TouRest' Wine and Vacation Pairing Guide

A photo of a wine route sign in the Tamar Valley, Tasmania Tamar Generics, Flickr
Have you ever wondered where the best Cabernet comes from? Or where you should travel if you want to taste sparkling wine where it's bottled? We turned to Master of Wine Peter Marks to pair some of the world's most recognizable wine varietals with unforgettable vacation destinations. Marks is one of only 33 in the United States out of just 322 worldwide, a title that is earned after extensive training and a rigorous series of tests (that most fail). What follows are his erudite descriptions of the world's finest wines—and his suggestions on where in the world you should taste them.
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A photo of the windmill at Wooden Shoe Farms in a field of tulips Kirt Edblom, Flickr
Tasting notes: "Pinot Grigio is a fresh, elegant, finessed style of wine that goes well with seafood, but outside of Italy it's known as Pinot Gris. Pinot Gris tends to differ in style as it's more formidable, hedonistic, richer, and higher in alcohol content. Willamette Valley's Pinot Gris has a rich style with underlying acidity and freshness." 
-Peter Marks

Tasting opportunities: The one of just six traditional Japanese sake factories in the US (seeing the rice being milled and fermented is a fascinating counterpoint to winery visits).

Other activities: While in the Willamette Valley explore the small town of (pictured) almost manages to steal the spotlight from the vino.

Other vacations that go well with Pinot Gris/Grigio: Alsace, France; Northwestern Italy
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A photo of vineyards in Marlborough Phillip Capper, Flickr
Tasting notes: "The name Sauvignon comes from the word savage, and Sauvignon Blanc lives up to its name  with its wild flavors. People describe it as grassy, herbaceous, and bell peppery, but in the New Zealand climate you also get very intense tropical and citrus fruits like grapefruit, mango, papaya, and pineapple.  This is a unique style which is not duplicated anywhere else in the world."
-Peter Marks
 
Tasting opportunities: Marlborough, on the northern tip of the southern island, is home to over 150 wineries.

Other activities: After exploring wine country, many head to the nearby shores—some 930 miles of them—for topnotch fishining, kayaking and sailing. A top way to see the area is to walk or bike Queen Charlotte's Track,  a 3-5 day journey that introduces visitors to the area's  secluded beaches and historic sites. Tip: Travelers can easily arrange a water taxi to carry luggage from one lodging to the next; the area offers a wide range of accommodation choices from camp sites to luxury hotels. 
 
Other vacations that go well with Sauvignon Blanc: Loire Valley, France; Casablanca Valley, Chile
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A photo of a canal in the Finger Lakes Alex, Flickr
Tasting notes: "A Reisling from California will be much more fruit driven, and German Riesling is a lot more about minerality and stoniness. While you still get the floral and citrus characters it's more about the earthy character. New York is somewhere in between that, you get the best of both worlds. You get tree fruits like apple, fresh apricot but you also get a sense of minerality and a complexity that is often lacking in wine."
-Peter Marks
 
Tasting opportunities: There are four wine trails to explore The Finger Lakes region, featuring wineries, breweries, distilleries, and cideries.

Other activities: The Finger Lakes region, named for the skinny, river-like lakes that snake through the area, is a paradise for nature lovers. Activities here include boating, hiking, rock climbing, and hikes to natural swimming pools; and in winter skiing and snowshoeing. Indoors are a number of notable cultural and historic sights, from the famed Corning Museum of Glass to the Women's Rights National Historic Park in Seneca Falls.
 
Other vacations that go well with Riesling: The Mosel Valley, Germany; Clare Valley, Australia
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A photo of the beach in Margaret River Deb Etheredge, Flickr
Tasting notes: "Western Australia’s Chardonnays are full-flavored, rich and powerful, with the best examples having the ability to age for over a decade due to their unique, crisp acidities."
-Peter Marks
 
Tasting opportunities: It was wine legend Robert Mondavi who first identified this region as ideal for growing Chardonnay grapes; today Margaret River is home to 70 well-regarded wineries. 

Other activities: Margaret River isn't your typical wine town. In fact, it's a surfing mecca, featuring a coastline with over 75 breaks, including the infamous "Supertubes". If wine and waves sound like a recipe for disaster, consider exploring the caves nearby; enough light peeks in to show off impressive rock formations. The area also is known for its windsurfing, mountain biking and rock climbing (on the sea cliffs).

Other great vacations that go well with Chardonnay: Burgundy, France; Santa Barbara, California
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Hot air balloons over Napa Valley Ali Hamdany/Flickr
Tasting notes: "Cabernet Sauvignon is the king of red grapes in the Napa Valley. They display complex flavors of black fruits – blackberry, black cherry and plum – plus notes of spice from oak aging. The wines are rich and lovely to drink in their youth, but also dense and powerful for cellaring."
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Peter Marks
 
Tasting opportunities: Napa may be an obvious wine vacation choice, but it has earned its reputation. This 35-mile long valley is dotted with more than 400 wineries, of which 95% are family-owned.

Other activities: Made up of five towns within the valley, Napa is a mecca for sybarites. It has some of the finest restaurants in the United States, most famous of which is the restaurant often called the "best in the world", Thomas Keller's French Laundry. It is renowned for its spas, especially those that feature mud baths fed by natural hot springs. And it has become a hot spot for art, with the Di Rosa Preserve showcasing 2300 contemporary works in all mediums, 900 of which were created by Bay Area artists. (Many of the wineries also display notable works of art, or have unusual architecture as a lure). Finally, a classic way to enjoy Napa is from the basket of a hot air balloon (pictured). 

