5 Great Destinations for 2014

Dreaming of vinous visits in 2014


I’m very fortunate in that my work involves travel. Well that’s not the fortunate part, the fortunate part is that my work involves travel to places that are conducive to growing vines. Those happen to be some pretty spectacular places. However, the longer I do this the more difficult it becomes to reconcile where I want to visit with where I have to visit, not that I am complaining!

Sitting here planning out my travel for 2014 gets me to daydreaming about some of the great visits of the past, and thinking about how to incorporate them into my upcoming travel schedule. Now while I may or may not be able to fit them all in, I certainly wish I could, so allow me to share some of my dream destinations with you all. perhaps if I can’t get there in 2014, I can motivate some of you to start making plans!

Walla Walla

I just left Walla Walla, literally, and I'm already thinking of how to get back there. Once you deal with the fact that it is not easy to get to you can reconcile the effort with the ease of visiting within the region. Stay downtown at the Marcus Whitman Hotel and spend a day just walking from tasting room to tasting room. You could probably spend two days just doing that, and dining at the myriad restaurants of note in town but then there's so much more to do.

Spend a day at the airport and hit all the wineries there, or go to the south side of town and taste through the cluster of wineries around Pepper Bridge. But the ease of tasting isn't the only reason to come to Walla Walla, the wine are exciting and there's some impressive variety on offer from wonderful  Cabs, Merlot and Syrah to surprisingly delicious Carignan, Riesling, and even some Tempranillo and Grenache!

Two must visit wineries:

Seven Hills in town for classic expression of Bordeaux varieties.

Gramercy Cellars on the edge of town for some of the best Rhone styled Syrah.


Yes, it's the most over recommended place in winedom. Yes, it's filled with wineries that have adopted a Napa-esque approach to wine tourism, but with so many people coming to visit that's probably a necessity. But let us consider why that is. Why so many people visit the Tuscan wine regions For starters it's because it's in Tuscany. A land so rich with cultural, natural, and gastronomic pleasures that wine lover and wine novice alike can have a fabulous time there. But also because it remains one of the greatest regions for wine in the world.

Packed with great offerings priced from well under $10 to well over $100 it's one wine region that holds appeal for all drinkers, and again there's that whole being in Tuscany thing. Seriously it's easy to diss Tuscany, but you'd be a fool to do so. Maybe go in the off season, the autumn is particularly gorgeous when rolling hills are tinged with the golden hued colors of fall. The wines still taste great, and the food even better than if enjoyed under the often quite strong Tuscan sun.

Two must visit wineries:

Castellare in Castellina for some of the most exciting terroir driven wines.

Montevertine in Radda for some of the purest expressions of Sangiovese.


If you’re looking for a road less travelled, but still appreciate the finer things in life consider Portugal. A relatively small country with a wide variety of terrain that is relatively easy to navigate, Portugal remains on the fringes as a wine destination, but it’s not for lack of great wine. In fact the country offers great food, accommodations, sightseeing opportunities and cultural attractions plus a compelling range of fabulous wines, and all at very fair prices to boot!

You can fly into Port and out of Lisbon, travelling throughout the country in between and have a great week of exploring new wine regions. The distribution of Portuguese wines in the USA has been notoriously spotty, with the exception of the Port houses of course. Now that Port houses have begun to distribute their own table wines as well things are getting better, as are the wines, but there remains a lot to be discovered by paying them a visit.

Two must visit wineries:

Not a winery per se, but a Hotel with its own wine. The Buçaco Palace Hotel is a grand hotel that has seen better times but staying there gives one a taste of of how life once was.

Since we’re talking about accommodations you might also want to check out the Quinta do Vallado. A gorgeous new hotel compliments a set of fabulous wines all located at the gateway to the Douro wine region.

Trentino Alto-Adige

Or should I write Sud-Tyrol? These two distinct regions, linked by politics, offer one of the most fascinating trips down memory lane that I’m aware of. Ignoring for the moment the incredible wines produced in both regions, the region is worth a visit simply for the stunning cultural, natural  and archeological treasures the contain. Travel within the joined regions is awesomely simple. Just hop a train to experience all the Gothic, Romanesque and Renaissance architecture of the region. And then there are those mountain vistas. breathtaking!

As far as wines go, the two regions are quite distinct with world famous Co-ops dominating the landscape in the Sud Tyrol, each producing myriad varieties at multiple price points. In Trentino you’ll find a few very familiar names, plus a number of smaller players struggling to establish their own identity.  Disclaimer: It’s also where my family is from.

