Have you ever dreamt of taking a wine-fueled tour around the globe? It’s a lofty goal, for sure.
But while you’re mentally hopping continents to sip world-class vino, let’s start with planning just one of these must-visit locations. Look through the following eight destinations to see where you’ll be going next.
Sonoma and Napa Valley, CA – In a place where food and drink take precedence over worries, this region is the closest thing you’ll get to Tuscany in the states. It’s no wonder this is the second-most popular attraction in the state. Sonoma and Napa Valley are home to about 400 wineries, so you can easily spend a week or more exploring and tasting award-winning wines.
When to go: The peak tourist season in Sonoma and the Napa Valley is in the Fall during harvest, which takes place August through October. During this time, you’ll get to see the leaves changing across the scenic valley, and you’ll have your choice of harvest festivals and celebrations to attend. March through May is another good time to visit, and the prices aren’t quite as high as they are in peak season. If you want to save even more money and are okay with chilly weather, plan a trip between December and February.
Where to stay: If you have the time and are serious about exploring the area, you will probably want to plan a stay in Napa and another in Sonoma. Try mapping out the wineries you’d like to visit before booking your trip, so you can find a hotel that is convenient for your plans.
Wineries to visit: Everyone has a favorite Sonoma or Napa Valley winery and tasting room because they are so diverse. Some you’ll visit for the wine, others for the scenery and others you’ll add to the list for their history. If you aren’t sure where to begin, start with the well-known wineries and then start adding recommendations from your friends (or Yelpers).
Other fun things to do: With such a stunning and romantic backdrop, you can bet that there’s much more to do than just drink wine. Go on a hike, ride dirt bikes, take a glider plane or a hot air balloon… the options are almost limitless.
Piedmont, Italy – Sip moscato on the balcony of your villa overlooking the Alps and then head to the neighboring towns of Alba and Asti for their legendary cuisine. This northern Italian region may seem more like France than Italy, but that’s part of its charm. After spending a little time here, the true Italian flavor of Piedmont will shine through.
When to go: Harvest season is the most popular time to visit, so expect to find crowds and high rates September through November. The time between January and April is considered off-peak, so you’ll get the best deals then. The area will also be serene and quiet, which may be a good or bad thing depending on what you’re looking for. If you plan to visit in the winter, check the dates for Vinitaly and plan around them. This event often takes place in Verona, and most area wineries will close their doors to attend.
Where to stay: There are plenty of hotels in Piedmont, if that’s your thing, but there some other options that you may find more appealing. For example, you can find an agriturismos that will allow you to stay on a working farm or vineyard. If you’re traveling with a group, you may want to consider renting a villa.
Wineries to visit: Follow the trail of wineries starting in Barolo and ending in Neive. Along the way, you’ll visit Cantina Mascarello Bartolo, Paolo Manzone, Ca del Baio and Cantina del Glicine.
Other fun things to do: Taste the infamous white Truffles in Alba, visit any of the area museums or just take in the amazing scenery. When you aren’t tasting wine, you will not be bored in Piedmont.
Rhone Valley, France – The Rhone Valley begins in the North with the charming city of Lyon, which also happens to be the second-largest city in France, and stretches down to the southern city of Valence. In this vast region, you can experience city life and French countryside living. And when it’s time to sip some Sauvignon Blanc, hit one of the area’s 13 wine trails.
When to go: There isn’t really a bad time to go to the Rhone Valley, but you should keep in mind that the winters can be harsh and the summers are hot. Plan according to your preferences or choose Fall or Spring for milder weather.
Where to stay: The Rhone Valley is divided into two principal growing regions: Northern and Southern Rhone. Map out your winery visits and other activities before you decide where to stay. You may even want to switch hotels mid-trip to make things more convenient.
Wineries to visit: There are 13 wine trails in this region, so you’ll have plenty of winery tours to sprinkle throughout your itinerary. The prestigious wineries are Hermitage, Côte-Rôtie and Crozes-Hermitage in the North, and Châteauneuf-du-Pape in the South.
Other fun things to do: This area is so rich in history, you could spend the entire trip touring museums and marveling at medieval architecture. Come in July and tap your feet at Jazz a Vienne. Or visit Valence to pair your wine with palate-pleasing chocolate.
Finger Lakes, NY – New York probably isn’t the first state that comes to mind when you think of wine, but the Finger Lakes area is well-known for producing high-rated white wines. There are over 120 wineries in this area, so you can easily spend a few days here tasting your way through this scenic area.
When to go: Summer and Fall are the busiest times in the Finger Lakes because of the mild weather and grape harvest. But you can visit the wineries at any time. Just remember that it can get quite cold and snowy in this region in the winter.
Where to stay: There are a variety of lodging options from hotels to campgrounds to B&B’s.
