The Best Wine Travel Destinations – Part II

Tuscany Italy
Tuscan Vineyard

As a true lover of wine, any wine travel destination gets me excited.  Yet, I have to admit, if asked to choose just a few such destinations, several come out on top.  They are the destinations that have it all: great wine, fabulous food, extraordinary scenery, an interesting culture, and plenty to do and see between winery stops.   In no special order, Italy – especially Tuscany and Piedmont – are must travel destinations for those who love wine.  Brunello di Montalcino, Vino Nobile, Chianti Classico, and powerful, complex, Super Tuscan reds are just a few enticing reasons to spend time in Tuscany.  Let’s not forget Tuscany’s beautiful cities, (think Florence, Siena, Cortona, etc.), incomparable art, picture postcard scenery, and more good food than any of us can eat.  The same can be said for Italy’s Piedmont, home to Barolo, Barbaresco, Barbera Arneis, Moscato, and the finest Northern Italian cuisine.

Piedmont, too, has it all, but then so does France’s  Provence, particularly the Vaucluse, which features Châteauneuf-du-Pape,  the venerable medieval wine villages of Gigondas, Vacqueyras, and Beaumes de Venise to name just a few.  In Provence, the air is fresh, the light scintillating, the people warm and friendly, and the food is nothing short of scrumptious.  And we haven’t even mentioned the rolling fields of lavender and more to do and see in Provence than any ten trips could satisfy.

Last but certainly not least, the Western Cape of South Africa comes in second to none.  By far the most beautiful scenery of any wine destination awaits the wine lover on Africa’s Western Cape.  The Western Cape’s preeminent wine districts of Stellenbosch, Franschoek, Paarl, and Robertson also fashion an exciting array of wines made by a growing legion of young, talented winemakers.  South Africa’s multicultural flavor adds to the experience as does nearby Cape Town, which offers everything a traveler could possibly want in a wine destination.

Yes, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Chile, Germany, New Zealand, Spain, the United States, and several other countries, too, offer great wine travel destinations, but for the sheer amount of fine wine, relative ease of travel and the ability to satisfy almost every whim, the three choices above earn my picks as the best overall wine travel destinations.


Don’s May Collector Series Top Pick

I like Malbec, but I don’t love it – at least not most of the time.  Why?  I don’t have anything against the grape, only the way so many Malbecs are handled today.  With the recent popularity of the grape, far too many Malbecs come to us in one of two forms: either as pleasant but otherwise innocuous quaffs or tannic monsters ready to rip our throats out and drag us into the next room.  Do I really want to wait and see what happens next?  Happily, the 2010 Casarena Jamilla’s Vineyard Perdriel Malbec falls into neither category and restores my faith in the noble Malbec varietal.  Casarena’s single vineyard Malbec is truly the real deal, and for this reason it earns this month’s Collector Series Top pick.  It offers deep, rich polished flavors that gain complexity with each passing sip.  Casarena’s 2010 Jamilla’s Vineyard Malbec deserves the lofty 94 point score Decanter Magazine awarded it and that magazine’s choice as “Best Argentinean Malbec of the Year.”  If all Malbecs were created equal, or least as good as the Jamilla’s Vineyard, who would ask for anything else?  Not me!


Jamilla's Vineyard
Jamilla’s Vineyard

Don’s May Premier Series Top Pick

Signal Ridge Vineyard
Signal Ridge Vineyard

May features four outstanding Premier Series selections from three countries on three continents: California, France and South Africa all make a formidable bid for this month’s Top Pick.  In the absence of one clear standout, I am going with the home grown wine.  Why?  This is the first release of Signal Ridge, a delicious Champagne Method or to be more politically correct Traditional Method sparkling wine.  Signal Ridge Bubbles Brut makes its debut with The International Wine of the Month Club.  This frothy, friendly bubbly comes to us from the folks at Trinchero, who are proven leaders in fashioning outstanding quality and value using sustainable and organic viticulture.  If you like being the first on the block to try something and a top notch sparkling wine that offers beautiful clean flavors and exceptional value  is at all appealing; you’ll know why this wine garnered this month’s Top Pick.


Red Wine Burgers

Grilling season is finally here and with Memorial Day just around the corner, these Red Wine Burgers will be a hit!

Red Wine BurgersIngredients:

  • 1 cup pinot noir or good dark red wine
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 1 large sprig fresh rosemary
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1/4 cup red onion, diced
  • 1/4 cup crumbled gorgonzola cheese plus additional for serving
  • 2 tablespoons crumbled cooked bacon (about 2-3 strips)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 teaspoon worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Few cracks of fresh black pepper
  • 4 ciabatta rolls


1. In a small saucepan bring wine, brown sugar and rosemary to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally until liquid reduces to 1/2 cup, about 7-8 minutes. Remove rosemary and set aside to cool, reserving 2 tablespoons for serving.

2. In a large bowl add ground beef, onion, gorgonzola, bacon, garlic, worcestershire, salt, pepper and 1 tablespoon of red wine reduction. Mix until combined. Form into 4 equal size patties.

3. Preheat grill or a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add burgers and cook for about 5-7 minutes. Flip and brush with some of the remaining red wine reduction and cook for 5-7 minutes longer. Flip again and brush with red wine reduction and cook until desired doneness.

4. Place burgers on rolls, drizzle with reserved reduction, top with additional cheese and serve.

If desired, slice a small red onion and cook with burgers in skillet. Serve on top of burgers with cheese.Quick bacon tip: Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with foil and place desired amount of bacon strips on baking sheet. Cook for 18-20 minutes until crispy.

Recipe and photo are from:


The Best Wine Travel Destinations – Part I

Peachy Canyon Vineyard at Sunrise
Peachy Canyon Vineyard at Sunrise

Who ever heard of ugly wine country?  For any true lover of wine there’s really no bad wine travel destination, but some are better than others.  It depends upon what you like.  If you’re the Disneyland type, leave the passport home and head on up to Napa Valley: you won’t be disappointed.  For a more personal, down to earth California wine experience, consider Sonoma, Mendocino, or better still California’s Central Coast, especially Santa Barbara County, the Santa Lucia Highlands, or Paso Robles.  In those locales, you’ll more often than not get to talk directly to the folks who make the wine and you’ll get to taste a lot of good wine for a lot less than in Napa Valley.

And let’s not forget Oregon’s Willamette Valley.  It still has a small town, close knit feel, and the wine and food are terrific.  Just make sure you book the Oregon trip between June and September before the gray and gloom set in.  All of these wine travel destinations offer beautiful scenery, excellent wines and plenty of comfortable accommodations, and they’re right here in the U.S.A.  Recently, Washington State’s Columbia River Valley and Walla Walla AVAs as well as Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley provide increasingly interesting wine travel destinations, too, so what are you waiting for?


For more information on different wine regions, visit our Wine Region Guide.

photo credit: Malcolm Carlaw via photopin cc