Two must visit wineries:

I’m going to cheat and include two for each region.

Girlan in the Sud Tyrol produces the greatest expression of Schiava extant and as such is required visiting for those who want to learn about the wines of the region.

Lagrein is the great red of the Sud Tyrol and no one does it better than Muri Gries with their Abtei Riserva.

Zeni is producing some wonderfully compelling Teroldego but like Girlan also produces an obscure little wine, from Rossara, that should not be missed.

San Leonardo at the far south of Trentino sits like an island in more ways than one. Producing wines based on Bordeaux varieties, their flagship wine is a blend that  remains one of the great Bordeaux style wines produced today. Their hamlet is also stunningly beautiful.

South Africa

Finally, I’m going to talk about where I want to go, but have yet to visit. No region captures my imagine like South Africa does. The wines, time and time again, really talk to me of a variety, a time and a place. They are in my wheelhouse so often that frankly I’m surprised that I have yet to visit but, it’s a big deal to head down to South Africa. A visit that deserves more than the week I can usually allocated for these sorts of things.

Still the visions of Table Mountain behind Capetown, and the gorgeous vistas of Franschhoek that I’ve seen leave me itching to go. Of course as soon as I finish my first visit to South Africa’s wine country I’ll probably be planning for my return visit, so I’d have to make round one count. Planning the winery visits would be a painstaking affair, looking to bend the new and the established. Where would I start?

Two must visit wineries:

Adi Badenhorst represents the new in South Africa, though taking advantage of great 50 year old bush trained vines. I’ve been smitten by both his white and red blends and wouldn’t miss the chance of kicking the dirt in his old vineyards.

Rust en Vrede is one of South Africa’s historic wineries, though they lack the continuity of some others their wines today are as compelling as one is able to find and highlight the beauty of South Africa’s reds based on Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah.

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  • you forgot Slovenia :) Like Goriska Brda and other wine regions
    Best regards from sLOVEnia!

    Feb 24, 2014 at 11:00 AM

  • Snooth User: BCRed
    219737 2

    Where is the first picture? It looks beautiful!

    Feb 24, 2014 at 12:02 PM

  • Snooth User: BCRed
    219737 2

    Another great and beautifully scenic wine area is the Okanagan Valley. It's easier to get to than Walla Walla (I like Walla Walla as well)

    Feb 24, 2014 at 12:04 PM

  • What about France! Burgundy and Provence (for the Cote du Rhone wines) among other stellar destinations. If you want to have an artisanal wine tasting experience in an unspoiled place, that is world renown for its wines (and, rest assured, that's a tough combination --world reputation and unspoiled) then you really must go to some of the amazing villages in Burgundy OR you really must go off the beaten track in Provence. I highly recommend it. Having gone for many years now as part of my business, I'm still discovering "off the beaten track" places and still finding artisan producers whose pride in their production is inspiring.

    Feb 24, 2014 at 2:18 PM

  • Hey Greg,
    Need anybody to carry your bags?

    Feb 24, 2014 at 3:24 PM

  • Snooth User: Richard Foxall
    Hand of Snooth
    262583 4,003

    I hear Piemonte in May is really nice.

    Feb 24, 2014 at 4:35 PM

  • Snooth User: Ellvizzle
    1028873 18

    Recently traveled across Portugal and we loved it. Yes, you can find producers of port you would recognize, you can find a countryside gem you've never heard of, and that glass of 40 year tawny while simply drinking in the rolling vineyards that surround? Hard to beat . I won't say no to a glass of vinho verde or just a simple red table wine, either--had some lovely experiences involving food and wine, both. I will say, though, we drove between Port, the Douro valley and Lisbon, and it is not for the faint of heart, in my opinion (while I am a city driver--I say defensive driver, my husband would say aggressive, I suppose-- in the States, driving in another country can be different, indeed). Certainly added color to the trip, and I'm not sure how else you'd really be able to get around the Douro region otherwise, which is a lovely part of the world.

    Feb 24, 2014 at 5:43 PM

  • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    89065 238,748

    Thank you all for the kind words! It's a great topic to discuss isn't it? I wonder what else we can do with it? And that cover photo is from South Africa, a bit tarted up one would imagine, but beautiful none the less.

    Feb 25, 2014 at 10:08 AM

  • Snooth User: EmilyDawn
    1467125 36

    Thank you for the great mention of Gramercy Cellars , Gregory! We really appreciated you taking the time to visit us.
    Emily Riley

    Feb 28, 2014 at 2:54 PM

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