A nightly glass of vino is one of life’s great pleasures. But traveling to the regions where those grapes are grown and tasting wines from gorgeous, sprawling vineyards—that’s what dreams are made of. Here, the nine vacations all wine lovers must take at least once in their lifetime.
9 Vacations Every Wine Lover Should Add to Her Bucket List
This is the Mac Daddy of wine vacations. Located in Southwestern France along the Garonne River, Bordeaux’s elegant, chateau-lined countryside is known for five grapes: Merlot, Cabernet Sauvingon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec. Start your trip in Médoc—home to most of Bordeaux's "premier cru" chateaux—before heading east to the St-Émilion and Entre-Deux-Mers regions.
Where to stay: Château Cordeillan-Bages
Napa Valley, California
Sixty miles north of San Francisco lies Napa Valley, undoubtedly America’s best New World wine region. Small, picturesque towns like Yountville and St. Helena are filled with 400-plus wineries and vineyards, known for bold, silky Cabernets and fruit-forward Chardonnays. There’s also a pretty bonkers culinary scene. (Cough, cough: French Laundry.)
Where to stay: Auberge du Soleil
Think “Italian wine” and an image of the Tuscan countryside will probably come to mind: gorgeous medieval villages, cypress-lined roads and hills of lush vineyards that extend as far as the eye can see. The region’s most notable grape, Sangiovese, is used to produce its world-famous Montalcino, Montepulciano and Chianti wines.
Where to Stay: Borgo Santo Pietro
But…there’s also more to Italy than Tuscany, people. In Piedmont, the area bordering France and Switzerland, the cold Alps and warm Mediterranean weather collide to produce incredible wines—most notably Asti Spumante, the Italian take on Champagne.
Where to stay: Hotel Castello di Sinio
Douro Valley is best known for port, but the region also produces excellent, well-priced table reds from grapes like Touriga Nacional and Tinta Roriz (that’s the same grape behind Spanish Tempranillo). The most compelling reason to visit Douro, however, is its natural beauty: winding cobblestone roads and rustic mountains speckled with old vineyards and wine estates called quintas.
Where to stay: The Six Senses Douro Valley
Hawkes Bay & Marlborough, New Zealand
New Zealand might not immediately come to mind when you think “wine vacation,” but two regions here are worth a visit. Stunning, seaside Hawkes Bay on the North Island is best known for inexpensive and fruit-forward Syrahs, and Marlborough, on the South Island, is home to some of the zestiest Sauvignon Blancs around.
Willamette Valley, Oregon
The Burgundy of the States, Willamette Valley has matured into a serious wine region that produces America’s best Pinot Noirs. Look closer and you’ll also find excellent Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris and Riesling. Follow the winding, two-lane road from Portland to the town of Eugene for a truly lovely summer or fall getaway.
Where to stay: The Allison Inn & Spa
The sophistication of Napa meets the rustic charm of Gaucho country at the foot of the Andes Mountains. Mendoza’s vineyards, or bodegas, produce Malbec, the country’s flagship wine, which has seen a surge in popularity in recent years. (Don’t miss an Argentinian asado, which pairs perfectly with Malbec's dark-fruit flavor and smoky finish.)
Where to stay: Entre Cielos
Rhône Valley, France
OK, we couldn’t end without one more French pick. The Rhône Valley (set just above the rosé-producing region of Provence) is the place to visit for two stellar grapes: Syrah (hi, dark fruit and rich tannins) and Grenache (aka: the fruity and floral taste behind the famous Chateauneuf-du-Pape). While you're there, visit the charming city of Lyon, home to gorgeous Renaissance architecture and a restaurant scene that rivals that of Paris.
Where to stay: Chateau de Rochegude