Other great vacations that go well with Cabernet Sauvignon: Coonawara, South Australia
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A photo of Lake Chelan Paweesit, Flickr
Tasting notes: "Merlot is a grape that has the flavors and the body and the richness of Cabernet but without the harshness of the tannin (a dry and sometimes bitter component of wine) or the bite and the acidity that Cabernet can often display. People who love Pinot Noir would find that same suppleness and texture in a good Merlot, but a little more full bodied. In the Columbia Valley you get dark berry fruits, plums, cherries, raspberries, and compared to California the wines tend to be a little more supple with less tanin. They're mouth filling, and they have a supple, round, hard to resist texture."
-Peter Marks
 
Tasting options: The Columbia Valley is a huge region of 6070 vineyard acres, encompassing three cities and over 200 wineries.

Other Activities: This massive area, which includes the Puget Sound and the Yakima Valley, offers many, many options for active travelers, including plenty of fishing, hiking, and swimming opportunities. We're particularly fond of the Sacagawea Heritage Trail, a hiking and biking blacktop loop that winds its way alongside the Columbia River, through nature preserves and past fascinating local museums. 
 
Other great vacations that go well with Merlot: Tuscany, Italy 
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A photo of a winery in Chilé Christian Cordova, Flickr
Tasting notes: "Carménère came to Chile from Bordeaux in the 1800's, and it actually didn't do very well in France but was a great wine to grow in Chile. For years it was misidentified as Merlot because is very similar to merlot in that it has less tanin, and is easier to drink. The difference is that when it is ripe it produces a very floral character, and has a deep raspberry side."
-Peter Marks
 
Tasting opportunities: There's nothing slick or modern about this wine growing region of Chilé .  Its friendly, but quite rustic wineries seem to grow out of the rolling hills. For a hands-on experience with this one of a kind grape head to Viu Manenet, a family run winery that boasts a "Winemaker-for-the-day" program during which you blend your own wine.

Other activities: An easy  day trip from Santiago, the Colchuaga Valley offers many outdoor excursions, the most popular of which is horseback riding. If you book wisely, your tour guide will bring along a picnic of local wines and cheeses so that when you reach the top of the valley you can enjoy its "fruits" and the view at the same time.

Chilé is currently the only place to go for Carménère, which used to be quite common in France but was phased out over the centuries. It's thought that the original Carménère vines originally came from cuttings from Bordeaux in the 19th century. Other contemporary wine regions have only recently begun to experiment with this wine. 
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A vineyard in Sonoma County Torbak Hopper/Flickr
Tasting notes: "The old vines of Sonoma Valley can produce Zinfandel grapes for up to one hundred years. These vines produce much less fruit and hold berries that are smaller than normal. As a result you get a higher ratio of skin to juice and there's a lot of color and flavor in the skin which gives the wine a richness and flavor beyond compare. Sonoma County produces Zinfandel with bright berry-rich, slightly jammy and a briary-spicy character."
-Peter Marks

Tasting opportunities: Sonoma Valley is right next to the Napa Valley, and actually hosts more wineries than its more renowned neighbor. For TouRest recommendations on which wineries to visit, click on this link.

Other activities: Exploring the quaint town of Sonoma, which is loaded loaded with artisan cheese makers, bakeries, art galleries, and historic landmarks like the Sonoma Mission, is a true pleasure. We also highly recommend touring Jack London State Park and seeing the planet's tallest living species at Armstrong Redwoods State Reserve.
 
Other great vacations that go well with Zinfandel: Russian River, California; LA County, California
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A ruin in Penedes Angela Llop/Flickr
Tasting notes: "95 % of all Cava comes from the region known as Penedès which is just outside of Barcelona. The word cava, which means cave, is the Spanish term for sparkling wines that are made in the, 'Champagne method.' Traditional Cava comes  from  three different grape varieties indigenous to Spain. This is where you find mid-range Cavas and they don't taste like other sparkling wines from other places in the world."
-Peter Marks

Tasting opportunities: Penedès is less than an hour by car from Barcelona, making it a perfect day trip destination. Visitors either book a tour to hop from winery to winery, or choose their own routes. Many of the major houses are set in the town of Sant Sadurni d'Anoia.

Other activities: Wine tasting is the primary reason most visitors head to Penedes, but pairing those with a visit to the excellent Museu de les Cultures del Vi de Catalunya in Vilafranca del Penedes will deepen your appreciation for the unique culture of Catalonia. The town is also home to a notable 15th century basilica, considered the first Gothic church in the region.
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A photo of the Tamar Valley wine route Ninth2, Flickr
Tasting notes: "Ideally you want a really cool climate for sparkling wine, and in Tasmania there is a similar type of climate to Champagne. The Tasmanians use traditional varieties like Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, the Tasmanian sparkling wines can often mimic the character and quality of Champagne. More than any other region Tasmania makes wine closest to Champagne."
-Peter Marks
 
Tasting opportunities: Typically the island state of Tasmania evokes an image of wildness—or perhaps Looney Tunes characters—but when it comes to sparkling wine the Tasmanians have created a refined and controlled flavor. Jansz winery coined the term "Methode Tasmanoise" to call attention to the fact that they're the most formidable rivals to the French, creators of the "Methode Champenoise." There are nearly 100 notable wineries on the island of Tasmania.

Other activities: UNESCO dedicated a fifth of the island as a Wilderness World Heritage area, one of the largest in the world, over 1 milion hectacres. Adventurers will delight in the hang-gliding, rock climbing, and cave exploring as well as bird watching and hiking. It's a truly gorgeous, and well-protected, region of Australia.
 
 
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