Anderson Valley, California
When I first drove Highway 128, between Sonoma and Mendocino, CA, I rolled the window down and let the luxuriant Anderson Valley air wash over me. I pulled into Goldeneye winery
, one of only 3 LEED-certified California wineries, to taste what air can do to a grape. From an umbrella-shaded patio, I gazed over Goldeneye’s 220-plus acres of vines and sipped an expansive, soothing pinot noir, a liquid rendition of the view before me. Next stop: Five miles north to Standish winery
, an apple and sheep farm-turned-winery within an old farmhouse. In retrospect, it’s good I didn’t make it to the other 40-plus wineries strung along Highway 128.
Willamette Valley, Oregon
Most people don’t think of Oregon when they hear the word ‘wine.’ But the Willamette Valley, a 5,200-square mile basin in the state’s northwest, is among America’s most fertile swaths of land and, not coincidentally, is home to more than 200 wineries. The valley is the most populated part of Oregon but is still peaceful and bucolic, where country lanes, covered bridges and roadside produce stands abound. Willamette Valley Wineries
has winery routes to suit many tastes, from the cozy hills and towering pinots of Highway 47 in the north, just outside Portland, to the fertile vineyards of McMinnville, nested in the Coast Range foothills of Yamhill County.
The wines of Umbria may not be as popular – or, admittedly, as good – as those of neighboring Tuscany, but the hilltop towns and sprawling vineyards of Umbria are ripe for road tripping. Cold, moist winters and – yes! – dry, sunny summers feed a bountiful growing season. But the grapes here are still often overshadowed by the regionally famous chocolates, olive oil, pecorino cheese and medieval architecture. Euro wine experts Cellar Tours
strongly endorse the Umbrian reds Colli Altotiberini, Colli Amerini, Colli Martani, Colli Perugini and Colli del Trasimeno, along with the regional towns of Assisi, Orvieto, Gubbio and Perugia.
Let’s not mince words: You won’t find the world’s best wines in Chile. But Chilean wine
has improved since it burst onto the global scene in the 1990s and, besides, some winery road trips are designed to transcend the grape. On my first trip to Chile, I spent 5 days skiing beneath 16,000-foot peaks in Valle Nevado
, one hour east of Santiago, before spiraling out of the Andes and driving one hour west of the city, to the Maipo Valley, Chile’s most famous wine region. They’ve been making wine here since 1555, and the history is palpable – both in the wine and in other area diversions, such as the short drive to Valparaiso, the seaside hometown of poet Pablo Neruda and a gratifying spot for a fresh seafood meal.
Northern Spain Rioja
red wines from Spain’s Rio Ebra valley
are famous – 3 distinct sub-regions yield a variety of grapes to sate most palates – but it’s the Ribera del Duero region
that many oenophiles say produces Spain’s premier red wines. You can sample both regions in one road trip: Start in Ribera del Duero, a landscape of fecund hills and stellar Castilian restaurants 90 minutes north of Madrid. Then drive a couple hours northeast to Rioja, where undulating hills rise to rows of mountain peaks. Visit the Frank Gehry-designed Hotel Marques de Riscal
in Elciego. The town of Haro hosts a wine festival every June 29, featuring the Batalla de Vino
, a wine battle that leaves contestants soaked, so bring a change of clothes.