Slide show: From France to Chile, we look at some of the world's lushest wine trails
Drinking in the ruta del vino in the Colchagua Valley, Chile
With bright, sunny days and remarkably cool summer nights, thanks to Pacific breezes that funnel into the valley, Colchagua’s grape-friendly microclimate feels a bit like a Mediterranean patch of ground dropped between Chile’s coastal mountains and the snow-capped Andes. The dry, fertile land is irrigated by clear snow-fed rivers emanating from the striking 14,000-foot Tinguiririca volcano (a destination unto itself with hot springs, hikes among fumaroles, and a macabre history as the site of the plane crash and subsequent cannibalism depicted in the movie “Alive”). Back in the Central Valley, the region is rebounding from March 2010′s severe earthquake, but still welcomes oenophiles with a remarkably accessible and well-organized wine trail. Fourteen wineries — including Vi
Sampling the local pride in the Yarra Valley, Victoria, Australia
The Yarra Valley Cheese and Wine Trail takes gourmets on a carefully selected tour of one of Australia’s most delicious regions. Visitors can collect a picnic hamper and a map from the Healesville Hotel, the starting point of the trail. Your movable feast is stocked with four local cheeses, crackers, olives and dried fruit, as well as all the necessary utensils like a cheese knife and board — not to mention, a map with tasting notes. On a self-drive tour of the cellar doors, the idea is to taste wines specifically matched to the cheeses in the hamper. It’s a fitting tribute to fine local produce and a delicious day away. Map it.
Biking Cyclopedically in the Loire Valley, France
France takes several things very seriously, for example: biking, food, wine, chateaux and les vacances. If you put them all together, you get an innovative, high-tech concept like Cyclopedia, the first GPS satellite-navigated tourist guide for cyclists. And it’s free! Leave a deposit at one of the tourist offices on the Loire
Walking “Sideways” on the Foxen Canyon Wine Trail in Los Olivos, Calif.
The wineries scattered on this Santa Barbara County wine trail — where the troubled men of “Sideways” pilgrimaged for the finest reds and whites — are varied: the vast grounds of Firestone and Fess Parker are well-manicured and picture-perfect; the garden of Rancho Sisquoc is ideal for picnics and youngsters; the tiny “barn” of Foxen is rustic and charming; and the giant-size chess set outside Zaca Mesa is fun to play with as you take sips from your glass. Be sure to stock up your car with fruits, crackers, breads, cheeses and other snacks, then begin your wine tasting journey — either from the north in Santa Maria or from the south in Los Olivos — and work your way in the opposite direction. The route — fitting for road-tripping singles, couples seeking Central California’s sunny countryside, and even families with young children — can be sampled in a day, but spreading out your tasting tour over a few days guarantees a leisurely weekend. Map it.
Sampling wine on the Romantic Road in W
Located on Germany’s “Romantic Road,” but not necessarily on everyone’s itinerary, is the lovely university town W
Winding through wheat fields in Washington wine country
Driving to Walla Walla, Wash., to visit the dozens of local wineries is a fine way to spend a weekend, but many are surprised to find that the rolling landscape of the entire valley is actually dominated more by golden wheat fields than vineyards. The contrast of these two “kissing cousin” crops makes for a visually appealing weekend road trip that clears the soul of even the most frazzled city dweller. Wineries punctuate the fields and vineyards with tasting rooms, and tours provide year-round stops along the way. Map it.
Swooning at the vineyard view in Barbaresco, Italy
The Langhe region of Piedmont, Italy, not only produces some of the finest wine in the country (think Barolo, Barbaresco, Roero), but the scenery is also absolutely swoon-worthy. Vineyards coat the swooping hills and everything is just as green and lush as a fairy tale. At Cascina delle Rose, a winery with a bed and breakfast on the premises, you can feel like part of the family for a day, and they might even put you to work down in the wine cellar … if anything, as a wine taster. The B&B windows open onto the rolling hillsides with a western view. Sunsets have never been so magical, even from the bathroom! Map it.
Wobbling between port wine houses in Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal
Having wine houses next to large bodies of water is both dangerous and efficient. The Douro River, splicing Porto and Vila Nova De Gaia, has been the country’s wine highway for centuries. The port lodges include familiar faces like Taylor’s, Grahams and Sandeman and sit in front of anchored barrel boats called rabelos. It’s impossible to begin to understand the complexities kneaded into a single drop of the ruby water without letting it wash over you. For the first few glasses, you try to compartmentalize the individual flavors described by tour guides and pamphlets, but so many more wines are calling your palate’s name at the neighboring houses. Suddenly, every gulp starts to taste better than the last and you toss the pamphlets and guides sideways. Stumbling safely home without tasting the Douro has quickly become a challenge. Map it.
Sipping great wine at mind-boggling prices in Okanagan Valley, B.C.
