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Wine Country Travel

Discover Six Wine Regions off the Beaten Path


Wine country travel is often as appealing to die hard wine enthusiasts as it is to destination adventure travelers. Let's face it, wine grapes typically grow in pretty picturesque places, often near lively landscapes brimming with outdoor action. Marrying wine tasting, blending, or food-pairing sessions with heart-pounding cycling, horseback riding, or water sport endeavors can bring a yin-yang-like quality to revitalizing vacation days. Packed for tasting, feasting, or hiking, international wine regions can bring a unique foodie focus to destination travel.

1. Wine Country Travel - Chile

S. Slinkard
Chile's landscape is one of extremes. From the southern Ice Fields of Patagonia to the arid Atacama Desert in the north, yet the sweet spot for wine grape growing lies squarely in the middle of the country tucked into the narrow, often hilly folds of earth between the Pacific Ocean and Andes Mountain Range. With fourteen recognized wine growing appellations and exports on the up and up year after year, along with solid, well-rated wines running the distance from value to luxury in terms of price points, the wine scene in Chile is thriving!

Wine lovers are inundated with a wide range of compelling reasons to visit Chile's wine country firsthand. From top notch onsite wine blending sessions at the likes of De Martino, to horseback and carriage rides through vineyards, to biking the vines and beyond, or touring the coastal climes in the morning and roughing it in the Andes by afternoon, Chile has plenty to offer the adventure traveler and wine enthusiast alike. If foodie-themed travel ambitions are more your style, set your sights on the sophisticated culinary hotspots of the country's capital city, Santiago.

2. DC's Wine Country Travel - Loudoun County, Virginia

S. Slinkard
Loudoun County, Virginia rests a mere 25 miles from Washington, D.C. Though given the pastoral properties, lines of vines, and acclaimed equestrian estates and historic hunt country, it might as well be in another world. Far removed from the amped up atmosphere of D.C.'s supercharged lifestyle, Loudoun County provides a quiet contrast, a real reprieve with local Loudoun wines ready to welcome with a creative mix of Old World and New World character and an emphasis on Chardonnay, Viognier, Cab Franc, and Merlot grapes.

From zip line excursions followed by first-class wine tasting near Harper's Ferry or wine-themed biking itineraries and one-of-a-kind restaurants along with Civil War sites for the wine-loving history buff, Loudoun County's 33 wineries (and counting) really roll out the red carpet to their D.C. neighbors welcoming with both style and simplicity.

3. Wine Country Travel - Lodi, California

Dale Goff Photography
Known for its famous ZinFest, a groovy Zinfandel-themed wine festival held every May hosting cooking schools, engaging wine education classes, and of course plenty of opportunities to taste Lodi's top grape, Lodi is fast becoming a high caliber California wine destination. Just an hour and a half northeast of Napa, Lodi enjoys a reputation for family-owned wineries, often built on 4th and 5th generation grape-growing families turned winemakers.

Sustainability in the local viticultural scene is a top priority in Lodi, with many wineries seeking "Lodi Rules" sustainable certification. The Wine and Chocolate Weekend in February and Lodi's Road Trip Passport in September beckon visitors both near and far to experience Lodi at its best - pairing good food with good wine and welcoming folks to the wineries themselves with harvest in full swing.

4. Wine Country Travel - Bordeaux, France

S. Slinkard
Bordeaux is a big deal in the wine world. Home to some of the globe's most famous Premier Cru wine estates, and known for big name bottles from the likes of Château Lafite Rothschild, Château Latour, and Château Haut-Brion, Bordeaux's international wine influence is in a class of its own. Yet, that does not mean that Bordeaux's 70 million cases of wine doesn't include a significant offering of budget-based bottles, wines meant for the "here and now." In fact, the majority of Bordeaux's market is reasonably priced wine, not the stuff of auction houses. Though should you want to try a wine or two (or all five for that matter) from Bordeaux's First Growths, then you'll want to find your way to the Max Bordeaux Wine Gallery, a high-end tasting bar set in the heart of the city of Bordeaux. Here you can sample sips of the top wines from around the region in 1-3 ounce pours.

Or interested in digging deeper? Then take a class or two a the Bordeaux Wine School just across the square, where the mystery and history of Bordeaux's wine landscape is unveiled. Looking for a hands-on wine adventure, then book some time with the lively proprietors of Medocaines.

5. Wine Country Travel - 10 Ways to Travel Sonoma and Napa Valley

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Though not entirely off the beaten path when it comes to trendy wine country travel, the dynamic duo of Sonoma County and Napa Valley offer some unique opportunities for gutsy wine travelers to tour the vineyards. Sonoma County and Napa Valley are the treasured cousins of California's thriving wine scene. While Sonoma maintains a fairly accurate reputation for being a bit more laid back with an emphasis on family-owned and family-friendly wineries, some of the best include Chateau St. Jean, Simi, Sebastiani, Rodney Strong, Marcassin, Paul Hobbs, La Crema, and Kistler; Napa thrills with big names, big wins, and big wines, along with world-class culinary destinations. Yet, when it comes to getting around both Sonoma and Napa, options abound. From balloons to boats, and horseback to hikes, limos to trains - the sky's the limit for fun, adventure-filled wine-tasting tours and travel tricks.

6. Wine Country Travel - Alto Adige, Italy

EOS Export Organization of South Tyrol
Alto Adige - where Austria and Italy collide, both in cultural roots and vineyard grapes. Surrounded by the rocky, rimmed edge of the Dolomites, a stunning segment of the Italian Alps, Alto Adige brings out the best in Pinot Grigio along with unbelievable aromatics in Gerwurztraminer and a mighty menu of enchanting white wine varietals, not to mention the medium-bodied, slightly spicy popular local red wine, Lagrein. From touring winding winery roads (dubbed weinstrasse or "Strada del Vino") to tackling summertime hikes, or winter alpine and downhill skiing, along with a visit with Ötzi, the neolithic iceman, at the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology in Bolzano, the region of Alto Adige charms with an extraordinary diverse offering of wine delights and outdoor intrigue.

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