Wineries to visit: Most wineries offer tours by appointment only, but a few, including Fox Run, Glenora and Swedish Hill, run scheduled tours throughout the summer.
Other fun things to do: The Finger Lakes region is a paradise for any outdoor enthusiast. Have fun playing on the lake or hiking through the hills – and be sure to take in the view of the gorgeous gorges!
Bordeaux, France – For true oenophiles, this is the motherland. To the east, you’ll find infamous towns like St-Émilion. White-sand beaches border the north, and in-between, you’ll find the metropolitan wine haven of Bordeaux. Although the city is speckled with 18th-century landmarks, Bordeaux is a chic metropolitan area that is consistently voted in the top cities for young people to live.
When to go: Some will say that there’s never a bad time to visit Bordeaux, but if you want to tour the wineries, there are definitely a few times you’ll want to avoid. January is cold and many wineries close their doors for the month. April is a great time to visit if you avoid the first week. This is a week reserved for the wine trade. Finally, be aware of Vinexpo dates. This exhibition takes place in Bordeaux every other year and you do not want to be in town for this one.
Where to stay: Bordeaux is a large city, so map your vacation carefully before you decide where to stay. There are many high-end luxury hotels in the city, but you can also rent a villa closer to the vineyards, if you’d prefer.
Wineries to visit: Winery visits in Bordeaux are more likely to be one-on-one experiences than group tours, so keep this in mind when planning. If you have an appointment, you don’t want to skip or show up late. As for the wineries you choose to visit, you could spend weeks on research and planning. The best advice is to visit the wineries or chateaux that produce the wine you like. Three appointments in one day will be more than enough, so don’t overbook.
Other fun things to do: Bordeaux is as much a place for European history buffsas it is for oenophiles. Visit the Grand Théâtre, shop the Rue Sainte-Catherine or visit one of the many museums.
Mendoza, Argentina – You could visit various wine regions in Spain and be perfectly happy, but Mendoza made it on this list because of its incredible diversity. Here, you can easily sip world-class Malbec or imbibe a simple foot-pressed wine. Anything goes.
When to go: If you’re going for the Malbec, you’ll want to be there on April 17th. This is World Malbec day, and it’s kind of a big deal. If you can’t make it in April, any of the four seasons will do. There’s never a bad time to visit Mendoza.
Where to stay: If you’re looking for a quiet, relaxing vacation, consider staying at one of the wineries’ guesthouses. For a more chic and urban experience, stay at one of the many hotels in downtown Mendoza.
Wineries to visit: If you don’t know where to begin, and don’t want to stress over it, take a wine tour. Or you can lay out your trip based on the more popular wineries, including Familia Zuccardi, Bodega Raffy and Bodega Norton.
Other fun things to do: Like most metropolitan areas, you can spend your days feasting on amazing cuisine, visiting area museums or taking in a show at the theater.
Cape Town, South Africa – Cape Town may have already been on your bucket list for other reasons, but while you’re there, you’ll want to spend some time exploring the winelands of the north for unforgettable Sauvignon Blanc and Pinotage.
When to go: Fall is harvest time in Cape Town, and that’s a good time to visit any wine region. Spring and summer are also great times to visit. Winters aren’t off limits, but they are chilly – especially in the evenings.
Where to stay: The wine district of Cape Town is off-the-beaten-track, so if this is the main purpose of your stay, be sure to book your room in one of the many hotels in this area.
Wineries to visit: Spend some time in the established wine valleys of Stellenbosch and Franschhoek. If you have more time, consider also visiting some of the smaller vineyards in Swartland, Wellington and Tulbagh.
Other fun things to do: You’ll find plenty to keep you busy at Cape Point Nature Reserve, Table Mountain National Park and Lion’s Head.
Yarra Valley, Australia – About an hour drive from Melbourne, you’ll find some of the best wine on the continent. Explore more than 50 wineries, sweet little country towns and charming small-town markets.
When to go: Autumn is the best time to visit Melbourne for its festivals, but conveniently, it’s also harvest time. Autumn in Melbourne spans from March through May.
Where to stay: Take your pick from 5-star luxury hotels to small B&B’s. You’re sure to find suitable accommodations for your stay.
Wineries to visit: Charming is the best word to describe this region, and you really can’t go wrong when choosing a winery to visit. Each has its own personality. If you’re at a loss, start by adding Domaine Chandon, Dominique Portet, Yering Station and Coldstream Hills to the list.
Other fun things to do: Now is the time to have some adventures in the countryside. Take a hot air balloon, glider plane or go for a hike. When the weather sends you inside, have some wine with lunch before heading to the museum.
Now that you’ve had a look at the best wine destinations, it’s time to start planning. Which is the first to make it on your list?