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The Best of Wine Travel on the Web: April 2015

One thing I’ve realized, my customers pretty much love spending time in wine country.  That isn’t surprising, after all that’s pretty much my favorite part of the job as well. That being said, while many of our customers will reach out to plan part of their vacation, we can only help with the trips and regions that we cover.  Since we love to travel, here’s some of the best wine related travel articles we’ve run into online of late.

Go Nomad: Gets Sonoma right by featuring Healdsburg, if only they’d update their winery list with some smaller names or the new addition of what’s being joking referred to as “Pinot Alley” by the locals. That being said, this is easily one of the best portraits of Healdsburg that I’ve seen online in some time.  While you might go for the wine, the centralized town square feels like you’re stepping back in time, to a simpler time in American history.

Traveler’s Digest: Is one of the first one’s to recognize something that’s been percolating the wine industry for some time: the rise of urban wineries.  I wasn’t aware that there’s an urban winery on an inland off Hong Kong (90k people in about a square mile seems insane to this quasi-urban Bay Area resident where we have about 13k people in the same amount of space, a density that scares our family and friends from the suburbs in Southern California).

The Lost Girls: Get mostly everything right about a trip to wine country.  One thing they should add though that most people aren’t aware of: winemakers actually enjoy having people say hello and make appointments.  Planning a trip with specific stops is fun, but spending an hour with an interesting and engaging winemaker will likely be the the part that you remember most about your trip.  Winemakers also tend to make wine at more than just one winery (almost all make something for a label owned by themselves or their family and are happy to share).  Oh and yes, wine shipping laws continue to get better, but also continue to suck for many states.  My apologies if you live in Utah, you’re never getting wine from anyone, anywhere….ever.

Delicious Baby: One of the first blogs to let out the secret in downtown Napa….this is where the families actually live and yes, there are facilities that cater to them.  From some of the better parks in the Bay Area to Scientopia, there’a actually a ton more to do for the preschool set in Napa than most people expect.  Oh, and as you might expect, even at a kids museum…..there’s some damn good food.

Dave’s Travel Corner: Does a good job explaining the rising foodie scene in Paso Robles.  Some background, I went to UCSB and Paso Robles is a pretty good stopping spot between Santa Barbara and the Bay Area….a drive I made at least a dozen times.  When we started drinking wine more after college, we were surprised that the little sleepy town had as much good wine as it does.  Of course, an earthquake spurred some development downtown after we had moved, but there’s a ton to appreciate about Paso Robles. Dave does a good job showing Paso is more than just wine and if you happen to have a husband or wife that doesn’t drink wine and only enjoys beer….Paso might be a better vacation spot than some better known wine regions within California.

This Boundless World: Exposes a clueless wine shop owner that hates Sideways (yes, Pinot sales went up immediately after the movie, which coincided directly with the virtual death of Merlot, RIP to that grape in California) and gets Paso Robles exactly right.  Unlike say Napa, Sonoma or even Santa Barbara, there isn’t as much of a local media in Paso, which in large part still feels like a small farming community, that just so happens to focus on grapes.  That leads to a lot of tried and true advice from people who have spent only a few hours in town, that misses some of the best wine in Paso which is often being made by small wineries.  Focusing on Rhone varietals probably hurts their marketing efforts as well.  After all, have you heard of Marsanne and Roussane?

Travel Pulse: Covers a Sheraton study that shows people are 3x more likely to want to pick up a glass of wine on vacation when compared to either their smartphone, or incredibly their spouse. Not surprisingly, the results have given Sheraton a new clear mission: provide better, more interesting wine.

As We Saw It: Finds one of France’s truly hidden gems: Colmar.  At the center of Alsace, it’s also the ancestral home to one of the world’s most misunderstood grapes (maybe because we simply can’t pronounce it, let alone spell it in English) Gewurztraminer.  Worth a look for the images alone on their post, As We Saw It describes Colmar as perhaps being Belle’s home in Beauty and the Beast…..I couldn’t agree more.  Pretty amazing stuff.

Wanderlust and Lipstick: Gets wine country like perhaps no other site devoted in large part to travel.  Maybe it’s their location in Washington (perhaps the world’s least appreciated GREAT wine destination) but Trupi get’s it right when it comes to Napa: everyone drives and fights the traffic on HIghway 29, but there’s at least three better ways to get to know Napa.  First, ride a bike through the vineyards.  Second, walk around Yountville, downtown Napa, Calistoga and St Helena among others. But, Napa might be one of the best hiking destinations in California.  Their Napa hiking entry is one of the best I’ve run into.

The Planet D: Covers the Niagara Ice Wine Festival.  A misunderstood type of wine, ice wine is much as you might expect.  Grapes are allowed to hang on the vine well into winter, once the grapes begin to freeze, they are pressed and the amount of liquid that comes from each grape is dramatically lessened. What does make it out, is incredibly sweet though, which has made ice wine a favorite for dessert for millennia in Europe. Niagara is one of the few regions in North America to attempt it simply because it’s damn hard to make and risky (rot often happens and ruin a complete harvest all at once). Like Port and other sweet wines, people typically enjoy Ice Wine quite a bit….if they’re willing to give it a try. Planet D shows why it’s well worth the time to attend smaller festivals like this, from the food pairings to simply being treated well, it’s an interesting and often memorable way to enjoy wine.

Family Travel Magazine: Hits one question that we get pretty often, can I bring kids with me to Napa or Sonoma?  Both are more family friendly than you might expect, Sonoma in peculiar.  Sonoma Square is a favorite of ours (we have a preschooler these days) because of the playground, small pond and more.  I’ve sent quite a few friends and customers to Yountville (it’s part of Napa Valley) with kids and have yet to have anyone tell me they didn’t enjoy their day. Jodi also brings up a good point, high end hotels have heard it all before and if you need a few hours away from your kid(s), those in room babysitting services generally have good reviews, especially if its something like her case, where a wedding wasn’t open to kids.

George’s at the Cove: Low and behold an old standby restaurant in San Diego, actually has a real blog, that reads like it is written by a real person.  Bravo guys.  Seriously, I’m utterly impressed.  I’ve seen plenty of restaurant “blogs” that are really nothing more than a space for the restaurant to announce their next special dinner.  Guys, that’s something to goes on a home page, not as a blog post.  Heck, I’d love to see images of the special meal that you cooked, but not the 2 paragraph fake press release.  Ok rant over because George’s does a great job at blending the complicated pieces of sharing information, as well as selling you on their restaurant (which has truly been one of San Diego’s best for about a generation). BTW, the Bad Religion jacket definitely does give away the Southern California roots, that comes on in the car sometimes and I scare the SF locals.  Anyway, this is an interesting look at how a chief visits Napa.  Of note and something to add perhaps, the lead winemaker at Vineyard 29 is technically Phillipe Melka (perhaps the best known consulting winemaker in the world these days, with all due respect to Michele Rolland and Paul Hobbs) but the day to day operations fall to Keith Emerson.  For George’s, hope they had a chance to say hello because Keith’s a San Diego guy (went to the same high school as I did, Rancho Bernardo) and makes a line of his own wines called Emerson Brown.  He also grew up in the restaurant business, so it would be a good connection….plus he fits into what George’s had to say about Vineyard 29.  Emerson told my wife and I on a visit that he feels as much like a scientist as anything else, Vineyard 29 is probably more science than art….there’s a place for that in Napa I hope.

Hope you’ve enjoyed this look into wine travel on the web.  Plenty of places look like fun right?

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