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Posts Tagged ‘wine travel’

Have a Car? Love Wine? Let’s Travel!

September 27, 2018 7 comments

In today’s world, wine advanced its standing far beyond just an alcoholic drink. Yes, we get a lot of pleasure from the glass of a good wine, but leaving that aside for a moment, just think about the source of the wine – the grapes, the vineyards, the wineries. Think about rows of vines, which are always tended to so they look immaculate, with all those perfectly positioned lines. And then think about all the slopes – vines love hills, so think about all those beautiful rows covering the sides of the hills and mountains and ascending into the fog… And how about all those winding roads, where with every turn you keep repeating “oh my, just look there! Did you see it? Did you see it?” Before the liquid in the bottle, the pleasure comes from admiring all that beauty in its simple, natural form.

Want to see and experience that beauty of the vineyards? Most likely, you will need a car. Of course, you can always hire a driver, but then you are not fully in control as to where you will stop, what you will see, and how slow (or fast) you will go. As most of us, wine lovers, have to travel to see the vineyards, a rental car is our friend. So the CarRentals put together an infographic (love infographic as a concept), presenting 8 different wine routes around the world, giving you all the details you need to enjoy your trip. You can read the detailed descriptions of those eight routes in their blog post.

So, where are you going next? Cheers!

wine Country Routes infographic

Source: CarRentals.Com

Guest Post: Why You Need to Drink Wines From Victoria, Australia, and Where to Try Them

August 3, 2018 4 comments

Today I want to offer you a guest post by Lucia Guadagnuolo who is a tour host and blogger for Wine Compass. When she’s not traveling or indulging in the fried delights of Southern Italian cooking, Lucia enjoys discovering the ever-changing food and wine scene in her hometown of Melbourne, Australia. She’s also recently completed the WSET Level 3 Award in Wines.

Becoming well regarded in the wine world for its cool climate expressions, you’d be forgiven for thinking otherwise of an Australian wine region. Warm sunny beaches and rugged Australian outback is what we’re used to seeing, and big bold Shiraz is probably what you’re used to drinking. While this might be true for the majority of Australia’s wine producing regions, Victoria, which is located in the South-East of the continent, experiences quite a cool to moderate climate. This, of course, is due to its latitudinal position, but also the cooling breeze from the Southern Ocean. So what does all this mean for those of us interested in exploring more of the wines from Australia? It means subtle, but varied expressions of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The two most planted varieties in the region, in both Yarra Valley and Mornington Peninsula, where most plantings of these varieties are found.

Australia has somewhat of a more relaxed approach to winemaking than some of the more traditional, old world countries. This means winemakers have the freedom to experiment and create wines from many different varieties that rival those of France, Italy and Spain combined. This same creative nature and desire for something different extends to the cellar door experience. Smaller boutique wineries, producing premium wines, are offering an intimate experience for visitors. You’ll often find the winemakers themselves pouring you a tasting, and giving you first-hand knowledge about the wine in your glass. It really doesn’t get much better than that!

So now you know why you should be drinking wines from Victoria, let’s find out the best places to try them…

Yileena Park – Yarra Valley

Carved into a hillside at the base of the Christmas Hills in the Yarra Valley, Yileena Park offers a unique and homely cellar door experience. They make premium wines that really highlight the great quality fruit being grown in the region today. Most of the wines at Yileena Park are aged for a minimum of four years before release, the reserve range is aged for 6 years, and the reserve Cabernet Sauvignon aged for 8 years before it’s available at the cellar door for purchase and tasting.

While you enjoy your wine, you get to experience endless views of the Steels Creek mountain range and devour a platter of smoked olives, cheeses, nuts and olive oil – all produced using the very barrels that their wines are matured in. Owners Bob and Diane are also always on hand to chat about the current vintage, and those gone by.

Pimpernel Vineyards – Yarra Valley

This quiet little cellar door in the heart of the Yarra Valley, is making a lot of noise in the wine industry, undoubtedly producing some of the best premium wines in Victoria. If you love your Pinot Noir, then you’ll be spoiled for choice with a significant range available and open for tasting. You can even compare different Pinot clones and the different winemaking techniques used to produce wines from each one. They also produce some outstanding Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Viognier, Syrah, and Shiraz, as well as some amazing blends.

Quealy Winemakers – Mornington Peninsula

A true testament to the Australian spirit of doing things a little bit differently, Quealy Winemakers on the Mornington Peninsula have set the standards in the region for growing unique varieties. The first to plant Pinot Grigio in the region and sell Friulano commercially, they have a range not often seen on the Peninsula. Pioneer winemaker Kathleen Quealy is often on hand at the cellar door to give you an insight into their winemaking techniques, and is always willing to give guests a private tour of the winery. Also, one of the few producers using terracotta amphora to mature their wines, which you’ll be lucky enough to sneak a peak at when you stop by for a tasting.

Ocean Eight – Mornington Peninsula

Set on a beautifully manicured garden landscape, this winery and cellar door really is picture perfect. In fact, the only thing better than the surrounds, are the wines. Not for sale anywhere else in the world outside of this very cellar door, you absolutely must visit Ocean Eight when on the Mornington Peninsula. Their premium range includes Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris. Not a huge offering, but what they do, they do extremely well. Enjoy a tasting in their underground cellar, you won’t regret it.

Wine Compass are the Victorian wine country specialists and offer private guided tours of both the Yarra Valley and Mornington Peninsula, with bespoke itineraries specifically tailored to you.

 

Drink Local, North Carolina Edition – Chatham Hill Winery

December 15, 2017 1 comment

Chatham Hill WineryOnce again, I was on the road. And as you know, if I have the slightest chance, I will look for the local wine. If I can also throw in a winery visit – that becomes a double pleasure.

In these terms, this time around, it was exactly a double pleasure. While visiting Raleigh in North Carolina I managed to squeeze in a short visit to the North Carolina winery call Chatham Hill, located in the town of Cary (about 20 minutes from Raleigh-Durham airport).

I had an opportunity to try North Carolina wines for the first time a few years ago while connecting through the Charlotte airport. I had favorable impressions after the first experience, thus was definitely looking forward to the opportunity to expand my “wine map” of the 50 United States.

