If you’re a wine drinker, chances are high that you have sampled wines from (and maybe even visited) hotspots like Napa, California, Italy and France. We know them, we love them, but since we also have a taste for adventure and love any chance to expand our horizons, we’ve been on a mission lately to dig up the hidden gems of the wine world.Recently, we’ve raved about the best wineries tucked away in one specific part of Canada. And inspired by that discovery—and the fact that the wines can totally hold their own in a taste test against those “heavy hitters” mentioned above—we tapped a handful of wine experts to share their secret spots.
What to Look For in the Best Wine Destinations
When you’re seeking a wine-centric region that’s a bit off the beaten path, look for an area that offers passion and immersion, Osburn says.
“Rich histories and breathtaking terroirs will always serve to enhance a wine region but what truly makes them memorable are the people; those winemakers who have true, unbridled passion for their soil and wines. This is their livelihood, their precious oxygen,” he explains. “And when they start sharing their extensive knowledge and intimate stories—while uncorking special wines and touring you through the vines—that’s the golden ticket to an unforgettable experience.”
There are so many amazing wine regions that are steeped in these very old, very rich wine cultures, Peterson says. And that are very diverse in the grapes they grow, the lands they’re grown on and the wines that are created as a result.
“The U.S. only imports about 25 percent of the wine that’s consumed here, and the majority of this is made up of Italian and French wines. But there are ancient wine-making regions all over the world. We simply have not had very much access to these wines and the rich cultures they represent. So, for those adventurous in spirit, yet want to experience fine food and wine, these wine regions deliver,” she says.
It’s not just about the vino, though. Every one of the sommeliers we spoke to confirmed that one of the top barometers of a good wine destination is the food. There should also be more than wine tasting to keep you busy, Mundwiler adds. You can only safely and comfortably sip so much before you need to call it a day. (So with that in mind, now is a good time to remind you that it’s important to drink in moderation and be sure to book a driver or plan to walk from winery to winery.)
“It's all about balance. Plan your wine trip around other things that are happening in the region. Immerse yourself in the culture, get to know the people, drink the wine, stay at the winery, eat the local snacks, wander through museums and shops ... to love the wine is to love the people and their culture,” Mundwiler says.
Here, the best travel destinations for wine lovers.
Situated just across the Mexican border, and less than a 4-hour drive from Los Angeles, Valle de Guadalupe, Mexico is Cohen’s favorite up-and-coming wine destination. Since this is such a new region, a lot of experimentation is taking place. Currently, Mexican nebbiolo red wine in particular is exceptional, she says. Come for the food (seafood is ample and excellent) and stay for the wine.
“This wine country in Baja California is the most exciting thing happening on the West Coast in wine. Where else can you go and enjoy the Mexican flavor and hospitality that we all love—with the added bonus of a wine country backdrop?” Cohen asks. “I’ll give you a hint: Nowhere!”
Canary Islands, Spain