Spring is officially here, which means summer is just a short time away. What better way to enjoy some much-needed vacation time than traveling to a place with beautiful scenery AND delicious wine? These are some of the top vacation destinations for those of us that love to sip on vino. Whether you like Old World wines or something fresh and new, there’s a place on this list that will fit your fancy.
Finger Lakes: New York
Over 100 wineries surround the Cayuga, Seneca, and Keuka lakes in upstate New York and have been a fairly well kept secret. Boasting a first-class Riesling and a variety of diverse wines from Grüner Veltliner to Teroldego, it’s home to some of the top cool-climate American wines. With farmland and glacial lakes to explore along with sampling local food culture, it should definitely be a stop for wine enthusiasts. Your best bet for visiting is during the summer and fall.
On the border of Switzerland and France in northwest Italy, Piedmont is the second largest region and the one with the most mountains. Enjoy one of the regions famous red wines while admiring the snowy Alps and hilly vineyards. In addition to the wines made from Nebbiolo, Barbera, Dolcetto, and the frothy Moscato d’Asti, the area is famed for the rare white truffles that grow there. Plan your trip for September or October to arrive right around harvest time.
Hawkes Bay: New Zealand
This region prides itself o classic Bordeaux as well as the soon-to-be flagship Syrah wine. In addition to the charming sheep dotted hills and rivers, the warm, dry summers and maritime climates are the perfect combinations for healthy grapes. If you’re a fan of wine and the great outdoors, check out the network of bike trails between enjoying the wineries and the local food. Weather-wise, January and February are the recommended visiting months.
Rhône Valley: France
No wine tour list is complete without a mention of France. The Rhône Valley is the second largest wine-growing region in the country, covering about 150 miles and 5,500 estates. The beautiful villages and breathtaking vineyards stretch from the Camargue in the south up towards Lyon. With so much ground to cover, it can be difficult to choose. Narrowing it down may be tough, but you can’t go wrong by timing your trip for the Festival of Vine in Wine and May or the Ban des Vendages harvest celebration in October.
A unique region in the northwest, Galicia’s four provinces earned the description of the emerald oasis from the winter and spring rains that swell the rivers and turn everything green. The wine regions include Rías Baizas, Ribeiro, Ribeira Sacra, Valdeorras, and Monterrei and all offer plenty of opportunities to taste and tour. Pair the fabulous wines with the famed Galician seafood and you might never want to leave. The landscape is at its best and the previous year’s white whines are released in late spring to early summer.
Okanagan: British Columbia
With 131 wineries and 8,000 plus acres of vineyard, Okanagan is one of the best wine touring experiences you can have. In a valley anchored by lakes, it’s also a great place for the active wine aficionados. In all four seasons, there’s something to do outdoors, from water sports to golf or hiking in the summer to winter sports in the chillier seasons. If you’re looking for a place to enjoy great wine and explore, add Okanagan to your list. As a four-season destination, there’s no wrong time to go and different festivals and celebrations are planned throughout the year.
Loire Valley: France
It’s no surprise that France makes the list twice and you only need to follow the Loire River to find the best and most diverse vines. The Anjou and Touraine regions are only a 90 minute train ride from Paris and contain big castles, medieval cities, and, of course, family-owned wineries. You’ve never tasted Chenin Blanc or Cabernet Franc until you taste them here. This region is also where the expansion of the French classic cuisine first blossomed. Prepare to eat and drink well. Easter through autumn are the best times to visit—keep in mind that many places close their doors for the European vacation season in August.
With 107 wineries spread and 17,000 acres of vineyards, Mendocino country is a fantastic destination with plenty of variety. Between tastings, explore the redwoods and the coast and sample the Dungeness crab. A two-plus hour drive from San Francisco, the best times to visit are January though March when the Dungeness crab is in season.
Istria is an Adriatic peninsula that was once part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire before it was ruled by Italy and incorporated into Yugoslavia. Today, 90% of the country is in Croatia with the rest in Slovenia and Italy. With its rich history, gorgeous architecture, and unbeatable ocean panoramas, it’s about time we heard about Istria. The festivals and delicious cuisine can be enjoyed year round, but the best time to visit is April through October.