The Chatham Hill Winery was founded in 1998. When Chatham Hill Winery opened, it was the 14th winery in the state of North Carolina – today, there are more than 185 wineries and 525 vineyards there. Chatham Hill was also the first urban winery in the North Carolina –  they don’t own any vineyards. The absolute majority of the wines at Chatham Hill are made either from the North Carolina grapes, coming primarily from the Yadkin Valley AVA, or from the grapes shipped from California (Lodi).

Chatham Hill winery produces a good number of different wines, both dry and sweet, with the total production of about 5,000 cases per year. With this production, it is considered a “medium size” winery by the North Carolina standards. I tasted through many wines the winery offers, but took rather scarce notes, so for what it worth, here is a roundup:

Chatham Hill Winery Whites

2013 Chatham Hill Winery Chardonnay Yadkin Valley North Carolina ($18) – a bit unusual, big body, good balance, nice overall

2015 Chatham Hill Winery Riesling Lodi California ($16) – not a traditional style, doesn’t speak Riesling to me, but still quite drinkable

2014 Chatham Hill Winery Perfect Harmony Yadkin Valley North Carolina ($25, unoaked, 70% Chardonnay, 30% Viognier) – dry, playful, tropical fruit notes

Chatham Hill Winery Reds

2012 Chatham Hill Winery Cabernet Franc Yadkin Valley North Carolina ($20) – soft, round, very pleasant

2014 Chatham Hill Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Yadkin Valley North Carolina ($20) – beautiful, smooth, blackcurrant on the nose and the palate, layered, great extraction, excellent wine overall and lots of wine for the money. Clearly my favorite wine from the tasting.

2013 Chatham Hill Winery Merlot Yadkin Valley North Carolina ($16) – excellent balance of fruit and acidity, dark fruit on the palate, very good overall

2015 Chatham Hill Winery Malbec ($18) – a bit sweeter than previous few wines, but refreshingly light for the Malbec and very pleasant overall.

2015 Chatham Hill Winery Petite Sirah ($22) – good fruit, good acidity

Chatham Hill Winery Muscadine Yadkin Valley North Carolina (11.5% ABV, $15) – Not sure what the vintage was, the wine was just released and not available yet for the public – raisins and dry fruit medley on the nose, touch of Isabella grapey profile on palate, clean acidity – very nice effort

I find trying local wines to be truly a humbling experience, always bringing out great surprises – that Cabernet Sauvignon was just a pure, varietally correct, stand out – would happily drink it again in a heartbeat.

The wine is simply an expression of passion and art, and there are truly no limits to the creativity and obsession wine lovers share, anywhere you go. Drink local, my friends!

 

 

 

Guest Post: 5 Wonderful Reasons Why Should Go a Culinary and Wine Vacation for Your Next Travel Getaway

September 7, 2017 2 comments

Today I want to offer to your attention a guest post by Lystia Putranto,  a personal & professional development blogger for BookCulinaryVacations.com. Lystia is a lover of travel, a self-professed foodie, and an amateur cook who admittedly spends way too much time surfing the web.

As the last quarter of the year is around the corner, many of us are taking advantage of this time to plan our next great adventure. If you happen to be a food and wine lover and you’re on the hunt for travel ideas, there’s no better way to indulge in your passions than by going on a culinary and wine focused vacation!

For starters, did you know that by 2015, 77% of leisure travelers can already be classified as culinary travelers? This trend has continued to rise and is predicted to rise even higher in the coming year. So, if you have yet to join in this exciting (and not to mention delectable) bandwagon, it’s about time that you do so.

As a lover of travel, food, and wine, I can personally attest that there’s much to gain and experience through this unique type of holidays. But if you’re not yet convinced, on this post, I’m sharing with you five of the many wonderful reasons why you should sign up for a culinary vacation too:

1.      You’ll Discover New & Exciting Flavors

In order to truly make the most of our travels, keep in mind that we can only grow and enrich our lives by doing something we have yet to try. So instead of setting yourself up for yet another touristy sight-seeing trip, why not try (and taste) something different for a change?

With a new destination comes plenty of delicious local eats & drinks. Through culinary holidays, you’ll get an amazing opportunity to explore a variety of new and exciting flavors through its delicacies and locally produced beverages – and yes, in many sought after destinations such as France, South Africa, Chile, and California, this certainly includes a whole lot of wine!

As you already know, food is almost always much more delicious and authentic when we enjoy it in the country or place of origin. You’d also be interested to know that some local dishes and ingredients are extremely rare and would not be easily found anywhere else in the world so this the time to take full advantage of it.

2.      You’ll Expand Your Knowledge

Looking to deepen your culinary and/or wine knowledge? During a wine vacation, for example, you won’t only be tasting the various wine that the winery produces, you’ll get to learn all about wine far beyond what you would learn in a wine tasting event such as how to harvest grapes as well as the steps of the entire wine production right up to its bottling process.

3.      You’ll Learn How to Prepare Authentic Delicacies

Image credit: Alila Manggis Bali

What makes culinary vacations stand out from the usual “run-of-the-mill” vacations or food tours is that you also get the opportunity to prepare them from scratch yourself! This way, you can learn to recreate them back home. That is the simple yet powerful beauty of a hands-on cooking experience.

As a self-professed foodie, I adore all type of cuisines – but I must admit that Thai food is amongst my top 3 favorites. So, on my last trip to Thailand, I decided to sign up for a cooking class in Bangkok to learn how to prepare authentic Thai dishes such as Tom Yum Goong and Pad Thai.

In the end, not only did I thoroughly enjoyed the experience, thanks to the warm guidance of the school’s professional instructors, I was also genuinely impressed how fun and easy it all was!

As an added bonus, some cooking vacations may include visits to the local markets where you get to purchase the ingredients for your meal or even pick your own fresh produce straight from their own farm. In this case, it’s not uncommon that everything you make is farm-to-table ready, making your holiday that much more special.

