Local Culture… One Glass of Wine at a Time
One of the major benefits of travel these days is getting to know the local people, their culture, their food and of course their drinks. Exploring wine countries in the fall during harvest time is a great way to interact with the local wine makers, try some exceptional food and wine from the region and spend a lovely day in the great outdoors and what better way to do all of this than in one of the lesser traveled wine regions, not only giving you a more intimate experience but also easier on the wallet.
Although the Penedes region is internationally known for it’s cava, Spanish sparkling wine, whether large operation or small the majority of the wine making remains in the family and most of these wineries have been in operation for many generations. Another plus, it’s a short 35 minute commuter train ride from Barcelona.
Mix up your day by experiencing the large production winery and caves of Juve y Camps, followed by a trip to the caves of Gramona and the very intimate wineries of Josep Maria Ferret Guasch, Pares Balta and Mas Comtal, both located in the families home.
Remember to soak up the wine with a great rustic Catalan meal at Masia Aran my favorite countryside restaurant in the region or if you’re looking for a more haute cuisine experience, try En Rima, Hotel Mastinell’s on site restaurant where you can have a 5 star dining experience for a mere $30 with their pre fixe 3 course lunch menu.
At the end of your wine tasting days, there’s one clear option of where to lay your head to rest, the newly opened Hotel Mastinell, the place to stay in Penedes. Already garnering hospitality accolades from around Europe, it’s unique architecture was designed to look like cava bottles resting during their fermentation process, and the wine theme is cleverly included in every detail of your stay, down to the bathroom amenities. Hotel Mastinell has upgraded packages including breakfast, a complimentary bottle of cava and a gift for around 200 Euro per night.
Russian River Valley / Green Valley, CA
This tiny enclave of a wine country within the greater Sonoma County is a gem away from the masses in Napa. The hilly landscapes and many rivers lead to an oasis of exploring the great outdoors, one glass of wine at a time.
Biking around to a few of the wineries that are in Healdsburg or the outskirts of town, however, the driving in these parts can be a bit tricky with the windy and confusing country roads, so my suggestion is to hire Da Vine Wine Tours as your personal guide for the day. She picks you up at your hotel in the morning and provides door to door service as well as assists in packing a fantastic picnic for lunch. This way, you can easily start off with some bubbly and phenomenal views at Iron Horse’s outdoor tasting room, followed by Merry Edwards “the Queen of Russian River pinots”, right down the street, and then a bit further down, end things with Hanna, a best all around and ideal location for that picnic lunch in the vineyard.
After power napping off the wine, a must do for dinner is heading to The Girl & The Fig in Sonoma for a memorable and perfectly prepared dinner in an intimate and elegant setting. Make sure to save room for the fig kisses and the caramel fig pudding deserts that stayed on my mind for weeks later.
Russian River Valley Continued…
If traditional countryside Inns aren’t really your thing or you prefer to be Eco Chic on your travels, then the H2 Hotel, Healdsburg’s green certified boutique hotel in the center of this charming and quirky town is the place for you. Walkable to great restaurants, the award winning Costeaux French Bakery, and a short bike ride away from many wineries and yes, they’ve got bikes. You can stay at H2 this fall via their H2 for 2 Special – Eco Studio room + dinner at one of the area’s top rated restaurants, Spoonbar, which happens to reside downstairs, and 20% off of spa services, oh and did I mention the free bikes? All for $339 / night.
An hour away from Rome and a world away from the arid landscapes of the Italy that everyone else knows. The lush, green countryside of Umbria is the birth place of Sangiovese and the home of the autumn food and wine festival Festa del Bosco, taking place in early November, in case you need another reason to indulge.
A little bocce ball with your wine, why not? This an other activities like horseback riding and chef prepared wine lunches are all the rage at Terre Margaritelli, organic winery. On another note, you can expand your knowledge of the history of viniculture at the MUVIT Wine Museum of Torgiano then visit it’s founders, the Lungarotti winery, see a few of their historical wine making artifacts while tasting their goods. Arnaldo Caprai, is another must see with their state of the art tasting room with sweeping views and if you’re lucky you’ll leave with a Cruciani bracelet from their sister company, along with some wine.
A palace on a pauper’s budget? I never believed this existed, but you can truly satisfy even the most discerning “champagne tastes” on a “beer budget” by staying at Palazzo delle Signorine while visiting Umbria. This amazing luxury boutique hotel in a small historical palace in town is centrally located, boast it’s original 17th century frescoes, and arranges private chef dinners for guests with Life Italian Style’s Jennifer Mcllvaine. Luxurious pampering? Check! Unique setting? Check! Won’t break the budget? Check! I’m ready to call this palace my home for a mere 80 Euro / night based on double occupancy!
Northern Viriginia Wine Country
This “New Kid on the Block” of wine countries can easily be a great road trip option from many East Coast metropolitan areas or a longer vacation combined with Washington, DC, only slightly over an hour away. The beautiful rolling hills and countryside vistas from the wineries in this land of Cabernet Franc are great paired with a visit to nearby historical Fredricksburg.
Along with the younger vineyards and wineries comes some great new and award winning winemaking talent here in Northern Virginia. A few of these young and creative masters of their craft that you must visit are David Pagan Castano, who brings his family’s wine making tradition from Spain to Potomac Point Winery and is even working on a unique international blend for the fall. Other young talent to keep an eye out for and savor a bit of their craft, Nate Walsh at Sunset Hills Vineyard and Steve Monson at Early Mountain Vineyards.
Northern Virginia Continued…
Even if you don’t have the chance to visit nearby Fredricksburg for the historical sightseeing, you can take part in a bit of history by staying at Stevenson Ridge, the historical Inn and B&B that includes 7 private cottages from the 18th and 19th century set amongst their expansive, 87 acre property just outside of Fredricksburg. Explore the property and find a great spot for an intimate picnic near an old stone bridge or along a stream, or cozy up at night besides your private fireplace with a great bottle of wine from one of the days’s wineries. Fall rates at Stevenson Ridge can be found for as low as $135 / night on Trivago.com.
If you’re wondering what to pack…How to keep those precious bottles of wine from breaking on the journey home or just how to look “grape stomping” chic while staying comfortable in the countryside? Don’t forget these must pack items: *MORE DETAILS HERE