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There’s noth­ing that can bring you deep­er into the pages of a roman­tic fairy tale than gaz­ing across an expan­sive field, jagged roots twist­ing along grape vines, the sun dan­gling over the hori­zon, as you savor and swirl a red, white or rose hue cast­ing its shade through a clear wine glass. It’s the time we put on our flop­py hats, the time we final­ly wear the flowy dress­es saved for spe­cial occa­sions. Whether we go with a group of girl­friends or with our some­times-bet­ter half, it’s the time to be a lit­tle dreamy and a good wine helps with that fun game of make-believe.

Temecula

I recent­ly had a chance to savor a few days in Temec­u­la, Cal­i­for­nia, a patch­work quilt of farms sur­round­ing an old west down­town called Old Town, where many good deals could be found among these less­er known winer­ies dot­ting the land­scape. The big dis­cov­ery for us was that these mod­est vine­yards were every bit as good, if not bet­ter, than those we had vis­it­ed in oth­er parts of the country.

We stayed at the South Coast Win­ery Resort and Spa which was like liv­ing in a Euro­pean vil­la with our own pri­vate vine­yard drop­ping pre­cip­i­tous­ly into a gorge just out­side our French doors. The Grape­Seed Spa, with a heat­ed pool just out­side, allowed us to let the lazy spring sun­shine melt across our skin. Walks through the jig­saw puz­zle of grow­ing grapes gave pause for ideas, nor­mal­ly too har­ried to be thought, to fil­ter into our minds. A superb win­ery with a legion of knowl­edgable som­me­liers was the per­fect place to dis­cov­er unique wines. After sam­pling a flight, we bought three bot­tles which made our tast­ing free. The win­ery man­ag­er, Heinz Hoff­man said, “Dol­lar for dol­lar you’ll get much more here than in Napa.” We bought some of the best tast­ing reds I’d ever had for under $40.

Temecula wine tasting at South Coast Winery Resort and Spa

We did­n’t have to go any­where, there were a cou­ple oth­er winer­ies with­in walk­ing dis­tance, but one night we did. After eat­ing at the resort restau­rant, the Vine­yard Rose, which had the best char­cu­terie plat­ter I’ve ever tast­ed (and I’ve had a few as they’re one of my favs), we ven­tured into Old Town — what they call their down­town — to lis­ten to live music.

Charcuterie platter at South Coast Winery Resort and Spa

We found a casu­al bar called the Old Town Blues Club where we jig­gled and swayed to an 80s cov­er band. Down the street, we found a bar called Crush and Brew that was like three bars in one. Up front, we shared some late night noshy bites, a bit fur­ther in was a band play­ing some great tunes, some orig­i­nal, but the super cool part was the speakeasy in the base­ment called Thomp­son and Twain. The two hour wait to get in was worth the old world west­ern fron­tier town expe­ri­ence of this small tav­ern. Set behind two cur­tains and a walk through a faux bank vault, the small estab­lish­ment fea­tured bar­tenders dressed in peri­od garb who def­i­nite­ly played the part, pro­duc­ing cock­tails that includ­ed burnt herbs. This is a not to miss expe­ri­ence! A short walk down the street, we were able to get our funk on at Black Bird, a west­ern restau­rant that turns into a night­club on Fri­day and Sat­ur­day nights. The DJs stepped out of the west­ern town theme and played the best dance music you’d nev­er expect to hear in a lit­tle, land-locked farm town.

We asked top trav­el writ­ers where they love to play pre­tend and get some great wine expe­ri­ences in the process.

Santa Barbara

When most peo­ple think of wine coun­try in Cal­i­for­nia, their minds will undoubt­ed­ly jump to Napa and Sono­ma in the north of the state and fail to realise that there are some fan­tas­tic wine pro­duc­ing areas in sun­ny South­ern Cal­i­for­nia as well! And one of the best places to go wine tast­ing in South­ern CA is love­ly San­ta Barbara!

Known for its laid back nature and year-round good weath­er, San­ta Bar­bara is a pop­u­lar stop on an LA to San Fran­cis­co road trip or as a week­end get­away from Los Angeles.

Though there are many things to do in San­ta Bar­bara, one of the best ways to spend time in the city is to embark on its Urban Wine Trails — which con­sists of 28 winer­ies locat­ed in dif­fer­ent neigh­bour­hoods of the city. With most of the winer­ies being in the trendy Funk Zone, it is very easy to walk between them with­out hav­ing to get behind the wheel. The wines come most­ly from grapes grown in the near­by San­ta Ynez val­ley, which pro­duces pop­u­lar vari­eties like grenache, caber­net sauvi­gnon, pinot gris and chardonnay.

Though there are many winer­ies to choose from in San­ta Bar­bara, some of my favourites include Deep Sea Win­ery and Area 5.1. The for­mer has an excel­lent loca­tion on the icon­ic Stearns Wharf and makes an excel­lent stop to sip wine and watch the sun­set. Area 5.1 has a quirky decor and theme and their blend­ed wines are real­ly some­thing spe­cial. How­ev­er, no mat­ter where it is you choose to go wine tast­ing, you real­ly can’t go wrong in San­ta Barbara.