4.      You’ll Make New Friends

Image credit: Porto Club Travel Services

Whether you prefer traveling solo, with a partner or in a group, through a cooking vacation, you are bound to meet plenty of new people. This includes both locals as well as other travelers from all corners of the globe. This is your chance to cultivate a better understanding of the diverse culture and languages of the world. Who knows? Perhaps some of the people you meet on your trip may just end up becoming (new) lifelong friends!

5.      You’ll Immerse Yourself in the Local Culture

Image credit: Cris Puscas

They say that travel is the only thing that one can buy that makes us richer. I personally believe this to be true. It allows us to learn more about what our beautiful world has to offer. And there’s no better group of people that will be able to teach us a destination’s local culture than the locals themselves.

Culinary travel allows you to center your trip on cultural immersion – meeting the locals, sampling local cuisines and beverages, and indulging yourself in the local ways of life. It’s an experience that will not only tantalize your taste buds but also one that will open your eyes and mind to a whole new perspective of seeing the world.

Franciacorta: Unique, Different and Authentic

June 14, 2017 9 comments

“Sir, I will be very happy to work with you to improve the quality of your wines, but I have one request”, said young oenologist. “What is it?“ said Guido Berlucchi, the man famously known throughout the whole Franciacorta for his aristocratic, elegant lifestyle. “I would like to make Champagne here, in Franciacorta”.

The year was 1955, and young oenologist’s name was Franco Ziliani. Guido Berlucchi, while may be surprised, was not shy of taking the risk, and Franco Zeliani got to work. First vintages were a total disaster – awfully tasting wines, blown up bottles. But in 1961, the patience and perseverance paid off, and first 3000 bottles of the Franciacorta sparkling wine came into being.

Mr. Berlucchi invited his influential friends from Milan to try the wines, and they all happened to like it. The new chapter in the Franciacorta history was opened.

Map of Franciacorta

Map of Franciacorta region

The wine was produced in Franciacorta literally forever. The land surrounding Lake Iseo from the south was strategically located along the trade path between Turin and Rome. In the 11th century, the monks created a special zone called Curtefranca to encourage land development and commerce – “Curte” in this case represents “land”, and Franca, while sounds related to France, has nothing to do with it – it simply means “free of taxes” in Italian. The primary focus in Curtefranca was agriculture, and can you imagine agriculture in Italy without making the wine?

As the time went on, the Curtefranca became known as Franciacorta – however, the Curtefranca name didn’t disappear and since 2008 it is a designation for Franciacorta still wines.

That first 1961 vintage at Berlucchi became a turning point for the whole region which was before mostly known for its red still wines. Producers started changing their ways and make sparking wines, and Franciacorta DOC was established in 1967 with 11 sparkling wine producers. Franciacorta became first DOC in Italy to require all sparkling wines to be produced by the metodo classico. In 1990, the Consorzio per la tutela del Franciacorta was formed and became a major regulatory body for sparkling wine production; in 1995 Franciacorta was awarded a DOCG status, top level of quality for the Italian wines. Starting from August of 2003, Franciacorta became the only region in Italy where the wines can be labeled only as Franciacorta and not Franciacorta DOCG – similar to the Champagne where the word AOC doesn’t appear on the label.

If you are like me, I’m sure you are dying to hear a few more facts. Today, Franciacorta comprise about 7,500 acres of vineyards and produces about 15,000,000 bottles per year; there are about 200 grape growers in Franciacorta, 116 of them produce their own wines. 65% of all the vineyards are organic, and conversion to organic methods continues.

Franciacorta vineyards

Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Blanc are the only permitted varieties in production of Franciacorta, with Pinot Blanc being somewhat of a bastard child, as the grape is even more finicky to properly produce than Pinot Noir – while some of the producers phasing it out (e.g. Berlucchi), the others love the perfumy bright character which the grape can impart on the resulting wines.

Franciacorta’s climate is very conducive to getting grapes ripen perfectly. The climate is generally mild, with consistently warm summer days. The Lake Iseo creates a cooling effect during the summer nights, helping grapes to reach the levels of phenolic ripeness which is very difficult to achieve (if not impossible) in the Champagne. During winter, the lake provides a softening effect, protecting vines from the very low temperatures.

Unquestionably Champagne was an inspiration for the ways and means of the Franciacorta sparkling wines – as expected if you use metodo classico production. However, Franciacorta is largely moving past the “Champagne copycat” status and actively seeks and creates its own unique style, not only by stricter aging requirements (both non-vintage and vintage Franciacorta must be aged on the lees for longer than the Champagne in the same category), but by the whole method of production – for instance, by using only stainless steel tanks for the fermentation or relying much less on blending and more on the quality of the grapes from the given vintage.

Franciacorta is obsessed with quality. It starts in the vineyard, where even if not certified, most of the grapes are growing as organic. New vines are often planted at a very high density, to force the roots to go deep down as they have no room to grow to the sides. The yield is well limited to about 4 tons per acre. All the grapes are harvested by hand (this is a requirement of Franciacorta DOCG). The grapes are cooled down before the pressing – and in the case of Ca’del Bosco, one of the premier producers in the region, the grapes are even washed and then dried, using specially created complex of the machines.

Getting the grapes into the winery is only the beginning of the quest for quality. We talked to many winemakers, and they were all repeating the same words – “gentle pressing”. There is a tremendous focus on gentle handling of the grapes, using various types of presses. Arturo Ziliani, the son of Franco Ziliani, who is in charge of winemaking at Berlucchi, gave us the best explanation. “Think about a lemon. Cut it, and right under the skin, you will see the white layer – pith. When you quickly juice the lemon, lots of that pith ends up in the juice, rendering it cloudy – and adding bitterness and extra acidity. If we would juice the lemon slowly without destroying the pith, the resulting juice would be clear – and lemonade would need a lot less sugar to make. While much thinner, grapes also have the layer of pith right under the skin – and when we press the grapes, we want to avoid crushing it as much as possible”.

Even gentle pressing alone is not enough. Franciacorta regulations allow up to 65% of grape mass to be pressed. Most of the winemakers press less, at around 50%, in some cases even limiting only by 30%. At all stages of the process, there is a great effort to protect grapes and wine from oxidation; such focused handling also allows to greatly reduce the levels of added SO2 – while the law allows up to 210 mg/liter, many winemakers limit it at only 50 mg/liter.

