Deciding where to plan your next wine vacation can be a bit daunting. With so many options from Napa to New Zealand, it’s easy to see how any wine-o can develop decision fatigue. Do you want to drink Pinot Grigio or Pinotage? Would you rather sip Sauvignon Blanc or Semillon? Visit the ocean or the mountains? Some regions let you do a little bit of everything, but others may leave you wanting more.
If you’ve explored all the major regions and checked them off your list, you may be hungry for something off the beaten path. Perhaps you’re tired of overpriced tastings and Disney-like tour buses, and you want something more authentic. Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered with my top five wine regions to visit in 2019.
You may have heard about Roussillon in relation to Languedoc as one large region, but actually the two are very different. In Roussillon, which is right over the border from Spain and on the Mediterranean coast of southern France, is a region known for its rustic, more boutique winemaking style. Producers are extremely proud of the terroir in the region, but also their communities and family-owned wineries. Roussillon is a pioneering region with an innovative spirit rooted in French tradition, where each winemaker has his or her own niche. Unlike many regions in France, Roussillon has been open to foreigners coming in and joining the winemaking community. Perhaps it has a lot to do with the strong Catalan culture in the area, which is a culture that has been spread out amongst several countries, helping to make the Catalan way of life more inclusive of others.
When traveling through the area, you should visit towns such as Perpignan and Banyuls-sur-Mer. Dip your toes into the Mediterranean Sea, and marvel at the stunning vineyards that slope steeply into the water below. Taste the fortified wines that the region is famous for making and ask to see barrel rooms that date back hundreds of years. Roussillon is an area rich in history and wine, and it should be on your list of regions to explore.
If you are one who craves real adventure, don’t miss an opportunity to discover the Salta wine region in Argentina. North of Mendoza, Salta is a smaller wine region, but it holds the keys to the beginnings of winemaking in Argentina.
Bodega Colomé is the oldest winery in Argentina and dates back to 1831. Now owned by Donald Hess, Colomé is a destination for art and wine lovers. Arguably one of the most remote wineries in the world, the drive to Colomé is not for the adventure-shy. You better make sure you rent a four-by-four because your drive will be mostly on dirt roads through the desert landscape of northern Argentina, far from any cities or even small towns.
Salta is home to some of the most beautiful views in the world. From extremely high mountains laced with grazing llamas to beautiful red rock desert as far as the eye can see, this area of the world will continue to amaze you as you explore. Spend some time in the little wine town of Cafayate and ride the Tren a las Nubes. If you have an open mind and appreciate natural beauty, nothing in this region will disappoint you. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime adventure you’ll want to relive over and over again.
Paso Robles, California
Skip Napa this year and spend some time a little further south in the Central California region of Paso Robles. Paso may be one of the friendliest wine regions you’ll ever visit, with a charm that has been lost on many of the more popular regions around the state. When you visit the wineries in this area, you feel at ease. Paso is a stress-free zone, and the hospitality that surrounds you will make you feel right at home.
Enjoy the foodie delights found all throughout downtown Paso and neighboring cities like San Luis Obispo. Visit the Pacific Ocean in Cayucos (and try the Cayucos hot sauce!). Taste at iconic family-owned wineries such as Tablas Creek and at larger commercial productions like JUSTIN. With tasting fees that are less than half of what you’d pay further north, you won’t feel over spent at the end of your trip. Overall, it’s easy to go to Paso and never want to leave, but you can always take a bit of Paso home with you by way of wine bottle.
If you’ve done Ribera del Duero and feel that Rioja is overplayed, discover an up-and-coming wine region in Aragon, Spain, home of Garnacha. Just a few hours west of Barcelona in the deserts of northern Spain emerges an oasis of a city that is a central hub for all your wine tasting travels throughout the region. You’ll love the quaint city of Zaragoza with its northern Spanish charm. Spend a few days getting to know the friendly locals, and then set off to the vines.
You can basically fan out from the city in any direction to find incredible Spanish wine producers. The D.O.s of Campo de Borja, Calatayud, and Cariñena are famous for their Garnacha productions as this is the area where the grape was born and where it grows the best. If you speak to the winemakers, they will express a sense of pride in the land and in the wines, and it’s almost as if each bottle comes with a taste of their own Spanish culture. The best part about wines from Spain is that they are affordable but high quality and rarely a disappointment. As a guest in Aragon, you are sure to learn about the historical importance of this area in relation to winemaking, but also about its big role in European history. Prepare to be in awe!
I would be remiss if I did not mention Virginia as one of the best wine regions to visit, period. I say Virginia, but there are many regions within the state. From central Virginia around Charlottesville, eastern Virginia on the coast around early settlements like Jamestown, western regions out by the mountains, to northern Virginia just a short distance from Washington, D.C., you will find unique wineries and winemaker stories full of history and intrigue.
Want to drink wine like Thomas Jefferson? Virginia is a natural location for history nerds and wine lovers alike. For a state that boasts some of the very first attempts at winemaking in the United States, Virginia lost ground to other states like California and Oregon until a popularity boom crept in starting in about 2010. Now, wineries and wine production around the state is growing. In fact, one Virginia winery is growing so fast that it opened a tasting room and winery on the West Coast in Santa Barbara, California (make sure you visit Paradise Springs). Despite the recent growth in popularity of wines from this state, Virginia is still relatively new to the game, and there are still many small, authentic wineries to explore. If you’re a wine adventurer who needs to be at the forefront of trends and regions, don’t waste any more time before planning your trip to taste wine in Virginia.
If you have questions about any of these regions, please feel free to contact me via my contact form. I’d be happy to offer suggestions of wineries in each region.