By Clara Bosonetto
We indulge in travel for a number of good reasons—weddings, reunions, business or simply to rejuvenate. Travel can satisfy deep curiosities and shorten our must-see bucket lists—the Pyramids, Taj Mahal or the Eiffel Tower. But to travel for the purpose of drinking wine?
There’s no substitute for going to the source, delving into the process of wine creation and then tasting it yourself.
Just a couple of decades ago, our choices were limited to pricey French and German imports or the more common Mateus Rosé, the pink Portuguese wine that came in the shapely bottle we could later use for a cool rainbow-drip candle. Today, vintages from around the world take up entire aisles at the big box grocers. And vineyards around the globe make for an ideal destination to celebrate the grape.
One of the loveliest wine-producing regions in the world is Alsace, France’s third most important after Bordeaux and Burgundy. The Route des Vins d’Alsace, the Wine Route of Alsace in eastern France, is a north/south road that winds over 100 miles through dozens of half-timber villages and hamlets with nearly 5,000 small vineyards. The Rhine River in the east and the Vosges mountains in the west combine for a divine setting. The mountains shelter Alsace from rain which keeps the region mostly sunny and dry year round.
One would believe that the trip down the Wine Route might take just a day, but plan for at least three. A typical day might find you jumping in and out of the rental car to take pictures of the non-stop charm and beauty—naturally stopping to sample the wines and lingering over an Alsacienne lunch (a fusion of hearty German fare with a touch of France’s simple elegance) at a fèrme auberge or farmhouse inn.
The official wine road starts at Marlenheim near Strasbourg and ends at Thann, a small town near Mulhouse. Consider an overnight and a day to explore the Colmar, once the center of the wine trade in the 16th century and a town preserved since the Middle Ages. Colmar is renowned for its stunning architecture, water canals (take a boat tour down the tree-lined Lauch River) and the Musée d’Unterlinden, housed in a Dominican convent dating back to the 13th century.
A wonderful choice of hotel and restaurant is the renaissance-style Maison des Têtes, or House of Heads. Built in 1609, the building’s facade is covered with more than 100 sculpted faces. (€91-208, double; www.la-maison-des-tetes.com.)
Visit www.vinsalsace.com for complete trip planning and where to sample Alsace wines.
Strasbourg in Alsace is a good jumping- off point to drive the entire Wine Route. Oddly, flying into Frankfurt International Airport (FRA) in Germany is the most convenient way to reach Strasbourg. The drive from Frankfurt Airport to Strasbourg takes just over two hours versus five hours from Paris.
Did you know winemaking started in Florida in the 1560s, almost 200 years before California?
One of central Florida’s leading producers is the award-winning Lakeridge Winery & Vineyards of Clermont in Lake County, located 22 miles west of Orlando. With 80 acres of working vineyards, the winery produces nearly 200,000 gallons of wine and sparkling wine each year. Out of nine wine varieties, the best seller is the Southern Red, a semi-sweet red table wine made from a native Noble variety of muscadine grape.
The vineyard setting is a bit surreal for Florida with beautiful rolling landscapes dotted by orange groves and a Spanish-style winery sitting atop one of the famous hills. Complimentary 45-minute tours of the production area and vineyards—with wine tastings—are offered Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. and Sunday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Tours begin with a short video presentation which shows the growing of the Florida grapes to the wine-making process, as well as the finishing with the bottling and labeling.
In late February, Winefest features live music, wine tastings from the prior year’s harvest and more than 80 local artists and crafters on display. In mid-March, the annual Jazz, Wine & Seafood Festival celebrates spring with music and entertainment.
Gather up goodies for a lakeside picnic (Lake County has more than 1,000 lakes and rivers) from the winery’s shop including wine accessories and gourmet foods.
Visit www.lakeridgewinery.com for directions and event details.
American statesman Benjamin Franklin once said, “Wine is constant proof that God loves us and loves to see us happy.”
Whatever your tastes or budget, carve out an adventure far or near that will be sure to please the soul and the palette.