If your idea of wine tasting involves huddling around a bar while high-mindedly swishing, sniffing and sipping, think again. These days, it’s all about drinking outside of the tasting room.
From Domaine Carneros’ Brut-Camp and a yoga wine trail in New Jersey, to sipping in a submarine training center in San Francisco, wineries are offering a wide variety of niche pairings. It’s aimed to attract folks that look for a more approachable introduction to wine, as well as seasoned aficionados seeking new experiences.
Camping and fine dining: two activities not usually found in the same sentence. Thanks to Wine on the River, presented by O.A.R.S., you can float by day and feast by night on a six-day adventure. After paddling on Idaho’s renowned Middle Fork of the Salmon River, you’ll be rewarded with gourmet eats paired with premium wines from Idaho and Washington. For the next available wine and rafting trip, scheduled Sept. 6–11, Canoe Ridge Vineyard and Waterbrook Winery wines will be served with meals by chef Eric Conte. Tickets are $2,872 per person.
It’s 20,000 leagues under the sea, just with wine tasting! O.K., not quite, but you can experience Sottomarino wines in an original World War II “sinking ship” naval training facility, the USS Buttercup. Located on San Francisco’s Treasure Island, Sottomarino (submarine in Italian) Winery specializes in Italian varietal wines like Pinot Grigio and Primitivo. Tastings ($15 per person) include five California wines paired with stunning views of the Bay Bridge and beautiful skyline.
Pro tip: The tasting room is open weekends from noon to 5 pm. Weekdays are by appointment only. In addition to Sottomarino, Treasure Island is home to numerous other wineries worth exploring like Fat Grape Winery and Vie Winery.
Saddle up for a sip and saunter through Oregon’s prestigious Willamette Valley. Atop a well-trained Tennessee Walker horse, you’ll wind your way through the vineyards amid the breathtaking backdrop of the Dundee Hills, Mount St. Helens and Mount Hood. The 2½-hour tour stops at White Rose Estate, Vista Hills Vineyard and Winter’s Hill Vineyard. This intimate tour, led by expert equestrians, is a Triple Crown winner. The tour is $150 per person, and wine is an additional $10–15 per tasting.
Get ready to sip on the wild side. Hop in a Jeep with its top down and take a scenic tour through the Semler family’s 1,000-acre vineyard and exotic animal habitat. After you bond with retired celebrity animals like Stanley the giraffe (of The Hangover Part III fame), the tour includes wine tastings at two beautiful locations. Sip under an oak tree in the “trailer park,” a collection of vintage camping trailers that are surrounded by vineyard-covered hills overlooking the Conejo Valley. Malibu Wines also offers wine-paired hiking and sailing tours.
Pro tip: Of the six wine safaris offered, the Family Tour is open to kids age seven and up, while the other tours are limited to those 21 and older. The Vintner tour ($115 per person) gives you the most bang for your buck—it offers eight wines to taste, including a reserve, and a cheese pairing with the red wine portion of the tour.
Tasting in the Dark at the Francis Ford Coppola Winery puts a new spin on the phrase “blind tasting.” Hosted by Hoby Wedler, a blind graduate student from UC Davis, the tour blindfolds participants before being led to the winemaker’s lab to explore four wines from the winery’s Reserve and Director’s Cut lines. The two-hour experience surrenders sight to heighten participant’s other senses. It’s an excellent way to develop or refine the palate for both beginners and experts alike. The tour is $75 per person.
Pro-tip: Tasting in the Dark is held on select Saturdays. Reservations can be made online.