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Top 20 Travel Destinations for the Wine Connoisseur

Fantastic vino, picturesque vineyards and spectacular surrounding scenery equal an ideal vacation for wine lovers. These fabulous travel destinations offer all the necessary ingredients and then some. Grab a glass of your favorite red or white, take some notes and start packing.

Porto, Portugal Douro Valley
Credit: Douro Valley by © Poike2017 | Dreamstime.com

Porto, Portugal

Portugal has become increasingly popular as a destination for all types of travelers, but for wine enthusiasts, it’s especially remarkable as vineyards haven’t changed over the last 2,000 years. Visit Porto, the country’s second-largest city, and travel up the same river that’s been shipping Port wines for roughly four centuries. Wines of Portugal’s tasting room in the Ribiera District offers the chance to sample a wide range of selections from many different Portuguese wineries, and be sure to take a day trip to the UNESCO Heritage-listed Douro Valley for a bucket-list-worthy wine tasting experience and boat cruise.

Santiago, Chile Santiago, Chile
Credit: Santiago, Chile by Caliterra via Flickr

Santiago, Chile

Santiago has developed a reputation for outstanding cuisine with its sizzling restaurant scene along with fine Chilean wines. Taste some of the country’s best and tour vineyards that are enveloped by the city. At Vina Aquitania, about a 35-minute drive from Santiago, you can walk through the vineyards as well as taste wine at the working winery. While in town, visit the city’s one true urban winery, Vina Santa Carolina. The 135-year-old winery was recently restored to a level of grandeur that surpasses what previously existed after suffering major devastation from an earthquake in 2010. Walk through beautiful colonial-style gardens and sample signature wines inside Santa Carolina’s original bodega, declared a national monument.

Finger Lakes, New York Vineyard by Keuka Lake in the Finger Lakes Region
Credit: Vineyard by Keuka Lake in the Finger Lakes Region by bigstock.com

Finger Lakes, New York

Finger Lakes, in Upstate New York, is one of the most popular wine destinations in the nation. It’s also filled with an abundance of natural beauty, including the over ten lakes the make up the “fingers,” magnificent waterfalls, charming villages and numerous vineyards. You’ll find more than 100 wineries, with nearly every variety available in addition to four wine trails offering an easy way to navigate the route to your new favorite. The region is internationally renowned for Vitis vinifera wines, most notably the aromatic white Riesling. Lucas Vineyards, the oldest winery on Cayuga Lake, holds an annual German Festival every year in mid-September, complete with grape stomping, German foods and a live Bavarian band.

Napa Valley, California Napa Valley is home to more than 400 wineries.
Credit: Napa Valley is home to more than 400 wineries. by bigstockphoto.com

Napa Valley, California

Napa Valley is America’s most famous destination for wine enthusiasts, as well as being one of the top wine-producing regions in the world. Among its roughly 500 wineries, you’ll find Inglenook, Robert Mondavi and Korbel. The five-mile wide, 30 miles long verdant oasis, is internationally renowned for its Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon, though you’ll find a wide range of other award-winning varietals throughout the area, including Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc. Visiting this region brings the chance not only to sample some of the finest wines and tour top winemaking facilities but to enjoy luxury dining and a multitude of indulgent spa services.

Shenandoah Valley, Virginia Shenandoah Valley, Virginia
Credit: Shenandoah Valley, Virginia by m01229 via Flickr

Shenandoah Valley, Virginia

The state of Virginia has a long history of winemaking, dating all the way back to the Colonial Period. Its largest region is the scenic Shenandoah Valley, about an hour’s drive west of Washington, D.C. The area has become a regional wine leader in the eastern region of the country, with a tour of the Valley’s wineries offering a unique experience filled with award-winning wines along with rural scenery, high-quality dining establishments and entertainment. You’ll find red and white varietals like Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Virginia’s signature grape, Viognier.

Central Otago, New Zealand Central Otago, New Zealand
Credit: Central Otago, New Zealand by Jocey K via Flickr

Central Otago, New Zealand

You might recognize this breathtaking landscape that features lush valleys, glistening lakes and towering, snow-capped peaks. Its glory was featured in “Lord of the Rings.” But beyond that, you’ll also discover New Zealand’s highest winegrowing region, the southernmost in the world. It’s also home to some of the best Pinot Noir on the planet along with impressive white wines like riesling and pinot gris. Rippon Vineyard, on the shores of Lake Wanaka, is one of the oldest wineries in the area. If you hope to visit during harvest time, remember that here in the Southern Hemisphere, seasons are reversed, so you’ll want to go in late March or April.

