December 27, 2007
A lot of people consider a glass of wine a crucial part of vacation, but that only skims the surface of vineyard travel. IgoUgo travelers who went beyond Napa and Bordeaux recommend 10 unexpected destinations that boast flavorful grapes and culture.
1. Moravia, Czech Republic: The southern region of the Czech Republic is the center of the country’s wine industry, and kjlouden raves about its mountain wine, called burchak. “If you get a bad batch,” she says, “you’ve got it out of season, or you aren’t in southern Moravia, the only good place to buy it—don’t ever buy it in Prague.” Czech Republic resident captain oddsocks shares one fascinating example of how locals enjoy the vintages: The Ride of the Kings. He says that after the “colourful spectacle,” an annual event, the king’s entourage is “treated to a hearty meal washed down with presumably generous doses of local Moravian wine.”
2. Lexington, NC: If you want a little barbecue with your bubbly, head to North Carolina’s capital of meat and wine. Native Carolinian vampirefan explains that after downturns in cotton and tobacco production, “some industrious farmers figured that these same rich, fertile lands were also perfect for producing grapes,” and they turned her state into one of the top wine-producing areas in the US. She narrows the vineyard choices down for us, suggesting a visit to Childress Winery (and its ties to NASCAR are only one of the reasons).
3. Tasmania, Australia: Australia is well-known for its top-notch wine, but local expert LenR steers us toward Tasmania to experience Strathlynn vineyards, “one of Tasmania’s most spectacular vineyard sites.” Why does Strathlynn stand above other growers as a place to visit? Mountain views, 100-year-old trees, and “superb” Riesling and pinot varietals help.
4. Black Hills, SD: We’re getting jealous of all the IgoUgo travelers with wineries at their doorsteps; Mandan Lynn also has a local recommendation for us. Her Hill City, South Dakota, pick is Prairie Berry Winery, because it does a “fine job” of focusing on fruits native to South Dakota, winning national and international awards in the process. With names like “Great Grandma's Chokecherry Bliss,” it’s no wonder she’s hooked on their dessert wines.
5. Carmelo, Uruguay: Wine lover hajecj was pleasantly surprised while visiting Uruguay’s vineyards, saying “I don’t know why I was skeptical when someone first mentioned to me that the wine in Uruguay was really quite good. Why shouldn’t it be? Argentina makes some outstanding wines.” He headed to Punta Narbona Winery to taste for himself and got more than he bargained for; the winery also cooks dinner and produces its own cognac and cheese.
6. Peloponnese, Greece: The Achaia Clauss Winery is new to us, but it’s actually the oldest winery in Greece, according to Re Carroll. The grower also produces a nice ouzo and Re Carroll’s all-time favorite retsina, all in what looks like “a small castle atop Germany’s Rhine River.”
7. Wisconsin Dells, WI: It seems as though everyone who passes through the Dells stops at Wollersheim Winery, and with good reason. Five estate wines and 900,000 bottles per season are produced on a landscape that makes visitors feel as though they “stepped back in time in Italy or France,” says GrAmTr. If you’re not already convinced you should visit, perhaps Asia Traveler’s deciding factors will help: the winery is open in the winter (warming you up from Wisconsin freezes) and, at $3.50 for a tour, it’s a “cheap attraction.”
8. Nova Scotia, Canada: Winemaking in Nova Scotia can be traced back to the 17th century, and the area still boasts some of Canada’s best grapes. For the best of the Maritime Provinces’ viticultural offerings, moatway recommends touring Jost Vineyard along the Northumberland Strait. He says that “some of the reds here are very good,” and notes that one of Jost’s ice wines was named Canadian Wine of the Year in 1999. For a little ice on the beach, head to nearby Blue Sea Beach Park for a picnic.
9. Clear Lake, CA: You don’t have to go too far beyond Napa for this beyond-Napa pick. Sierra says that the “up-and-coming” wine region was actually California’s top wine producer prior to 1921, but eventually became better known as a vacation spot and as the Bass Capital of the West. (Sounds like a winning combination if you like to pair seafood with your wine.) For a preview, read Sierra’s reviews of several growers in the comprehensive Beyond Napa: Clear Lake Wine Country.
10. Hakone, Japan: Forget the glass; wine comes by the tub here in the shadow of Mt. Fuji. The Yunessun Spa Resort offers wine baths as rejuvenation treatments, and sanukseeker enjoyed soaking up the suds and the “magnificent scenery.” One look at his photo of the wine pool and you’ll be echoing his sentiment: “Isn’t this just fabulous?”