Official Franciacorta Glass

Obsession with the quality. Attention to detail. How do you drink your bubbles? The flute, you say? Where you ever able to perceive the full bouquet of your sparkling wine through that small opening on top of the flute? Well, leave the flute for Champagne, but if you want to enjoy Franciacorta, you will have to dump it (whatever way you see fit) and upgrade to something better – an official Franciacorta glass. It is specifically designed to enhance the visual and sensual qualities of your bubbles in the glass. The shape allows concentrating the aromas. And the glass is specifically made with the slight imperfections at the bottom to help form beautiful bubble traces better (perfectly polished glass doesn’t allow bubbles to form).

Glass of Franciacorta

Obsession with quality. Attention to detail. Passion. So what makes Franciacorta unique, different and authentic? It is all of the above. Franciacorta is a unique place, with its own terroir, its own ways of making the wines, and really its own, authentic sparkling wines. Franciacorta shouldn’t be compared to Champagne, for sure not anymore, not based on the tasting of 50 or so wines during our 5 days there. Well, maybe except one thing – similar to Champagne, it should be simply called by the name. You will make all hard working Franciacorta producers very happy next time at a restaurant, when you will have a reason to celebrate (and every new day is enough reason in itself), by simply saying “Waiter, please bring Franciacorta, the best one you got!”

Tango Tours – A Pioneer In Wine and Culinary Tourism

April 28, 2017 5 comments

Wine and Travel – aren’t those the best together? Visit new places, try new wines, then more new places and more new wines. I’m sure this is simply a music to the ears of many. Today I want to offer to your attention a guest post by Mark Davis, Managing Partner at Tango Tours – A Luxury Travel Company (www.tango.tours) – the company which can help you realise that dream of having a great time and great wine while travelling the world.  And as we are still in the Malbec Month of April, below you will find the Argentinian wine Infographics, courtesy of Tango Tours. Cheers!

Do wines fascinate you or are you yet to explore about this luxurious drink? Tango Tours will make that happen for you. Whether you are planning a private wine tasting tour or looking to indulge in a world-class and an unforgettable culinary experience, this is the right place for you.

Food And Wine Tour– Tango Tours curates food and wine tour to feature the finest restaurants serving local delicacies.

Exclusive Vineyard Tours– You get to explore some of the exclusive vineyard tours featuring wineries that are publicly inaccessible.

Luxury Wine Tours– Enjoy a guided luxury wine tour and taste some of the most exquisite wines of the world.

Deluxe Accommodation– You will be offered deluxe accommodation during your tour so you can sink into the silky soft beds of a luxury five-star hotel after a long and fulfilling day.

Tango Tours covers the most popular wine destinations around the world and the tours include:

Argentina Wine Tours– The itinerary features tasting the Argentinean Malbec, luxury food and wine adventure across Argentina and a visit to the reputable Argentina vineyards, along with discovering the local cuisine and culture.

Napa/Sonoma Tours– The luxury wine tour packages of the Napa and Sonoma valley offer you with a unique wine and culinary experience. From the sprawling vineyards of the region to delectable dishes from the finest restaurants, you get to explore everything.

Chile Tours– The highlights of Chile Tours include deluxe tour packages for wine connoisseurs who wish to explore the best of Chile.

Custom Wine Tours– If you have a specific destination in mind, Tango Tours helps you plan the vacation of your dream. Pick a place of your choice and we will make all the arrangements.

Why Choose Tango Tours?

At Tango Tours, we have an extensive knowledge of wines and food from the famous wine regions of the country. We work closely with some of the best winemakers and restaurateurs in the food and wine industry through which you can access private wineries and prestige vineyards across the region.

All ready to enjoy the fruity Merlots of Chile and Napa/Sonoma Valley or the dark, smoky flavors of the highest-quality Argentine Malbec? Just pack your bags and let us plan it for you and give us a chance to take you on a remarkable food and wine adventure.

 

Feel at Home in the Old Dominion: Luxury B&B’s in Virginia Wine Country

October 15, 2015 4 comments

Today I would like to offer to your attention yet another guest post written by Stef Schwalb, Director of PR and Marketing at BnBFinder.com. October is Virginia Wine Month, so just in case you are contemplating a last minute getaway to the “Napa of the South”, you might find information below quite helpful. Note – it is not only about places to stay – the innkeepers also share their favorite wine recommendations. Here we go…

The Old Dominion State is celebrating the 27th year of Virginia Wine Month this October, and the region is definitely on its way up as a desired destination for all wine lovers. With more than 250 wineries participating in the event in one way or another, and the media buzz surrounding the area due to its exquisite scenery and record-breaking sales of 2015, now is the ideal time to check out the Virginia wine. Of course in addition to sipping, you’ll need a place to stay – here is a handful of B&B’s that are great finds in Virginia wine country.

Iris Inn

Iris Inn Bed and Breakfast

Iris Inn Bed & Breakfast in Waynesboro, VA is located on 12 wooded acres in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Overlooking the Shenandoah Valley, the inn was designed with comfort in mind. With beautiful mountain views and a woodsy feel, the modern facility features spacious accommodations with expansive outdoor decks; king beds; Wi-Fi; flat-screen HDTVs; DVD players; refrigerators; writing desks; private baths with hairdryers; and cozy sitting areas. A full gourmet breakfast is served in the great room each morning and includes an enticing entrée along with homemade breads, coffee, juice, and fruit. There is also a “bottomless” cookie jar situated on the sideboard and beverages are available at check-in time. Convenient to numerous local attractions, including the Shenandoah Valley, Blue Ridge Parkway, Skyline Drive, Charlottesville, The University of Virginia, Monticello, and several local wineries, Iris Inn is an excellent home base for exploring the region. The inn also offers several wine packages, including Sip & Spa, Sip & Simmer (a cabin dinner), Sip & Slip on Your Boots (hiking), Sip & Saddle (horseback riding), and Sip & Scribble (for aspiring writers). Some wineries located near the inn include King Family Vineyards, Flying Fox Vineyard, and Afton Mountain Vineyard.