Set against a dramatic background of rough-hewn mountains like sleeping prehistoric beasts, sagebrush-speckled desert, and rock that is as old as any on the planet, the Okanagan Valley is not your average place to grow vines. Here, viticulturalists contend with deer, elk and bears (oh, and why not throw in snow, and temperatures that peak in the 130-degree Fahrenheit range). Some 200 miles east of Vancouver, this area is producing wonderful and unconventional wines at mind-boggling prices, as well as serving up forward-thinking food based on local and indigenous ingredients. You’ll taste all sorts of unusual varietals here, like Chasselas, Ehrenfelser and Carmenere, alongside Pinots, Chards, Cabs and Merlots. The wines are paired with caribou sausage and grilled bison, as well as illicit unpasteurized cheeses smuggled cross-country from Quebec. Unlike other wine regions, after a day of tasting, you can hike untouched wilderness, ride the vertigo-inducing trestles of Kettle Valley Rail Trail, or rent a kayak to take out on the lake, which is big enough to house its very own Loch Ness-type monster: Ogopogo. Map it.
Tasting Burgundy wines straight from the cellar in Beaune, France
While Parisians were turning their tunnels into catacombs, Burgundians transformed theirs into wine cellars. Situated in the bustling winemaking center of Beaune, the expansive March
Winery hopping in North Fork on Long Island, N.Y.
Find your designated driver and experience the artisanal wineries, vineyards and tasting rooms of Long Island’s serene North Fork. Many of the 30-plus wineries are family owned and run the gamut, from chic to folksy. Tastings are reasonably priced and tours of the vineyards are often free. Some of the favorites are Castello Di Borghese, Long Island’s first vineyard, as well as the beautiful vines of Pellegrini Vineyards and Rafael, both of which have produced wines with a 90+ rating from Wine Spectator. Other places of note are Macari Vineyards, dedicated to organic farming, the Old Field Vineyards, Corey Creek Vineyards, Paumanok, Clovis Point Wines, Lenz Winery and Pugliese Vineyards. Map it.
Soaking up Gehry’s wine country homage to Rioja in Elciego, Spain
Biking and sipping delicious Malbec in Mendoza, Argentina
Mendoza is the center of Argentina’s wine industry, and the region is home to more than a thousand wineries. Despite its expansive size, there might not be a better way to experience the area than by bike. Companies like Bikes and Wines offer wine tasting tours through the vineyards of Maipu and Chacras de Coria. About $20 gets you a bike for the day, water and a map. Make your way to the wineries at your own pace (many are only about a half-mile to a mile apart). Surprisingly, biking that small distance in between tastings allows you to enjoy the wine without getting too sloshed. Remember to start at the most distant winery first, though, to avoid a long ride at the end of the day when all you want to do is curl up and enjoy your Malbec buzz. Map it.
Sipping Prosecco amid the vineyards in Valdobbiadene, Italy
It is quite a ride up and down the foothills of Valdobbiadene, but it’s worth traveling an hour from Venice to visit the birthplace of Prosecco, the Italian competitor of Champagne. As with all wines, even within the growing area, quality differs. Although the competition is fierce, the grapes from the Cartizze hill remain a favorite. To really enjoy some of these high-class bubbles, visit the local winery Bisol. Being the 22nd generation, since 1542, the family truly knows how to keep the standard high. This late-ripening variety can be enjoyed from the bottle at Trattoria alla Cima, while watching the next harvest grow. At this small eatery, you’ll taste the finest local classics like sopressa, polenta, pumpkin gnocchi and porcini dishes combined with high-quality Prosecco. Of course, leaving without eating a homemade tiramis
Chasing wickets and wine in the Barossa Valley, South Australia
If Gatsby had been Aussie, this is where he’d have hung his chapeau. Hop on the nearest Liquor Bus or Wine Train and drink your way through dozens of the world’s finest vineyards and cellar doors. Once your head has begun its swirling dizzy-dance and the Aussie sun has baked you straight through, stumble over to Chateau Tanunda for gourmet cheese, a round of croquet on the green, and a palate-pleasing array of true-blue South Australian wines. Don’t miss the Small Winemaker’s Centre inside this 1890s estate for a glimpse of the up-and-comers of the Southern Hemisphere grape. If cheap, but glamorous, inebriation amid sprawling vistas is what you hope to achieve, there can be few better places than the Barossa Valley. Map it.
Discovering “the other wine country” in Anderson Valley, Calif.
It ain’t easy to reach the Anderson Valley, but it’s worth every twisting turn through the oak-studded hills surrounding Highway 128 to sample some of Northern California’s best pinots and Alsatian varietals. Rugged mountains surround the 25-mile-long valley, which stretches northwest along the winding Navarro River toward Mendocino. The unpretentious wineries here are the polar opposite of what you find in froufrou Napa, and they feel like what they actually are: farms. Pick up a bottle and picnic by the river at Navarro River Redwoods State Park. Then head back to bucolic Boonville and ascend the mountains, via Highway 253, toward Ukiah and Highway 101. Map it.
Every Sunday, Salon presents a feature from Trazzler spotlighting surprising travel stories from across the globe. Unexpected discoveries and strange, wonderful treasures are condensed into slide shows that entertain as much as they educate.