A beautiful setting to sit and relax tasting some of the best wine in South Africa. My wife is not normally a red wine person but she loves the Three Cape Ladies, a delicious red wine, while my preference is for the Trilogy with its richer more complex flavours.
If you join the Warwick Wine Family, they will arrange to send you a mixed case of wine every six months in the UK, and you get invited to their Garden Party in December, where you can get very drunk on the finest white and red wines for free. Another benefit is the 20% discount on buying wines at the estate
On the R44 between Stellenbosch and Klapmuts/Paarl
The only place for a full-on South African wine and gastronomic experience, combined with an amazing cultural and natural environment backdrop.
The Spier Estate has everything you want, from interesting wine tasting sessions, to amazing restaurants (there are about five on site), picnics combined with music concerts in the open against the wonderful mountainous backdrop of the Cape’s famous mountains and next to a river. The hotel was one of the best we ever stayed in in the whole world. And it is all Fair Trade in Tourism certified, as well as certified by the Wine Industry Ethical Trade Association.
Prices and packages to suit all budgets and tastes. It was an absolutely amazing experience and we wished we could have stayed longer … or forever.
By Road > R310 Lynedoch Road Stellenbosch, South Africa
Postal Address > PO Box 1078, Stellenbosch, 7599,South Africa
Website > www.spier.co.za
Telephone > +27 (21) 809 1100
For those living in the South of England, who can't afford to travel abroad (in these credit crunch times) and who want to experience a working vineyard then it is an ideal place to go. Fun for the family, tours, cafe and gift shop. The wine is quaffable too!
McLaren Vale in the Adelaide Hills, just south of the city, generally seems to be considered the poor relation of the Barossa Valley to the north. It isn't. It is one of the prettiest and most charming wine growing regions you can visit, complete with ocean views and truly excellent wines. Coriole is a fine ambassador for McLaren Vale wineries and hosts many arts and culinary events throughout the year. Its reds are some of the best you can sup. The olive oil's pretty good too.
A relatively little-known wine region around four hours' drive south of Perth in the south-westernmost corner of Australia. Both the climate and the grape blends are reminiscent of Bordeaux, although the wineries have a strong Aussie accent: friendly, fun and also offering great food. My favourite is Wise Winery on Eagle Bay, which offers sweeping vistas of Geographe Bay from a panoramic dining terrace - the perfect setting for a delicious lunch, accompanied by a glass of 'Half Wit' Chardonnay or their 'Coat Door' Shiraz / Cabernet blend. The sheltered crescent of Meelup Beach is just down the road.
Terrazas de Los Andes can be found in one of the most picturesque places in South America. I travelled through Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina and Brazil, and Mendoza has to be one of my favourite places from my visit. The winery itself is incredibly tranquil, set in the mountains, away from main roads, you can't help but lose yourself there. We were given a very informative tour around the winery and then sat down to the most delicious three course meal, each course accompanied by a different wine. We spent the entire afternoon there, chatting over the wine, enjoying the food and ended up snoozing on the swinging hammock in the garden. I would recommend visiting between January and February when it is lovely and warm.
Thames y Cochabamba, Perdriel,
Luján de Cuyo, Mendoza
Tel: (54 261) 488 0058
Fax: (54 261) 488 0614
Semillon Sauvignon heaven, with a simple roast tomato soup, sitting on a simple bench overlooking the vines, a golden light like chardonnay filtering through the leaves. Bliss.
One of the less visited wine-growing areas in California, but certainly one of the best. Beautiful scenery, quiet, friendly wineries, free tastings in most places, and, perhaps most importantly, wonderful wines: Pinot noirs, Rieslings, Gewurztraminers, etc.
Especially recommended are the Roederer Estate for sparkling wines, Lazy Creek (they let us pour the wine ourselves!) and Toulouse (it was like going to a bar, not a tasting room).
About three hours drive north of San Francisco. Lots of details here: www.avwines.com/
I was here in April 2009.
This is a wine estate making what they term 'ultra premium wine'. It's certainly very good indeed and better value than some of the top NZ labels. However, the estate itself is utterly spectacular. There is a seriously good restaurant, overlooking acres of vineyards, although prices are moderate, making it very, very good value for money. It seems to be a family-friendly place but I can think of few better settings for a romantic meal for two.
Accommodation is also available although we didn't stay there.
Rising above the main buildings is a mock-Italianate tower which you can climb for even more beautiful views. There is also public access to the winery itself and they conduct guided tours and demonstrations of the winemaking process.
Blenheim has more than its share of really famous wineries, but Highfield is in a class of its own.
Brookby Rd, RD2
Tel. +64 (3) 572 9244
Fax. +64 (3) 572 9257
Ok, so there are a few vineyards in the UK but this one is actually a bona-fide (not inner-city novelty) vineyard in Twyford, a small suburban town near Reading, Berkshire.