Innkeeper Heidi Lanford recommends King Family Vineyard’s blended medium-bodied red, Meritage 2007. “And any vineyard’s Viognier in central VA is excellent,” says Heidi, “as this perfumed white is gaining world acclaim as Virginia signature grape.” One must try a Cabernet Franc, since the grape grows so well in this area, she continues, “we like the Cabernet Franc Reserve from Afton Mountain Vineyard.”

Inn at Meander

The Inn at Meander Plantation

Situated near Orange, VA in Locust Dale, The Inn at Meander Plantation is a historic B&B located one hour from Washington DC, Fredericksburg, and Charlottesville. The elegantly furnished, pet-friendly accommodations offer triple-sheeted king or queen beds with luxury linens, down comforters, and pillows; large private bathrooms; lavish microfiber bath robes; bottled water; hairdryers; clock radios with CD players and an assorted selection of CDs; Keurig coffeemakers; gas or wood-burning fireplaces; and air conditioning. Each morning, the complimentary breakfast includes a daily entree choice between sweet and savory options, a fresh fruit plate, and muffin or sweet bread. The inn also has a popular restaurant onsite that features a delicious 4-course dinner made from local produce and served strictly with the best of Virginia wines. Since the innkeepers/owners Suzie Blanchard and Suzanne Thomas work so closely with local wineries, the expansive wine list is quite unique. Guests can also indulge in the Virginia Wine Country Special package as well as tasting coupons for select local wineries. This charming Madison County country inn is just a short drive to Monticello and Montpelier, the celebrated residences of presidents Thomas Jefferson and James Madison (respectively).

Suzanne recommends Gray Ghost Vineyards and Winery in Amissville – “I love their Chardonnay Reserve, Ranger Reserve, and of course, their amazing, award-winning Adieu dessert wine”; Reynard Florence Vineyard in Barboursville – “I’m very fond of their Petit Manseng, an excellent example of this white varietal, which is my personal favorite white wine”; and Ducard Vineyards (in Etlan, located in the northern part of Madison County ) – “I like the Popham Run Red Blend and the C’est Trop, a unique red dessert wine.”

Oaks Victorian Inn

Oaks Victorian Inn Bed and Breakfast

Built in 1889 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, The Oaks Victorian Inn Bed and Breakfast is at home in the quaint historic town of Christiansburg, VA. This classic Queen Anne Victorian bed and breakfast inn seamlessly combines Victorian elegance with modern day amenities within the backdrop of its stunning surroundings. It features six spacious guestrooms, each comfortably appointed with antique furnishings, private baths, and personal refrigerators with complimentary beverages. Select accommodations feature claw-foot tubs, fireplaces, body showers, and jetted Jacuzzi tubs. There is also a separate facility, The Garden Cottage with gazebo, that has a bathroom complete with sauna and shower, a 400-gallon private hot tub, a microwave, and a refrigerator with complimentary beverages. Guests enjoy downtime in the parlor and library onsite, and they can also relax and take in the scenic landscape on the large wrap-around porch lined with rockers, comfy chairs, and small tables for wine, cheese, and other goodies. The property is highlighted by meticulous landscaping, a fish pond, gorgeous perennial gardens, and oak trees that are more than 300 years old. Just two miles off I-81 in the center of New River Valley near Roanoke, the inn is a quick ride to Blacksburg, Floyd, Roanoke, the Blue Ridge Parkway, and more. The gracious hospitality and unforgettable breakfasts are hallmarks of The Oaks Victorian. With the Virginia is for Wine Lovers Times 2 Package, wine lovers can stay two consecutive nights at the B&B and receive two pairs of tasting passes to the innkeepers’ favorite local wineries – Whitebarrel Winery in Christiansburg and Beliveau Estate Winery in Blacksburg.

At Whitebarrel, the Chambourcin, which used to be called 325 AD, is a favorite of innkeeper Linda Wurtzburger. “And for a white, my favorite is Yesterday’s Song, which is a Chardonnay.”

Time To Travel: Experience Wine-Friendly Inns

June 25, 2015 2 comments

Today I would like to offer to your attention a guest post written by Stef Schwalb, Director of PR and Marketing at BnBFinder.com. I don’t know about you, but I love staying at the Bed and Breakfast Inns when I travel for fun. All those B&Bs offer so much charm and personality, it is totally different and much more relaxing experience compare to any of the major hotel chains. And as this is a wine blog, of course we will be talking about wine-friendly places. Here we go…

At long last it’s time for summer travel, and thankfully, there are several destinations where oenophiles will feel right at home. In fact, it may surprise you to know that B&B’s across the country are not only located in several industry hot spots, but many also offer amenities with wine lovers in mind.

Inn on Lake Granbury, Granbury, Texas

Image courtesy of Inn on Lake Granbury & Jumping Rocks Photography

Granbury, TX is located in the heart of Texas Hill Country, a region that’s increasingly becoming ripe for wine tourism, and Granbury’s Historic Town Square provides travelers with plenty to enjoy, including outdoor activities such as golfing and biking, live theater, concerts, fine dining restaurants, specialty shops, festivals and wine tours. Plus, a visit to the D’Vine Wine of Texas store includes onsite wine making, daily tastings, and more. All of this is found within a short distance of Inn on Lake Granbury. Situated on three acres of landscaped gardens, this cozy lakefront retreat offers guests unique, upscale accommodations, ranging from elegant rooms and luxurious suites to fully-furnished guest house rentals. Each one features hardwood floors, European decor with Hill Country accents, heated bathroom floors, steam showers, stone fireplaces, outdoor porches and balconies. In the morning, guests can indulge in a five-course breakfast, and in the afternoon, there’s an enticing wine and appetizer hour too. Other amenities include a saltwater pool with waterfall, conference facility, and plenty of personalized service. Romantic walks down the winding pathways to the edge of Lake Granbury, coupled with relaxing on the bluff beneath stunning live oak trees overlooking the lake, make this wine country retreat more than memorable.

