The Wine Road Less Taken [Ruta del Vino]
“I was like a boy playing on the sea-shore, and diverting myself now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me. ~Isaac Newton
Travel has a different meaning for people, but for me, it means it’s time to think long and hard about removing the ‘blinders’ so many of us wear, which keep us plodding on in the same direction and sadly unwilling to bust out of safe wine cocoons of conformity. I’d like to encourage each of you to give the wine-world a good swirl, put something new and fresh in our collective glasses and lean into it.
As many of you know I worked in wine sales for many years, where I've run into folks [consumers] who all too often have no desire to adventure outside their normal everyday tried-n-true domestic staples. Wines, like Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot or Pinot Noir, etc. In some ways I do totally get that because you want consistency, but is the price of consistency worth giving up on exploration?
People say to me all-the-time, I don't want ‘that’ because I can't taste it! But what I think they are actually saying is "I'm not familiar with ‘that’ and I can't trust that uncorking an unknown wine will do for me."
That's a good point, and I get that, but how do you fix that issue, one way is to go to "focused" tastings where you can experience new wines from new regions, an adventurous [possibly] new habit I'd highly recommend leaning into. So if you want to drill down a bit deeper and you fancy yourself as the adventurous type, you can take a wine-tourism-trip to get a first-hand experience with new wines flavors and styles in their country of origin.
This where you will also learn to make a connection to the folks behind the label, where you can not only learn to drink like a local but eat like one too, taking the road less traveled, with each sip, swirl and slurp and possibly [maybe inevitably] a brief burp. Folks honestly this is the tipping point for a majority of wine-geeks like me because once you experience the wine lifestyle outside the comfy confines of the ‘states,' you're figuratively and literally hooked.
You go abroad enamored with wine drinking and wine culture and come back with a passion that can lay siege to your very soul [maybe a bit of hyperbole]. But honestly, [speaking from personal experiences] once you have peeked behind the curtain, there's no going back to the mundane world of commodity wines.
Even folks with a cursory knowledge of history can see the imprint wine has made upon lives and culture throughout the ages. For me, it's the kind of experience that just grabs you and pulls you in, like no other beverage really can or ever will, wine is in the fabric of nearly every great nation and people on this planet, embrace it.
As you're reading this, think of my words as a type of invitation to get out there, and lay aside the mundane commodity wines you've been drinking for far too long, then go see for yourselves the breadth and depth of what is available on this vinous third rock from the sun.
Okay, I'm done pontificating on the subject of exploration, but I do hope you'll at the very least consider my advice. Now that I've hopefully grabbed your attention, I wanted to shine a light on a great jumping off place for you to do exactly what I've described above. I'm recommending a place which in my mind is ideal in helping you get out there; the Ruta del Vino de Navarra or the simply the "wine-route" in northern Spain.
Once you click on the link above, you will find abundant information on the wineries you can visit, tours you can take and other needed travel information. I find it a bit amusing when in passing conversation, about I trip I had once made to the Ruta del Vino de Navarra because they look at me so puzzled when I mention the Navarra Wine Route in northern Spain.
But when I dive into the details with a bit more context, about one of the great jumping-off points for great vinous adventures, and that it happens to be in Pamplona, their eyes light up, and their heads nod in knowing approval of this famous destination and that's no bull. Truly, folks, Pamplona is a great place to stay and a great city to explore, while visiting the Navarra Wine Route, especially in the offseason.
It's also a great place hang out in the evening after a long day out on the wine-route, as the city pumps with action nightly even in the off-season [which is the best time to go]. There are pintxos bars to visit, many upscale tasty dining options and great tasting vino to drink all within easy walking distance from many hotels in the area.
I stayed at the beautiful Palacio Guendulain with the rest of the Navarra Five, a perfect place to recharge your batteries. As our group hit the ground running every day soaking in the culture and exploring the fantastic Ruta del Vino de Navarra first hand, where we saw medieval castles, Roman ruins, experiencing all the fascinating aspects of the Kingdom of Navarra.
But hey, don't just come for the bountiful wine-experience, stay for the incredible culture. So what are you waiting for? Book it now, you'll thank me later. If you would like to see more of the pictures I took while I was there, please click over to my Navarra Five [group shot below] page on Flickr. Until next time sip long and prosper cheers!