Willamette Valley, Oregon Willamette Valley, Oregon, U.S.A.
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Willamette Valley, Oregon

Willamette Valley is the largest AVA in Oregon, with over 200 wineries producing several varietals, most notably, the internationally acclaimed Pinot Noir. This region, stretching from the Columbia River near Portland in the north, through Salem and to the Calapooya Mountains, just outside Eugene in the south, produces two-thirds of the state’s wine and has become one of the nation’s leading producers. The hotbed for Pinot Noir is the relatively compact north valley, with a number of big-name producers here, including Archery Summit, Argyle and Domaine Serene, acclaimed for its 2010 Pinot Noir which ranked third on Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines of 2013.

Texas Hill Country, Texas Vineyard in the Texas Hill Country
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Texas Hill Country, Texas

You might be surprised to learn that Texas is one of the top wine-producing states in the United States. The Texas Hill Country offers a more laid-back wine experience among its wineries and tasting rooms scattered throughout the area, from Austin to Fredericksburg and Lampasas to New Braunfels. Wineries are tucked amid the charming towns in Texas Hill Country, with most offering the opportunity to visit all year long, with its main varietals including Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc.

Mendoza, Argentina Mendoza, Argentina
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Mendoza, Argentina

Mendoza, located about 700 miles west of Buenos Aires, is the largest wine region in Argentina, set upon a high altitude plateau at the edge of the Andes Mountains. The peaks of Tupungato and El Plata, at more than 20,000 feet in elevation, overshadow tens of thousands of vineyard acres that create a breathtaking scene. The most traditional winemaking area can be found in the central region, just slightly south of Mendoza city, where you’ll find Pinot Noir, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, although its most characteristic variety is its famed Malbec. Wineries range from tiny, intimate and family-owned to large producers in modern establishments, but they have a common thread: a commitment to quality, a strong sense of heritage, and a love of sharing great wines with those who come to visit.

Vienna, Austria Vienna, Austria
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Vienna, Austria

Austrian wines may be one of Europe’s best kept secrets, but its winemaking history dates back for centuries. Locals head to the Grinzing district, just north of the inner city, in the warmer months to sit outside vineyards and enjoy sipping locally grown wines. There are many vineyards and wineries that can be found within a 45-minute drive from Vienna, including Weritas, where visitors can sample 30+ different wines sourced from the Wagram region.

Melbourne and the Yarra Valley, Australia Melbourne and the Yarra Valley
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Melbourne and the Yarra Valley, Australia

Within just a short drive from Australia’s second-largest city, you’ll find five incredibly diverse wine regions with unique climatic and geographical features producing distinctly different wines. Melbourne itself is home to a number of wine bars devoted to pouring fantastic vino from the 60+ wine regions in the country. Cruise the wine-strung hills and rolling farmland of the Yarra Valley, just an hour away, known as one of the world’s great food and wine regions. This thriving wine country enjoys a relatively cool climate that makes it well-suited for the production of high quality sparkling wine, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

Valle de Guadalupe, Baja California, Mexico A vineyard along the Ruta de Vino in the Guadalupe Valley, just north of Ensenda
Credit: A vineyard along the Ruta de Vino in the Guadalupe Valley, just north of Ensenda by bigstock.com

Valle de Guadalupe, Baja California, Mexico

Yes, there really are wineries in Mexico – in fact, throughout the Guadalupe Valley in the northern region of Baja California, winemakers have teamed up with chefs and hoteliers to create the area’s own wine route, Ruta del Vino. The quality of wine has risen significantly over the past 20 years, typically characterizing the Mexican terroir with concentrated and complex, full-bodied, aromatic offerings. Among the over 60 wineries in a 35-square-mile area, includes Hugo D’Acosta’s Casa de Pietra, producing wines like Vino de Piedra, a blend of tempranillo and cabernet sauvignon that’s developed a cult-like status among Mexican wine connoisseurs.