The Inn at Gothic Eves, Finger Lakes, NY

Image courtesy of The Inn at Gothic Eves & Jumping Rocks Photography

The Finger Lakes region of New York is fast becoming a go-to destination for wine lovers. Initially known just for its renowned Rieslings, the area continues to expand in varietal offerings as well as things to do for travelers headed to there. Whether it’s fishing in spring, swimming and boating in summer, skiing in winter or foliage tours in the autumn, visitors will find a wine to pair with every season and activity, including the many hiking trails and overlooks to breathtaking waterfalls. Centrally located to the Seneca and Cayuga Lakes’ Wine Trails, Watkins Glen International Race Track, and the Taughannock Falls State Park, The Inn at Gothic Eves in Trumansburg, NY is a great place to take it all in. This historic B&B, built in 1855, features eight luxurious suites, six of which are named after wines including Riesling, Syrah, and Bordeaux. All accommodations come with private baths, fireplaces, fine linens, sitting rooms, wet bars, period furnishings and modern amenities including flat-screen TVs. The plush accommodations perfectly complement the comfort guests enjoy at the onsite spa, complete with hot tubs and massage treatments. It’s an ideal spot for relaxation and revitalization. Each morning breakfast is made from fresh local produce and organic ingredients for a farm-to-table meal. Situated close to Cornell University and Ithaca College, The Inn at Gothic Eves is also a popular destination for families of college students.

Stanford Inn by the Sea, Mendocino, California

Image courtesy of Stanford Inn by the Sea & Christine Gustafson

Mendocino, CA is a paradise for nature lovers, foodies, and arts and culture enthusiasts alike. Visitors can enjoy outdoor activities in breathtaking scenery, attend a variety of music and arts festivals, and best of all, indulge in culinary adventures including wine and craft beer tastings year-round. There are 100 wineries in the county, so ensuring a good night’s sleep is paramount for the palate. At the pet-friendly Stanford Inn by the Sea, guests stay nestled atop a meadow overlooking the beautiful Mendocino Bay in comfy accommodations that feature wood-burning fireplaces, private baths, and exquisite views. Quality of life is what it’s all about at this eco-resort. Here cyclists and paddlers can find their groove on the Big River and beyond at Canoe & Bicycles too!, while those looking to recharge physically and mentally can head to the Wellness Center for spa services, yoga, gardening and cooking classes, nature tours and more. The inn’s certified organic gardens serve as the primary ingredients for the Ravens’ Restaurant’s exceptional vegetarian cuisine that could easily convert even the most hardcore of carnivores. The menu is also complemented by an award-winning wine list which focuses on the finest selections from Mendocino County. These wines are primarily organic or produced according to traditional methods, without the use of synthetic chemicals, fertilizers, or pesticides. If you find one you like it’s easy to enjoy more since many of the wines are also available for purchase at the inn’s store onsite.

Prospect Hill Plantation Inn Charlottesville, Virginia

Image courtesy of Prospect Hill Plantation Inn & Wowi Zowi Photography

Charlottesville, VA is for wine lovers, and as the “Napa Valley of the East Coast,” there numerous vineyards to visit as well as a plethora of activities travelers can enjoy during their stay. History comes alive at historic sites such as Thomas Jefferson’s home at Monticello and the University of Virginia, while the arts and entertainment scene flourishes at downtown marquees that features both local artists and famous names. Outside the city, the scenic countryside provides an idyllic drive over winding hills and low mountains punctuated by exquisite vistas of open space. Hiking and biking trails and kayaking the James or Rivanna attract the active crowd, and nature fans find the appeal of roadside orchards a huge draw during harvest time. Speaking of which, we’d be remiss not to mention the Monticello Wine Trail and area’s award-winning small-batch breweries you’ll find along the Brew Ridge Trail. At the elegant Prospect Hill Plantation Inn, the oldest continually occupied frame manor-house plantation in the state, the Findley Family will provide all the guidance you need to navigate the area – in addition to comfy accommodations that feature private entrances and baths, working fireplaces, air-conditioning, and a full gourmet breakfast in bed. Most rooms also include revitalizing whirlpool tubs. The onsite restaurant features a creative menu, with a distinct European character that is influenced by the season and the availability of fresh, local, and organic ingredients. Situated on 40 stunning acres, the breathtaking grounds of this authentic 1700’s former wheat plantation are just 15 miles from downtown and within 30 miles of more than 25 boutique wineries.

Magnificent Portugal

May 24, 2015 27 comments

Douro Valley 2Two years ago I was lucky to discover the Portugal. A beautiful country with wonderful people, great wines and delicious food. This year, I had an opportunity to experience the Portugal again, and once again I want to share my experiences with you as much as possible. There will be a few posts, as there is absolutely no way to squeeze all the impressions into one (nothing is impossible, yes, but I’m sure none of you are interested in a post with a hundred+ pictures and ten thousand words), but still please prepare to be inundated with the pictures. Let’s go.

I want to start from the wonderful trip we had on Sunday. I’m subscribed to the updates from the wine travel web site called Winerist. An email I received from the Winerist about a week before my scheduled departure contained a section about wine trips in … Douro, Portugal! How could they know, huh? This was my very first time using the service, so not without trepidation I filled up booking form for the tour called “Wine Tasting & Sightseeing in the Douro Valley” (€95 per person), requesting the specific date – actually, the only free day I had during the trip. I was informed that my credit card will be charged only after the trip availability will be confirmed with the local provider. Two days later the confirmation arrived with all the tour provider information and pickup time (the pickup is arranged at any of the hotels in Porto). The day before the trip, I got a call in my hotel room from JoÃo, who informed me that the pickup will take place next day at 9:10 am in front of the hotel’s lobby.

The next day, a red minivan showed up exactly at 9:10 am (at least according to my watch), however the first thing JoÃo did after introducing himself in person, was to apologize for arriving at 9:12 instead of 9:10 – from which I figured that we will have fun in our tour. This is exactly what happened – after picking up two more people for the total of 8 passengers, off we went to immerse into the beauty of Portuguese nature, culture, food and wine. I will not give you a detailed account of everything we heard during of almost 11 hours of out trip (we were supposed to come back at 6:30 pm, but nobody was in a hurry, so we came back very close to 8 pm) – that would make it for a long and boring post. But I will do my best to give you a good idea of what we saw and experienced.

