With February ringing in some of the best wine festivals in India, we decided to ask our members about their favourite vineyard and winery experiences across the world.
Whether you are a wine lover or never had any ever, a winery or vineyard tour is a great experience to be on your Bucket List! Many exotic wine regions are more than just wine – they come with great food and usually a free history lesson 😉
Here are some intoxicating vineyard and winery experiences across Europe, Asia and the Americas – read on and add them to your Itch List.
Experience the original ‘Porto’ Wine!
Porto is a beautiful European town in Northwest Portugal, with riverside town setting, colourfully painted houses and most of all, popular for its Port Wine (or the Vinho do Porto).
Studying in Madrid, Partha and friends made a trip to Porto to visit a Port Wine Cellar one weekend. Based in Mumbai, the Goan Port Wine was an all time favourite for Partha – and now living only a few hours drive from Porto, Partha had the itch to visit the Porto Wine Cellars.
A visit to Caves Ferreira – one of the popular Wine Cellars there was like a trip back in time giving them a flavour of old Portuguese traditions! Apart from the enchanting history of Port wine, what struck Partha the most were the size of the wine cellars and the elaborate process that goes into making of Port Wine. Grape Juice first goes into casks which are 100 years old and as the wine ages, they move it into smaller casks – some of them being kept there for 200 years! ‘Our guide said – imagine drinking the wine of the same grapes as what your great great great grandparents would have’, said Partha – that sounded exciting and creepy at the same time …
Inside the chilly cellars, Partha discovered that Port wine can be white too! They also went on to see an exhibition of various tools that were used in the making of Port Wine.
Walking down the city after the exciting Cellar visit, Partha remembers seeing boats lining the river (a local Portuguese friend mention that back in the days, these boats were used to transport wines upstream – now they re just used for boat tours).
Partha’s tips for visiting Porto:
- Go in warmer months, you can enjoy the cellars as well as the riverside better.
- Have a Bacalao (it’s a local fish which is amazing and went great with wine).
- Try the herbed wine too!
The vineyards in the Land down under!
Visiting a vineyard was on Suresh’s Itch List ever since they had booked tickets to Melbourne, Australia – the question was which one! Just an hour’s drive from Melbourne, Yarra Valley made an easy and beautiful road trip. The Yarra Valley – best known for producing Chardonnay, sparkling wine and Pinot Noir – has several vineyards and most of them are just a few minutes drive from each other – so it’s easy to browse through many of them and then hop into one.
Suresh ended up visiting 2 of them, including the most popular Domaine Chandon. ‘We did the vineyard tours and wine tasting sessions (enjoying some of the finest Chardonnay and Pinot Noir), and by the end of it had a greater appreciation of the wine tasting process and the different characteristics of wine (although by the end of it, I wasn’t as drunk as I thought I would be!)’.
Of course, Yarra Valley is not only about the wine, there are some great breweries too (which some of our friends from Melbourne tried hard to take us to – we decided to stay focused on the wine :)). We did try some amazing food at beautiful cafes and of course some great cheese!
With Yarra Valley scratched off the list, Suresh has now added the Hunter and Barossa Valley to his Itch List, the next time he visits the land down under!
Suresh’s tips for the Yarra Valley:
- The smaller wineries have lesser crowds and usually have complementary wine tasting.
- Dress up in layers while going on winery tours. Temperatures vary during the day (and sometimes within areas) and dressing up in layers will help you adapt!
The valley synonymous with vineyards in the West – Napa!
Working for an MNC Bank in Gurgaon, a conference took Sachin to the Napa Valley – his most exotic trip so far! Extending his stay at Napa beyond his work trip, Sachin experienced some great vineyard tours, some fine wine tasting and great food!
His wine experience began with his stay at a resort located at the southern tip of Napa Valley – where the Napa and Sonoma meet. The ambience at the ‘first underground tasting center’ in Napa, was as classy and intoxicating as the wine itself!
Since everything in Napa Valley isn’t exactly next door, Sachin had to plan his itinerary such that he doesn’t have to go half way around the wine valley between 2 experiences. Sachin’s colleagues from California recommended he visit 2 of the most popular wineries in Napa – Domaine Chandon and Robert Mondavi.
I am no wine expert, but thoroughly enjoyed the sparkling wine at Domaine Chandon where I started my day of wineries tour – said Sachin.
He then went on a winery tour at the Robert Mondavi – (who he was told was almost the godfather of winemaking in Napa). At Robert Mondavi the tour gave an overview of the history of wine in Napa Valley and the entire wine making process. We walked through the stunningly beautiful grounds – and after the tour, we sipped on some reserve fume blanc and the changemont pinot noir.
Napa Valley has more than just wine … it has some great food too! Being a vegetarian, Sachin could not sample the meats but the region has some great vegetarian (and vegan) foods as well! Farm fresh bruschetta, salads, wood fired pizzas and white bean tacos were his favourites!
Sachin’s tips for visiting the Napa Valley:
- At the bigger & popular wineries, the winery tours get booked very quickly. So plan ahead and make a reservation days in advance.
- Napa Valley is spread out, so plan your itinerary on which wineries and restaurants you plan to visit according based on a route map.
Which wine experience are you itching to take on? Add it here on the Itch List.