Tuscany, Italy Tuscany, Italy
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Tuscany, Italy

Tuscany is one of the world’s most popular wine destinations, with millions of visitors from across the globe visiting every year. The internationally renowned Chianti Classico is what draws many grape-seekers, along with its rich history and spectacular landscape filled with rolling hills and picturesque vineyards. Wine tours are readily available, so there’s little to no planning needed. You’ll also find food-centric tours such as cheese and olive tastings.

Puglia, Italy Puglia, Italy
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Puglia, Italy

While almost everyone, particularly wine lovers, is familiar with Tuscany, it seems that few know about Puglia, located at the heel of Italy’s boot, and a place described by Wine Enthusiast magazine as a “magical wine destination” and “a thin peninsula packed tight with stunning beauty and surrounded by some of the bluest waters in Europe.” Puglia is one of Italy’s best-kept secrets, and truly has something for everyone with its reds from Uva di Troia, Aglianico and Bombino Nero as well as the white Bombino Bianco as just a few of its standouts. Here, not only will you enjoy mingling with some of the friendliest people in all of Italy, tasting fine wine and taking in breathtaking scenery, you can watch artisan cheesemakers make mozzarella, discover how olive oil is made or even learn how to make fresh pasta.

Rioja, Spain  Rioja, Spain
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Rioja, Spain

Rioja, located in north-central Spain, bordered to the north and south by mountains, is known for some of the world’s top reds. Wine Enthusiast calls it the “granddaddy of them all” among Spanish wine regions, boasting centuries of winemaking history. The weather is defined by the push-pull of cool Atlantic and warm Mediterranean influences which give Rioja’s reds their grace and power. Rioja offers a fabulous combination of magnificent scenery, Iberian history, fine cuisine and outstanding wines.

Baden, Germany Baden, Germany
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Baden, Germany

Baden is Germany’s third-largest region as well as the warmest and sunniest region in the country. Tucked into the nation’s southwest border near Switzerland and France, it stretches from the shores of Lake Constance along the famed Black Forest to historic Heidelberg. Its balmy climate and fertile soils have resulted in some of the best vineyards on the entire continent, and what has become a magnet for those with sophisticated tastes. Combined with the warmer climate, the soil results in a wine with more of an international taste than any other of the wine-producing regions in Germany, with its Pinot Noir in particular, offering a more full-bodied, fiery taste than anywhere else on the planet.

Languedoc, France Languedoc, France
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Languedoc, France

Languedoc is part of Languedoc-Roussillon, the largest wine-producing region in the world, set in the sunny south of France, bordered by the Black Mountains and the azure-hued Mediterranean. Through vast areas of the countryside, vineyards stretch like seas of green to the horizon, with the grape-growing industry greeting visitors at every turn. Its diverse landscape, grapes and weather patterns have resulted in great value wines and endless stunning vistas from the golden coastline to the lush green inland region.

Loire Valley, France Loire Valley, France
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Loire Valley, France

The Loire Valley is a beautiful region filled with lush vineyards, winding rivers and regal chateaus. With the gentle Loire River weaving past vineyards that produce some of the most acclaimed French vintages, including smoky cabernets and crisp sauvignon blancs, you’ll want to grab a bottle along with some delectable local cheese and fresh produce sold at one of the many shops along the way. Pick a spot along the banks of the picturesque river for an afternoon picnic.

Santorini, Greece  Santorini
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Santorini, Greece

How about sipping a glass of red while taking in jaw-dropping vistas of the cerulean sea? While you may not think of the Aegean Islands with its whitewashed villages clinging to steep hillsides as a wine destination, Santorini is essentially one large farm, with Greek vino flowing nearly as freely as the hot springs near its volcano. In Fira, Restaurant Assyrtiko has an outstanding Greek and international wine list along with amazing cuisine and stunning views from its balcony. You also won’t want to miss visiting Boutari Winery in Perissa, which dates back to 1879.

Croatia Split, Croatia
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The Croatian landscape is not only incredibly beautiful, it’s dotted with vineyards renowned for producing top-quality whites. Despite lacking a developed export market, the country remains a significant wine-producing nation that’s understated and underrated. Its southernmost wine region, Dalmatia, is bordered to the west by the Adriatic Sea, to the east by Bosnia and Herzegovina and the south by Montenegro, encompassing the towns of Split, Zadar, Dubrovnik and Sibenik. Wine experts recommend sailing along its coast, starting in Split and heading north to sample the Croatian wine and enjoy some of the most spectacular scenery on earth.

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