Enter the shop to look at their range of young wines and then have a stroll around their walled garden to see the stalks and berries in all their glory. A perfect way to spend 45 minutes as part of a Sunday drive in the country - with a decent bottle of plonk to take home to boot.
0118 934 0176
Nearest Train Station: Twyford
The granddaddy of Australian wineries, a short drive from the centre of Adelaide to the suburbs. Tours and tastings at prices from reasonable to eye-watering. Fantastic Aussie Shiraz, a great fortified, and a delicious high-end restaurant with a panoramic view over the city.
Set in a beautful location on the Banks Peninsular (the sticky-out bit of the South Island), French Farm is an unpretentious and laid-back winery with amazing wines. We went for a 10 minute taste and left three hours later clutching our bellies having enjoyed an incredible meal with great wines!
The wonderful Neszmely Vineyard is now Hungary's most successful wine producing estate with 560 hectares of grape vines.
It still retains the family business atmosphere and we stayed in the delightful 'Borhotel and etterem' (wine hotel and restaurant) with views of the mighty Danube.
The Hilltop company only started in 1991 but already produces some of the best whites in Hungary. The Neszmely Irsai Oliver 2006 is an absolute classic: crisp, fruity, all those cliched white wine flavours really do come true with hints of straw, spice and summer.
The Irsai Oliver grape is a relatively new hybrid and a relative of the Muscat grape.
It's eminently quaffable and very good to drink on hot summer evenings by the Danube!
Also recommended are the:
Neszmely Olaszrizling 2006(Italian riesling) and the Premium Neszmely Grigio 2006
Situated 75km east of Budapest, near Tata.
Ady Endre utca 11-13
Tel +36 1 336 2220
The restaurant has stunning views over the vineyards and surrounding area. You can enjoy exceptional food and sample the award winning wine made there. It is well worth the trip!
73 Felton Road
Wine tasting on your doorstep in London. This fun night at cosy 'local' pub The Alma, is held approximately once a month on a Wednesday evening. Enjoy tutorials for different tastes and vintages from around the world, plus a selection of complimentary nibbles to stop you getting too drunk!
There are just 10 places per evening (book in advance!) so it feels pleasantly intimate - and you really do get to learn about what you're drinking.
All in all, a great, unusual night out in London.
Newington Green Road (North London - Canonbury or Highbury & Islington)
To fulfill my vision of cycling through vineyards, we headed into Beaune in Burgundy. We rented bikes across from the train station (watch out, everything is closed between 12 and 2!) and off we went on the 'velo-route' through the vineyards. The bike route was 22km there and 22km back, on special roads through the vines and going through the famous wine villages of Pommard, Volnay, Meursault. It was stunning scenery and we kept thinking it would be even better at the height of spring or during harvest season. I would recommend bringing a picnic and stopping off for a bite amid the vines.
We decided not to combine wine-tasting with cycling as we may never have gotten back to Beaune! We did a wine course at Sensation Vin in Beaune which was really eye-opening. I've loved red wine for a while now but I have to admit I don't know much about it: the different grapes, regions, appellations, etc. In an hour, the teacher managed to cram in all the basics and had us trying ('deguster') six different wines. By the end, we understood the different 'Appellation d'origine controllees' (AOCs) which ranged from Grand Cru to more regional appellations. We could also distinguish between the different tastes, smells, and colours and start to understand the reasons behind them.
This gave us a good basis for our real wine-tasting experience at the oldest wine cellars in Beaune, 'Patriarche' which span for 5km underground. Just imagine 5km of wine bottles ranging from 1904 to today. We wandered through the dark corridors lined with thousands of perfectly arranged bottles to find the tasting area where we sampled 13 wines. I had to learn the art of 'deguster' (spitting out the wine after you taste it), otherwise I don't think I would have come back up.
Situated just an hour or so drive from San Francisco, the Napa Valley is a wine and food lovers heaven. Incredible eateries and divine vineyards abound in this Californian idyll.
Napa has a vast range of wineries to choose from whether it be small and personal or the large vineyard that does escorted tours.
No trip would be complete without a visit to Yountville where Thomas Keller’s restaurant The French Laundry reigns supreme. But be warned you have to book two calendar months in advance to get in. We tried and failed miserably, so if anyone reading this can let us know about their dining experience it would be jealously appreciated.
We did, however, get a table at Keller’s Bistro also in Yountville - Bouchon and that made up in some way for our disappointment as it was superb! It is a more casual dining experience with a fun and flirty atmosphere. The menu is very much French bistro inspired with moules frites and huîtres featuring prominently. The poulet aux petit pois à la Français was simple and delicious and the braised pork cheek was declared a masterpiece. As we were celebrating birthdays, complementary signature desserts of tarte au citron and chocolate brownie ‘Bouchons’ were a welcome ending to the evening.
