12 Wine Destinations to Add to Your Bucket List
Montrachet Vineyard, Burgundy, France
This is perhaps the single-most important plot of dirt that exists in the known universe, if you’re a true wine geek. Planted exclusively with Chardonnay, this iconic vineyard in Burgundy isn’t well marked: you have to know where it is. But once you figure it out (ask an in-the-know local or two), you’ll see the ancient stone posts inscribed with the magical name MONTRACHET. It may look unassuming, but wines from here routinely cost thousands of dollars a bottle. And if you’ve had one, you know they’re worth it.
Robert Mondavi Winery, Napa Valley, California
Where would California wine be without Robert Mondavi? Not where it is today. With all the new things happening in Napa, don’t forget to visit this landmark 1966 winery, designed like a Spanish mission. This is the place where Mondavi established benchmarks for Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc, envisioned the super-premium collaboration with Bordeaux icon Mouton Rothschild, Opus One, and became the first American to promote wine as a lifestyle, which includes art and culture. The winery offers a wide array of tastings and tours to soak up the history of Mondavi.
Rhine River Cruise, Germany
There’s a reason the unbelievable scenery called the Rhineland is a UNESCO World Hertiage Site. Here, spectacular mountain slopes, densely planted with terraced Riesling vines, cascade right down to the mighty river as it makes its way through Germany. Companies like Viking River Cruises and Avalon Waterways all provide a way to lazily glide past many of the country’s key wine regions. After all, it’s the river that helps make Germany’s wines what they are, providing just the right warmth in the winter and coolness in the summer to make the Rieslings racy and age-worthy.
Penfolds Grange Magill Estate, Adelaide, Australia
The insanely long-lived and collectible Shiraz from Australia, Penfolds Grange, is a drooled-over prize for collectors. So it’s worth a trip to Australia to see Magill Estate, where the wine was born. It’s unusually located within city limits, right amidst a residential neighborhood, in Magill, South Australia. Although the wine is now made from other vineyard parcels, this is the spot to visit, since the company just spent millions of dollars to open Cellar Door and Magill Estate Kitchen, where tutored tastings are available. For the cool cost of $850, you can sip on a vintage of Grange. Don’t leave before stopping by founder Max Schubert’s original cellar, where old and rare vintages of Grange are tucked away.
Marques de Riscal, Rioja, Spain
The famous Bibao Effect—named for the revitalization of Bilbao, Spain after the construction of Frank O. Gehry’s Guggenheim museum—has also been successfully demonstrated in Rioja wine country at the venerable Marques de Riscal: one of the oldest wineries in the region. Riscal hired Gehry to create something that no one had even seen in those parts: a building topped by twisting, soaring titanium panels meant to evoke the Spanish landscape. These undulating folds of metal cover not only the winery operations and tasting area, but also a 43-room Starwood Luxury Collection hotel. Make sure to try Riscal’s Gran Reserva wines, since Spain’s greatest contribution to wine drinking is the way they age some of the best bottles on site. These masterpieces are released only when they are actually ready to drink.
MUVIT Wine Museum, Torgiano, Italy
Founded in 1974 in a 17th-century building, this museum tackles 5,000 years of wine history over 20 rooms. It’s courtesy of the Lungarotti wine family, one of the longest standing producers in the region of Umbria: Tuscany’s gorgeous and less-touristed neighbor. Ancient drinking vessels are on display, as are historical winemaking tools and antique books. The gift shop isn’t bad either, offering local fabrics, wines, and olive oils.
Les Sources de Caudalie, Bordeaux, France
Located adjacent to the high-quality producer Chateau Smith-Haute-Lafite, Les Sources de Caudalie is perhaps the most luxurious of all of the wine-centric destination spas. The half-timbered construction of the buildings uses handsome reclaimed wooden beams and natural stone, and the spa itself is set amidst the sprawling vineyards. The menu of treatments is huge (a purifying Merlot wrap, grape-seed scrubs, whole, fresh grape massages) and the restaurant serves an elevated version of rustic French countryside cuisine.
Pinot Path: Route 99-W, Willamette Valley, Oregon
The stretch of Route 99-W between Newburg and McMinnville takes you past America’s best Pinot Noirs. This Pinot Path, less than an hour south of Portland, goes through the heart of the Willamette Valley. Stop at Domaine Drouhin, Sokol Blosser, Chehalem and other top producers of the notoriously fickle—yet supremely rewarding—Pinot grape. At the northernmost end of the trail you’ll find the Allison Inn & Spa, a thoroughly contemporary lodge with a great restaurant and killer views of the rolling landscape.
The Sonoma Coast, Sonoma County, California
The Sonoma Coast is truly the Wild West. The official wine growing area encompasses a huge area that hugs the Pacific Ocean, and those waters provide cool-climate growing conditions for Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Syrah. The vibe is funky, casual, and farm-oriented. Make pit stops at the beloved wineries Joseph Phelps Freestone, Flowers, and Littorai (by appointment) as you wend your way inland through towns including Sebastopol and Freestone. Eventually, you’ll crest over major ocean scenery in coastal towns like Bodega Bay and Jenner. Less manicured than Napa, this is a relaxed Cali road trip with a lot of discoveries along the way.
Heitz Martha’s Vineyard, Napa Valley, California
True California wine aficionados know that the most important Martha’s Vineyard isn’t the island off of Massachusetts, it’s this 34-acre plot on the west side of Napa Valley. Named after one of the land’s original owners, Martha May, it has produced a landmark single-vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon bottling, famous for its note of eucalyptus and mint (possibly because of the towering eucalyptus trees on the property) since 1966. Still produced and treasured by collectors, it’s one of the wines that made Napa what it is today.
Bern’s Steak House, Tampa Bay, Florida
Some restaurants let guests tour the kitchen, but at Bern’s, you can tour the wine cellar, too. That’s because they have 700,000 bottles onsite and stored nearby, with a list counting some 6,800 different selections. The sheer numbers are extraordinary enough, but the factor that puts Bern’s on the bucket list is the quality of the wines themselves. Many are from older, rare vintages: a $30,000 bottle of Chateau Latour 1947 made news when it appeared on the menu. Even if you end up ordering a wine that costs less than a car, it’s still a pleasure to peruse this incredible list—and the steaks (Chåteaubriand, Delmonico, Filet Mignon) are just as noteworthy.
Stellenbosch Wine Route, Stellenbosch, South Africa
Everyone comes back from South Africa’s premier wine area raving about its beauty, starting with the towering mountains that define the landscape. Centered on the university town of Stellenbosch, it’s also less than an hour from Cape Town, making the travel as easy (or easier) than going to Napa from San Francisco. The cool climate of the area, influenced by both the Indian and Atlantic Oceans, is ideal for Cabernet Sauvignon, Chenin Blanc, Syrah, and other grapes—and they’ve been making wine there since the mid 17th-century. With hotel options like the Delaire Graff Lodges and Spa, a Relais & Chateaux property, and wineries including the heralded Rust en Vrede, it’s a can’t miss region for oenophiles.