Ever since I was introduced to quality wine while working at an awesome restaurant in Brisbane, Australia visiting vineyards and drinking wine has frequently topped my list of favorite activities when exploring new places. As any wineo will attest to, there are distinct differences between regions not only in flavor and type, but also the unique experiences provided at each that make them memorable and worth visiting at least once.
Bean Bag Relaxing at Waiheke Island
Waiheke is a small island off the coast of Auckland, New Zealand that received rave reviews from several locals and was ranked the fifth-best destination in the world to visit by Lonely Planet in 2016. Since it was only a 45 min ferry ride out of the city there was no excuse not to go. Waiheke is a small island that consists primarily of large vineyards and one sleepy town with a few restaurants and shops scattered around making it easily accessible by foot or bicycle. After doing several wine tastings at some of the most popular vineyards we headed back to the first that we had visited that morning, Cable Bay Vineyards. The winery simply had one of the best views of the surrounding water and offered giant comfortable bean bags to relax on. After ordering a few bottles of our favorites, we spent the afternoon soaking up the sunshine and sipping fantastic reds and whites while enjoying one the most incredible views of Auckland in the far distance. It was definitely one of the best located vineyards I have visited and had some of the finest New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc!
Vino under the Tuscan Sun
One of the classics and easy favorites is drinking wine in Tuscany. Here beautiful vineyards make up the stunning landscape and there are few better ways to spend an afternoon than eating delicious handmade Italian cuisine while sampling several bottles of red wine. If you are a wine enthusiast and enjoy spending time in the outdoors, this is an absolute must. This is definitely one of the most scenic wine routes and with so many excellent vineyards in such close proximity it is a perfect place to take a road trip through the windy back roads. It is not just like the movies, it is far better.
Kayak Vineyard Tour
During an annual spring wine festival in Norfolk, Virginia I learned about a vineyard on the eastern coast that offered vineyard kayaking tours. Kayaking and drinking? Done and Done. A few weeks later, my friends and I met with the tour guide, a fantastic laid back guy who guided our small group upstream for a good 45 mins before we reached the pier and dragged our kayaks ashore. We were greeted by a friendly dog who belonged to the owners of Chatham Vineyards (who also graces the front of some of their bottles) and he happily accompanied us out to the vineyards where we explored a bit before heading in to sample the wines. After completing the tour and sharing a bottle outside in the open fields, we climbed back in our kayaks and lazily paddled back, mostly letting the water pull us along.
Sunset Views in Santorini
Santorini is frequently listed on top destination guides around the world for its stunning cliffs and beautiful white washed buildings. However, there are several vineyards dotting Santorini that are also worth paying attention to with many companies offering tours and tasting. After asking the other travelers and staff at my Hostel for recommendations, I opted for the slightly more expensive Santo vineyards due to the quality of wine and impressive location. About 20 minutes south of Fira by bus, unsurprisingly the vineyard was situated at the top of a cliff facing towards both of the famous coastal cities on the inside of the island. The most popular choice on the menu was a sampler which included a full tasting of six of their best wines and a small spread of cheese and olives. I had planned only to go for an afternoon tasting, but lucked out with a last minute cancellation on a dinner reservation and was able to get an excellent table to enjoy a bottle of wine that evening. Although the setting was not quite as spectacular as Oia for the sunset, it was still magnificent with hues of orange and pink filling the sky!
Wine Day Tour in New Zealand
My visit to New Zealand's North Island started out with one of my favorite pastimes, drinking wine. Up and coming on the international wine scene, New Zealand started building an outstanding reputation for its Marlborough region which has produced world-class Sauvignon Blanc. It has continued to expand its repertoire of producing excellent wines throughout the various regions on both islands. There are numerous vineyard tours and wine tastings offered around New Zealand and I found an excellent tour on Viator that included tastings at several vineyards, lunch from a local organic cafe, and a tour of the rugged coastline and famous black sand beaches. The celebrated Sauvignon Blanc lived up to the high standard that the guide set before we began as he explained the numerous awards that the vineyards had earned. There was also some fantastic Syrah from Hawkes Bay and Malbec from Turanga Creek that were offered during the tastings. After stopping for a delicious lunch of all locally sourced food at the Provenance of Matua Valley, we drove along the scenic coastline and hiked down to the Muriwai black sand beach before continuing our boozy afternoon at Matua Wines, which was actually the very first wine company in New Zealand to produce Sauvignon Blanc.
Sip Malbec in the Andes
Within an hour drive from Santiago, visitors can explore some of Chile's best vineyards that have been gaining a reputation as some of the finest winemakers in the world. Located in an ideal spot that offers nutrient rich soil from the volcanic activity along the Pacific Ring of Fire, while also being protected from most elements by the surrounding Andes mountain, Chile has become a growing wine exporter. They now have several notorious vineyards and wine varieties from the region. The Malbec wines from this area are a personal favorite that tend to be full bodied with generally sweet tannins and I found it rather easy to polish off a bottle (not that I normally have too much difficulty with this..). However, they also make world renown Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and Bordeaux Blends. There are numerous wine tastings that are available for day trips out of Santiago so I went to close-by Undurraga Vineyards. On the bus ride out I ended up sitting beside another solo American traveler and as the only English speakers, we got paired up together for our own private tour of the grounds. A very pleasant surprise at the end of the tasting and tour was how cheap everything was! I was rather disappointed that it was my last day in Chile and there was no way for me to take bottles while backpacking through South America, but I did get to share a bottle of their delicious sweet white Maipo Valley Reserve Blend out in the beautiful gardens with my new friend before her an I joined the others and headed back into the city.
Mallorca Ladies Weekend
One of Europe's cheaper beach destinations is the beautiful island of Mallorca, Spain located in the Mediterranean. Providing beautiful sailing trips, beachside bars, and most importantly- vineyards, this little island gem is a perfect getaway for a weekend ladies trip. After a day spent biking, sun bathing, drinking bottles of prosecco, and then sneaking more prosecco onto a boat for a sunset cruise, we decided to drink through a bit more of the island. We rented a car and mapped out several of the numerous vineyards that dot the whole island. A variety of tours are available for doing tastings at several of the wineries however, our last minute planning determined that we would do our own road trip. It worked out marvelously and we were able to visit several beautiful vineyards including Bodega San Vinas which offered a variety of local wines and a charcuterie spread which was accompanied by stunning views over the cliffs, perfect for a lazy sunny afternoon!