There are so many dining venues in Napa that you can be spoilt for choice. Local deli's with first class cheese, wine and cured meats. Fantastic breads baked on the properties with everything to go! So why not grab a picnic and take a seat in the Yountville market area. It is beautiful, with sparkling fountains and tucked away benches perfect.
If something a little more daring is your thing, then Napa Valley Aloft offer dawn balloon rides over the valley - weather permitting of course. It is incredibly serene to be floating two thousand feet over the vineyards one minute and then barely skimming the vines the next with the only noise coming from the burners used to keep us aloft. It was testament to our pilot Laura’s skill that she managed to put us down safely in a handkerchief sized field in the middle of acres of vines. A memorable experience followed by a champagne breakfast with your new found friends and fellow passengers.
There are plenty of top quality B&B's, Inn's and resort hotels to choose from for your stay. The River Terrace Inn is one of these, do choose the balcony rooms overlooking the river and take your morning coffee whilst enjoying the peace and quiet as the river gurgles by.
No trip to Napa would be complete without experiencing the Wine Train. A three hour lunch or dinner trip taking in the breathtaking vistas of the local countryside. Or, how about kayaking on the river or a trip to the Jelly Belly Gourmet bean factory? It’s not just about wine!
Napa old town has a number of mentionables too. The Oxbow Public Market has a wonderful cheese and wine tasting emporium. Run by Peter Granoff you can sit at the large bar area take a carafe of your favourite tipple and pair it with a platter of cheeses, salamis, fresh made pickles and fresh baked bread – sheer heaven. They also have Kara's Cupcakes, an Oyster bar and much more.
Pay the Bounty Hunter a visit too; it’s where the locals eat so it must be good. Speciality wines by the glass or bottle and incredible barbecued meats served at trestle tables, perfect for getting to know your neighbour.
Coles Chop House is an award winning American Steakhouse that serves some of the best Dry Aged Beef you will ever eat coupled with delicious cocktails.
There is an awful lot more to Napa then you can possibly fit in, in just a day or two. With breathtaking scenery, friendly locals and visitors alike and a diverse range of activities to suit all tastes and budgets. It is a wrench to leave this gorgeous area. They say you leave your heart in San Francisco, I left mine in Napa. I hope to return soon and claim it back.
Despite being brand new, it's a very well run place. Fabulous decor and excellent food. Reasonably priced given the quality. Filet of beef with foie gras mousse 13 Ls. Offered Champagne by glass (5.5 Ls). Lots of seafood and fish in the menu.
The array of seafood ranges from Mediterranean octopus carpaccio or seafood and sesame seaweed salad to steamed turbot with cauliflower puree, basil sauce and tomato tartar ‘to die for’. The results are simply executed, gently sauced and super-fresh.
There are meat and vegetarian alternatives alongside the seafood and a more informal menu is available in the bar.
After a full day soaking up some culture and strolling through the pristine gardens of the Alhambra, what better way to re-energise than indulging in a fine meal at the El Agua Casa De Vinos.
Situated in the heart of the Albaicin, this hidden gem is very popular with the locals. Reserving a table in advance is a must because the terrace, which boasts remarkable views of the Alhambra, is in great demand with alfresco diners.
I’d recommend ordering a quality bottle of Rioja from the extensive wine list while contemplating whether to opt for a three-course meal or indulge in the fine selection of Tapas. It would be easy to spend the evening soaking up the alcohol with the small portions of cheeses, pates and meats on offer at very reasonable prices. The El Agua’s speciality is fondue and they boast a varied selection including veal, chicken, ham and also cheese. Smoked fish and substantial steak fillets are also among the choices for the main courses.
The setting of the restaurant is enough to bring out the romantic side in anybody and what better way to impress your partner than to order a fondue with chocolate, strawberries and other fresh fruit to share as the moon illuminates the Alhambra in the distance.
El Agua Casa De Vinos - Placeta De Algibe De Trillo 718010 Granada, Spain Tel: (34) 958 224 356
Tapas bar in Andalucia. Locals loiter in the street outside waiting for it to open (12-4 and 8-12 every day except Sunday), with good reason. It's an old bar, dating from 1870, in a narrow street in the old part of town. Marble bar, big jars, range of bottles, obligatory dripping hams, azulejos tiles, some comic, one proclaiming(in Spanish) "Neither the best French pate, nor the Belugar caviar from Iran, can be compared to the unrivalled tapas offered in Casa Puga.". Slight exaggeration, but the huge variety of good quality, generous tapas makes a great effort. With your glass of Rioja or Ribera or cold beer comes a free tapas which only tempts you to try something else - perhaps fried fresh fish, kidneys, mushrooms, tuna, prawns, squid, beans or ham, or visit the adjoining dining room. Attentive friendly service.
Casa Puga, calle Jovellanos 7, Almeria. In the centre of the historic quarter, near the cathedral.
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