-Mag­gie Turan­sky — The World Was Here First

Area 5.1 Santa Barbara Wine Tasting

© Mag­gie Turansky

Charlottesville

When peo­ple think of US based wine, they usu­al­ly think of the West Coast. How­ev­er, Vir­ginia seems to have been made for wine lovers. Char­lottesville, VA is home to over 20 winer­ies of vary­ing sizes and wine pro­files. Win­ery hop­ping in Char­lottesville is always a great expe­ri­ence because of the views of the Blue Ridge Moun­tains, deli­cious food and activ­i­ties such as watch­ing Polo Games.

To best enjoy winer­ies in the Char­lottesville area, I rec­om­mend either rent­ing a par­ty bus (for large groups) or using Char­lottesville Hop on Tours for groups under 6. The hop on tours have dif­fer­ent routes with­in the Char­lottesville area, so you can spend one day on one route and the next on anoth­er. Ubers are also a good option if you don’t mind wait­ing for a car to come.

Since there are abun­dant winer­ies in the area, these are some per­son­al favorites:

Best selec­tion of wine: Wis­dom Oak or Glasshouse Win­ery (the win­ery has a hot­house that grows trop­i­cal plants!)

Best views: Pip­pin Hill or King Fam­i­ly Winery

Most inter­est­ing selec­tion: Fly­ing Fox Vine­yard (they also have ver­mouth which is delicious)

All of these winer­ies are big enough for a lady’s trip or bach­e­lorette par­ty, but cozy enough to enjoy with a partner.

 

wine tasting in Charlottesville, Virginia

© Michaela Banks

Michaela Banks — Well Bal­anced Adventures

Fredericksburg, TX

I nev­er would have pegged Texas as a place to pro­duce excel­lent wine but that all changed after a bach­e­lorette week­end in Fred­er­icks­burg in the Hill Coun­try. This tiny town is just an hour and a half west of Austin, mak­ing it an easy get­away for the day or week­end. The Fred­er­icks­burg wine route stretch­es the length of High­way 290 on the out­skirts of town. One win­ery fol­lows anoth­er, mak­ing them very easy to vis­it for a full day of tast­ings. There are two winer­ies in par­tic­u­lar that I make sure to include on every Hill Coun­try wine week­end. The first is Beck­er Vine­yards, which has been mak­ing award-win­ning wine for over 20 years. Bring a blan­ket and pic­nic to enjoy with a bot­tle of their crisp Viog­nier on their lawn. One of my oth­er favorite things to do in the Texas Hill Coun­try is to buy a bot­tle at Ped­er­nales Cel­lars to enjoy on their deck. The prop­er­ty at Ped­er­nales is stun­ning with live oaks dot­ting the end­less rolling hills. Vis­it on a week­end and you may get lucky with live music on Beck­er’s lawn or Ped­er­nales’ deck.

The best part is that it’s very easy to vis­it the winer­ies in Fred­er­icks­burg. If you have a des­ig­nat­ed dri­ver, the dis­tances are short and easy to dri­ve your­self. If your entire par­ty wants to par­tic­i­pate, take the 290 Wine Shut­tle. For only $30 spend the entire day hop­ping from win­ery to win­ery. This is par­tic­u­lar­ly fun if you’re vis­it­ing Fred­er­icks­burg with a group of friends (Fred­er­icks­burg is a great bach­e­lorette des­ti­na­tion). Whether I’m par­ty­ing with friends or com­ing for a roman­tic week­end with my hus­band, I always love spend­ing a day or two at the winer­ies in Fred­er­icks­burg. 

-Erin Mush­away — Sol Salute

fredericksburg wine tasting

Purcellville

When peo­ple think of great wine tast­ing des­ti­na­tions, Vir­ginia does­n’t usu­al­ly come to mind. But not only is the state the birth­place of the Amer­i­can wine indus­try, but it’s also the 5th-largest wine pro­duc­ing state in the nation! It’s a must-vis­it for all winos, despite being off-the-radar. And though Vir­ginia has a num­ber of towns to choose from, Pur­cel­lville is the one to check out for the best Vir­ginia wine experience.

Pur­cel­lville is nick­named the “Gate­way to DC’s wine coun­try.” The tiny town is locat­ed just 50 miles west of the nation’s cap­i­tal but is sur­round­ed by green rolling hill­sides, horse farms, and almost 60 dif­fer­ent winer­ies. As a res­i­dent, I have the advan­tage of get­ting to check out a new win­ery every week­end. Some of my favorites are Douke­nie Win­ery and Hills­bor­ough Vine­yard, which has one of the best views in Loudoun Coun­ty. For out-of-town­ers who would rather be chauf­feured around, there are sev­er­al great tours that let you get a taste of what Vir­ginia has to offer. DiVine Wine Tours offers cus­tomized tours to winer­ies and lets guests spend time with the wine­mak­ers at each des­ti­na­tion. Cork and Keg Tours com­bines win­ery vis­its with a sam­pling of the areas many breweries.

When you’re done for the day, Pur­cel­lville has a num­ber of excel­lent farm-to-table restau­rants that serve local wines, such as West End Wine Bar and Mag­no­li­a’s. It’s the per­fect cap­stone to a day spent explor­ing Vir­gini­a’s beau­ti­ful wine country.

For more on Vir­gini­a’s wine coun­try, vis­it https://pinkcaddytravelogue.com/category/virginia/

-Mag­gie McK­neely — Pink Cad­dy Travelogue

purcerville wine tasting

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