Planning a vacation? Be sure to build in time to visit a nearby wine region. Here are some of the best for discovering and learning about new wines — or just having a great time in the countryside.
Willamette Valley, Oregon
An hour’s drive south of Portland, Willamette is Pinot Noir paradise—with more than 500 wineries. But the region retains its laid-back, welcoming farming-community charm. Best of all, it’s a beautiful, scenic spot to spend a weekend.
Visit: Adelsheim Vineyard, Archery Summit, Benton-Lane, Domaine Serene, Ponzi, Sokol Blosser, WillaKenzie Estate
Tip: Visit in summer (the season is short), and try to spend part of your time biking between wineries to enjoy the views and cool breezes.
Napa Valley, California
The top wine destination in America is bucolic, yet offers luxury seemingly at every turn. Napa wineries are spread out, so pick up to three to visit per day and enjoy your time at each—especially ones that offer not only great Cabernet Sauvignon but great views of the valley.
Visit: Alpha Omega, Cade Estate, Cakebread, Corison, Duckhorn, Newton Vineyard
Tip: Visit wineries that require reservations and/or charge a fee for tasting. Free spots tend to be crowded and serve inferior wine.
Reims, the city at the heart of the world’s premier sparkling-wine region, is a quick train ride or drive from Paris. It’s easy to get to several Champagne houses, and a few are walking distance from the town center.
Visit: Domaine Pommery, Ruinart, Taittinger, Veuve Clicquot
Tip: Do some online research to find a small producer — often called Grower Champagnes — that accepts visitors. There might be a language barrier, but the bubbly will taste better.
As one of Europe’s most historic wine regions, Rioja offers medieval-looking estates and architecturally wondrous wineries. All produce robust reds that captivate your senses.
Visit: Bodegas López de Heredia, Bodegas Marqués de Riscal, Bodegas Muga, Bodegas Ysios
Tip: Be sure to visit the hotel at Marqués de Riscal, which was designed by renowned architect Frank Gehry.
There’s plenty to choose from in the rolling hills outside Florence, from small estates to large, coastal and inland. Enjoy everyday Chiantis made of the Sangiovese grape, to special-occasion Super Tuscans (made mostly of Cabernet, Merlot and other varieties).
Visit: Antinori (Chianti Classico), Baroni Ricasoli (Chianti), Castello Banfi (Montalcino), Tenuta San Guido (Bolgheri)
Tip: Make Florence your home base and visit the wineries on a day trip or two. Take the tour at legendary Castello Banfi in Montalcino, and for lunch visit the Cecchini butcher shop in Panzano.
Marlborough, New Zealand
This is where some of the world’s most exciting Sauvignon Blancs and Pinot Noirs are being made—on land that was, amazingly, deemed worth only $50 per acre as grazing land in the early ’70s.
Visit: Allan Scott Family Winemakers, Cloudy Bay, Fromm Winery, Herzog Estate, Highfield Estate, Huia
Tip: Visit in summer (remember, that’s winter here), and be sure to spend a day hiking, biking, swimming or all three in the majestic Marlborough Sounds, just 30 minutes by car from the wineries.
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