Our first stop was at a small town called Amarante. On the way there, our guide and driver had to really work hard – out of our group of 8 people, 2 of us needed all explanations in English, and the rest of the group was from Brazil, so JoÃo had to alternate between Portuguese and English – have to say he had no issues doing that for the duration of the trip. The second problem JoÃo had to deal with was … a marathon, which forced closure of many roads, so he had to find his way around. Well, that was also a non-issue, so we successfully arrived to Amarante. Our intended destination was the church of São Gonçalo (St. Gonçalo), which had an interesting story of the saint whose name is associated with male fertility. I had to admit that I missed some parts of the explanation regarding the origins of this belief, but the bottom line is very simple. Inside of the church, there is a statue of St. Gonçalo, with the hanging rope. Any male who needs help with the  fertility, have to pull that rope twice, but not more (don’t know if it would be equivalent to the Viagra overdose?). Besides, the Priest gets very unhappy when people get crazy with that rope, so all the pulling should be done quietly and without attracting unnecessary attention. I guess that same fertility power led to the appearance of so called St. Gonçalo cakes, which you will see below – I’m assuming the picture is self-explanatory. No, I didn’t try one, nor did anyone from our group, so can’t tell you how it tastes. After leaving the church, we had around 20 minutes to walk around the town, before we had to leave to our next destination.

Our next stop was the town of Lamego, which is one of the biggest in the Douro valley. As food was an essential part of our tour, first we visited a place called A Presunteca. I would probably characterize it as a food and wine store, somewhat geared towards tourists. No, “tourist trap” would be rather diminutive, as the food and wine were genuinely good and prices were absolutely on par with any other store. We had a taste few of the local sausages and cured meets, as well as cheese. We also had an opportunity to taste some of Porto and dry wines, as well as sparkling – the Peerless sparkling wine was excellent, on par with any good Cava or Cremant. I also really liked a Niepoort Dry White Port. If we wouldn’t have to spend the next half of the day in the hot car, I don’t think I would’ve left without a nice chunk of a cured meet, but oh well…

Next we got into a race with a long (very long!) line of honking old Minis, and we lost the race despite creative local street navigation by JoÃo. We still successfully arrived to our next destination – Cathedral of Santa Maria, Lady of Remedy. According to the explanations, the beautiful structure was erected as promised by the Bishop to show a gratitude for sparring the city of Lamego from the Black Plague. There are more than 600 steps which lead to the Cathedral on top of the hill, which people seeking the cure for the illnesses often concur on their knees. We walked around the cathedral and then used the steps to get down to the town level, admiring the beautiful view and exquisite architectural elements, also with the great use of traditional Portuguese painted ceramic tiles. This place needs some serious restoration work, but it is still absolutely magnificent.

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Our next stop was for lunch. The restaurant called Manjar do Douro was located very close to the bottom of the staircase we ascended from. It was somewhat resembling a big dining hall, with many groups occupying communal style tables. The bread, cheese and cold cuts were outstanding. For the entree I’ve chosen veal, as still was suffering from the fish overload from the night before (more about it in another post). This was rather a mistake, as the meat was really chewy (well, the sautéed vegetables were excellent). We had a few wines with the meal. 2014 Incantum Vinho Branco had inviting nose of a white fruit, a bit more tamed fruit on the palate, overall very enjoyable (and added another grape to my collection, Sìria). The 2013 Incantum Douro Tinto was nice, but a bit simplistic. As JoÃo learned from our conversation that I was all into wines, he showed me a few of his favorite wines, one of them you can see below in the picture (no, we didn’t try it).

Our next stop was finally a full immersion into the wine world of Douro. After about an hour driving, we arrived at Quinta do Tedo. Vincent Bouchard of the Bouchard Père & Fils fame from Burgundy, fell in love with the Quinta do Tedo vineyards (can you blame him? take a look at the pictures), located at a crossing of River Douro and River Tedo, and he bought the vineyard in the early 1990s. 1992 was the first vintage produced by the Quinta do Tedo. The vineyards, located on the hilly slopes around the picturesque River Tedo, consist of the vines of 30 to 70 years old. Quinta do Tedo makes only red wines, but they make both dry wines and number of Port styles. Winery’s logo has a picture of the bird on it – according to the local traditions, the birds would show up to eat the grapes when they are perfectly ripe, so that bird on the label signifies perfectly ripe grapes.

Quinta do Tedo Vineyards

Douro Vineyards

TedoThe winery still uses all of the old traditions of winemaking – the grapes are harvested by hand, into the small baskets to prevent them crushing under its own weight. The grapes are fully destemmed, and then are crushed using the … feet, yes, exactly as you expected. Grapes are stomped over the course of a few days by the men. The juice flows into the tanks (no pumping), where it is fermented for two days (in case of port production) or longer, and from there on the wines are made according to the style. Ahh, and I need to mention that the vineyards of Quinta do Tedo are certified organic. Also note that it is illegal to irrigate vines in Douro, so you can say that all of the producers in Douro are using dry farming methods.

I love the fact that wine offers endless learning opportunities – every time you talk to someone passionate, you learn something new. Let me tell you why I’m talking about it. As you might know, all the wine production in Douro is regulated by so called Douro Institute (IVDP). This is a very powerful organization, which assess all the wines made in Douro, both Port and regular dry wines, to make sure that winery’s declaration is up to the right level. I was always under impression that it is IVDP then which declares vintage year for Port. Turns out I was wrong – it is actually up to the winery to declare a vintage year (however it would be an IVDP will confirm or reject the designation). 2010 was an excellent year, and many Port houses produced Vintage Port. Then there was 2011, which was not just good, but simply spectacular. But if you mention 2009, people raise their arms defensively – it was not a good year. Nevertheless, it didn’t stop Quinta do Tedo from producing delicious 2009 Vintage Port, including their single vineyard flagship, Savedra.

