or stroll through the Gallery of the South: States of Taste, curated by a unique mix of food writers, historians, chefs and bloggers.