As a journalist, I have lived and worked overseas and traveled hundreds of thousands of miles. My passport is crammed with dozens of visas from faraway places, with each visa a trigger for memories: some good, some bad, some even horrific.
Big and bold is easy for any wine drinker to understand. Nuance, on the other hand is more of a challenge. With nearly every U.S. state producing wine, Michigan is trying to nab a spot, along with regions like New York’s Finger Lakes, as the next best thing outside the west coast.
Napa Valley is noted for its abundance of wineries, wine tastings, warm/hot climate (even in winter), lavish restaurants, and compact access to literally dozens of wineries—currently numbered at over 700. But, with notoriety also comes popularity. Let’s face it—in the summer and fall, Napa is a zoo of tourists and locals. The two main thoroughfares, St. Helena Highway (Route 29) and the Silverado Highway, are usually jammed with vehicles, as are the tasting rooms.
Passing through a guarded gate, my wife and I, on an anniversary trip to Spain, entered the bucolic 1000-hectare estate of the storied Vega Sicilia. This Bordeaux-style winery, founded in 1864, originally was a small village inhabited by the wineries’ employees and connected by rail to Valladolid, 40 kilometers to the west.
The coffee finally started kicking in somewhere around the outskirts of Spokane. I had just spent the previous five days on a non-stop tour of wineries in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, then moved on to the Yakima Valley in Washington, followed by the Wine Bloggers’ Conference in Walla Walla. The only thing keeping my sleep deprived body going was a large cup of my favorite stimulant.
Every new Internet development comes with a hyperventilating promise to change the way a winery does business by revolutionizing how it interfaces with its customers by creating a new type of community around the brand. Yet, these innovations rarely become the ubiquitous life changers they are touted to be.
Visitors to St. Louis often want to go see the Arch, or take in a Cardinals game. But for our guests who are up for more than just the usual tourist sites, one of the places I take them, particularly if they're foodies or lovers of urban neighborhoods, is The Hill.
California wineries have thrown open their doors this harvest season. Make that wide open. Wineries are getting creative. They are offering new attractions such as wine education, a behind-the-scenes access to the winemaking process and the kind of TLC normally reserved for relatives and rock stars.