The learning didn’t stop there. Our guide very simply explained concept of the so called LBV, or Late Bottled Vintage Port, which has the year designation similar to the vintage port, but typically costs a fraction of price (and something which I couldn’t figure out for a while). It appears that concept of LBV is as follows. The wine is first made with the intent of becoming a Vintage Port – 2 days fermentation which is stopped with neutral brandy, then about 2 years of aging in stainless steel or neutral oak tanks. After that the port is sent to the IVDP to get the vintage approval – and if it fails to get the approval, it is aged for another 2 years or so, and then bottled as LBV. Simple, right?

Of course it was not all talking – there was also tasting. Technically our official tasting included only two types of port, but you know how that works – once the passion starts talking, the tasting becomes “no holds barred” event.

We started with two of the dry wines. The 2011 Quinta do Tedo Tinto Douro was what can be called a “BBQ Wine” – nice fresh fruit profile, with some depth, but limited power, allowing for easy sipping. But the second wine was the whole different story. 2011 was so good that the winery simply decided to skip the Reserva level, and to make Grand Reserva only. Wine spent 22 month in French oak. The level of finesse on that 2011 Quinta do Tedo Grand Reserva Savedra Douro was unparalleled, something which you really have to experience for yourself – elegant dark fruit, spices and touch of fresh herbs on the nose (you can smell the wine for the very, very long time). On the palate, the wine is multilayered, dark, full-bodied and powerful, and it combined firm structure with silky smooth goodness. At €25, it can be only classified as a steal – or definitely a tremendous value, if you prefer that definition.

We also tasted 2010 Quinta do Tedo LBV, which was absolutely delicious, with good amount of sweetness and fresh acidity, making it perfectly balanced; Quinta do Tedo 20 Years Old Tawny had beautiful complexity with hazelnut and almonds, and dry fruit sweetness. Elegance of 2009 Quinta do Tedo 2009 Vintage was simply outstanding – fragrant nose and very balanced palate. That was one delicious tasting, that is all I can tell.

We need to round up here – and I thank you if you are still reading this. Good news is that after that tasting where I think we spent double the time versus the original plan we went back to the hotel, with one last stop to suck in the greatness of the Douro River – so no more words here, just a few pictures.

Douro Valley 4

Douro Valley

Douro valley 5

Douro Valley 2

And we are done (can you believe it?). If your travel will take you to Portugal, I would highly recommend that you will give the LivingTours a try – I think this is the best way to explore that magnificent country. Also keep in mind that Winerist offers a variety of the wine tours in many regions, so do check them out.

As for my Portugal escapades – I’m only getting warmed up. Prepare to be inundated further. Until the next time – cheers!

Wine Gifts – A Practical and Pragmatic Guide, Part 3

December 12, 2014 7 comments

Happy HolidaysAnd we are on the finishing stretch! Third and the last installment of the Wine Gifts Guide. We already talked about wines and wine gadgets as two large gift categories. This post will be a bit different from the previous two. If I pressed and pressed the need to be practical and pragmatic when it comes to the wine and wine gadgets, it will be hardly applicable to this last group of potential wine gift recommendations. You will easily see why it is so, and without further ado, let’s get to it.

Here is the last of my list of potential wine-related gifts:

  1. Wine Books. Yes, wine lovers still read books. If anything, we use books as a reference. There are plenty wonderful wine books which will make any aficionado happy – the famous World Atlas of Wine, Wine Grapes Guide, Jura Wine, Food and Travel, and hundreds and hundreds of others. It is hard to go wrong with the book – the only issue might be if the recipient already has the exact same book, so I guess our principle of “practical”, knowing what the other person has, would still come handy. Nevertheless, the wine book would make a great present for the most of the wine lovers.
  2. Wine Education. Wine education is fun, it is almost priceless for the wine aficionado. You can never know it all, and even if you think you do, you will still learn a lot, given the opportunity. There are many wine classes and wine schools offered around the country and I’m sure, the world. Yes, you will need to spend some time to find the reputable wine school and wine educators. But the gift recipient will really appreciate it. For instance, a famous Windows on the World Wine School taught by Kevin Zraly – you can buy a gift certificate for a single class at $125, and the series of the 8 classes would cost $995. Yes, it is a lot of money, but hey, my job is to give you ideas, it is your job to get from the dreams to the reality.
  3. Wine Experiences. Yes, this is a broad category, and it includes a lot of possibilities – but these are the experiences we are talking about. I don’t want to sub-divide this category too much, but you definitely got options. Here are few:
    • Grand Wine Tastings. A ticket to the Boston Wine Festival Gala Dinner will cost about $250 per person. Wine Spectator Grand Tour is $225 per person. You will create memories forever by sending special people in your life to such an event.
    • Wine Master Classes/Dinners/Vertical tasting. If you can score tickets to the event of this kind, they will run about $450 – $600 per person – but hey, I’m sure you have people in your life who are well worth it. Again, guaranteed memories for life.
    • Wine Travel. Send your grown up kids on the 10 days wine tour in Tuscany – I guarantee you will change their life forever. Or – grown up kids, remember how much your parents did for you? Send your parents on the trip of the lifetime while they can still enjoy it! Remember, the best things in life are not things. Collect the experiences and help others do the same.
  4. Wine Art. Similar to the books, I’m sure most of the wine lovers will be happy to get a beautiful painting. Yes, there are lots of options, in all different price ranges. If you live in the US, you can find very nice paintings in your local Home Goods store, where it will cost you $25 – $50. Yes, it will be mass produced art, but I personally own a few of those, and they make me happy when I look at them. But you don’t have to be confined to the home decoration store selection – you can look for the actual artists who creates paintings and other forms of art, all wine related. Here are two references for you – Leanne Laine categorizes herself as “The Women in Wine Artist” – she has a lot of beautiful wine-themed paintings which are available from her website. Another artist I know of, Ryan Sorrell, creates beautiful mosaics from the wine bottle foil tops – here is the link to Ryan’s website. These are just two artists I know of, but I’m sure you will find more artists – and again, I think wine art is a great gift category on par with all others.

Well, believe it or not, but we are done! I don’t have any more wine gift recommendations for you, and this series is over. I only hope that I was able to give you at least a tiny amount of useful information, and if you got a wine lover in your life, your shopping task will be a little bit simpler. If you will find this information useful (and especially if you will not), I would love to hear from you. Happy Holidays and Cheers!