The U.S. Uncorked: Top 10 Wine-Travel Destinations [Part One]
"In vino veritas," or "There's Truth in Wine,” is referring to the often confessional loquacity of the intoxicated. ~ Pliny the Elder
Please don't get me wrong, I'm in complete agreement with seven of the ten and I've been to all but three of those listed in that article. But I think the criteria for making the selections seen on that "list" were made from an entirely different perspective than the list I'll be compiling below. And yes, unlike many other writers I've been to each one of these areas, more than once.
My main criteria is going to be related to wine-regions which I believe are making some serious juice [wines with soul] representing the very best in winemaking, reflective of the terroir the vineyards reside in and overall consistent quality vintage after vintage. What you will not find, commodity wines, the bottles you'll typically find crowding the bottom shelves of your local grocery store aisle either.
Before I proceed, slow your roll, just a moment. The numerical order below has zero correlation to any idea of which region I think is the best or not the best and is purely coincidental. It’s only for purely practical purposes that the numbering is useful for maintaining orderly article. So with that clarification stated it’s without any further ado, it's time to jump into it.
1. Red Mountain: Benton County, WA: I've been to this area more than a few times, the wines here are more than exceptional, they're a true testament to following your dreams and the desire to make wines with soul. I've never had a bottle from this area, where I thought "ewww" I never want to try that again. I still have bottles of Red Mountain tucked-away in my cellar. To this day, I still purchase [for myself] and recommend this region at my day-job.
You'll find getting there; is quite simple really, via a quick flight from Seattle. White Earth. Blue Skies. Red Mountain. On the list below is many of my favorite vineyard sites. But if you want great value, please see my friends at Terra Blanca who make everything from the pop-and-pour Tuesday evening wine, to the more sophisticated wines to lay-down and enjoy later. Key Varietals: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah.
2. Paso Robles, California: For those living in either San Diego and or Los Angeles, Paso is a very easy wine-destination to access. Staying downtown is my preferred and recommend option. There are many delicious off-the-beaten-path white wines [Rhone Zone] and rock-star red wines, based on Syrah [plus others] and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Staying downtown, [which I recommend] you have walking-distance access to world-class restaurants and other more affordable but equally good dining choices. From downtown you can be in the vineyards within 10 to 15 minutes or feel free to access many of great choices for tasting via the plethora of tasting room there. Key Varietals: Cabernet Sauvignon and Rhone Zone faves.
3. McMinnville, OR: Some of you may be wondering why I chose what is known as the sub-appellation of the greater Willamette Valley AVA. The answer is simple, because for me it makes a great jumping off spot to visit a majority of the other sub-appellation in the area. Once you land at the airport in
it’s a quick hour to drive the 40 miles to McMinnville. It’s a city that rocks
a small-town vibe, but still has plenty of upscale restaurants to tempt you. And
with an abundance of B&B’s in the area finding a comfy place to stay is all
too easy. Key Varietals: Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris.
4. Sonoma County, California: In Sonoma, you'll find a less hurried pace, than in the neighboring Napa Valley. I don't look at one being better the other, only different. Both offer the thirsty vino-sapien vastly different wine experiences, while there make sure you make the drive out to coast. The scenery is gorgeous, you can follow the Russian River, if the adventurous type, maybe even bust-out the kayak.
Either way do yourself a favor and get out to see all you can of Sonoma, it's far more than just a grape wine-destination. If you fancy yourself a cycling enthusiast, then this is definitely the place for you. Key Varietals: Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon.
So slow, take your time and remember the road to exploration can be found beyond highway 29, the corridor which runs length and breadth of the valley floor. I like to take my tasting adventures appellation-by-appellation. If it has been some-time since you've been here, don't forget to check-out the newly revived downtown Napa, it has nicely re-developed, re-energized and has a great vibe. Key Varietals: Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Zinfandel, and Pinot Noir via Los Carneros.
5. Santa Barbara County: How in world was this amazing wine producing region was completely left off the list in favor of more obscure places is really perplexing, to say the least. A sad-fact which still has me scratching my head in amazement. But that said; hey Los Angeles and San Diego this wine-travel destination is even closer than a trip to Paso, there's even a quaint Danish Village like a step-out of time to explore, great-golf, an abundance of amazing wineries to visit; like Foxen, Melville, Stolpman Vineyards, Rusack and more. If you need my complete recommendation list, just email me.
Remember folks this is the same wine producing region where Miles and Jack got Sideways in more ways than one. If you plan to visit this region, I'd recommend staying in Solvang, instead of the city of
Check back here on Travel Tuesday for the complete updated list via Part Two.