Napa and Tuscany have a way of hogging the spotlight for those who want to spend their days off tasting cabernetsOpens a New Window. or sipping riesling. For good reason: They deliver on location, ambiance, activities, and—well—damn-good wine.
But if you’re looking for something different, these destinations (both near and far) stand out for their wine-focused events, scenic vineyardsOpens a New Window., and more; they’re a clear excuse to enjoy a glassOpens a New Window..
Before you go thinking a Kona beerOpens a New Window. would be the drink of choice on the beaches of Hawaii, consider these options. March 1 to 3, the Four Seasons Resort Maui at WaileaOpens a New Window.will host their first Wine & Food ClassicOpens a New Window., bringing top vintners (think: Dom Pérignon, Krug, Opus One), chefs, and sommeliers (to join the resort’s 23 already on staff) to the island for three days of tastings, dinners, and ‘glassology’ classes where you’ll learn about how glass shape, size, and texture impact taste. Outside the hotel, Maui WineOpens a New Window. (in what’s known as Hawaii’s Napa Valley) offers tastings, tours, and ocean views.
A trip to one (or a few) of the nine islands in the Azores—some 800 miles off the coast of Portugal—is worth it no matter your reasoning: dramatic cliffs and landscapes, fishing villages set in yesteryear, mountain-biking adventures galore. But Pico, in the middle of the islands, is the spot for wine (it’s dubbed ‘The Island of Wine,’ says Erin SwainOpens a New Window., an independent wine consultant and sommelier. “Volcanic soils and spectacular rock walls that protect the vines are sure to impress those seeking wine adventures,” she says. Sip your way around it Azores Getaways; plans a slew of adventures, then hike around—the island is home to Portugal’s highest peak.
Cape Town, South Africa
The area boasts the best wines in South Africa, from Cape Peninsula to Stellenbosch. Book a trip with Intrepid TravelOpens a New Window., and you can visit both colonial and more recent estates among the almost 100 in the region, including a trip to Paarl—one of the oldest wine regions in the country. There, the Paarl Harvest Celebration (wine tastings, live music, and grape stomping) takes place March 2. “Paarl is only 45 minutes from Cape Town, so you can easily attend the festival for a day trip while staying in the city or in wine country for a few nights,” says Michelle Manas, a travel advisor at SmartFlyer, a travel company in Newport Beach, CA. When you’re not sipping? The region is home to incredible golf courses, she notes.
San Luis Obispo, CA
Skip the traffic and unwind on an Amtrak ride from as far north as Seattle and as far south as San Diego to San Luis Obispo, a.k.a. SLO CALOpens a New Window., Cali’s third-largest wine region. Ultra-mod Hotel San Luis ObispoOpens a New Window. debuts this spring and nearby, you’ll have your choice of 250 wineries along the oceanside and nearby back roads. Head for the Paso Robles Wine FestivalOpens a New Window. in May (it kicks off with a grand tasting of Bordeaux-style, Rhône-style, Zinfandel, Burgundian-style, Italian varieties and more arranged by region in a mini-village downtown).
Santa Cruz, Chile
“Chile itself is more or less a wine region, but the epicenter is in the Central Valley, south of Santiago,” says Matt Nilsson, a Latin America senior product executive for bespoke travel company Audley TravelOpens a New Window.. “There’s an abundance of wines produced here because of the huge variety of grapes that can grow in the ideal climate.” Enter the Colchagua Valley for the Vendimia Harvest FestivalOpens a New Window. (March 8 to 10) and you’ll get far more than just wine: national dance competitions, live music, empanadas, local cheeses. Don’t leave without trying carmenère wine, a varietal native to Chile that’s produced there, says Nilsson. Outside of wine, you can explore the area via mountain bike horseback, or check out a local rodeo, says Manas.
Trying to impress a bona fide oenophile whose tried damn near every type of wine? Hop on a plane or book a cruise to the island state of Tasmania, located at the southern tip of Australia. It’s “one of the wine industry’s best-kept secrets,” says Tom Kendall, an Australia product executive for Audley. Its cool climate is ideal for sparkling wines (Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, and Riesling, in particular) and even Moet and Chandon have begun to use Tassie grapes, he says. Yet, hardly any of the local vino (try, 0.1 percent!) gets exported outside Australasia. Once you’ve landed, keep it simple: Follow the 140 km Tamar Valley Wine RouteOpens a New Window. to explore dozens of boutique wineries.
The Yadkin Valley, NC
East Coasters who’ve done Napa don’t need to veer to the West Coast for good sips. North Carolina’s Yadkin Valley is one of the most prominent wine regions on the East Coast (the state is also home to America’s first grape). While you can choose from 40 different vineyards in the area, focus on the dozen that stretch across the neighboring towns of Elkin, Pilot Mountain, Dobson, and Mount Airy, which was the inspiration for the town of Mayberry on “The Andy Griffith Show”.