Step aboard the luxurious Sea Cloud sailing yacht, where 55 passengers travel in style from Malta to Sicily, Tunisia, and the island of Pantellería. Reine and Guy Sammut, owners of a Michelin-starred restaurant in Provence, host the trip, offering food and wine courses, cooking lessons and personalized introductions to winemakers.
Go with: X.O. Travel Consultants (www.xotravelconsultants.com)Where to sip: Pantellería, Salvatore Murana; Marsala, Cantine Florio (www.cantineflorio.it)
The region of Priorat, Spain, two hours south of Barcelona by car, was practically abandoned two decades ago due to the rugged mountain terrain and poor slate soil. But Carles Pastrana and a few other winemakers have created a new and highly regarded sensation in the wine world by restoring the old Garnacha and Cariena vines, installing an irrigation system and introducing several new varietals. Today, Pastrana’s Clos de l’Obac regularly ranks in the top 150 wines in the world.
Sample it by taking a private helicopter tour of the Costers del Siurana winery with Pastrana himself. Leave from Barcelona and enjoy a gourmet six-course meal with wine pairings at the vineyard.
Go with: Cellar Tours (www.cellartours.com)Where to sip: Costers del Siurana (www.costersdelsiurana.com)Where to stay: Hotel Casa Fuster, Barcelona (www.casafuster.com)
Start your journey in Johannesburg at the deluxe Hotel Michelangelo. Then catch a flight to the Mala Mala Game Reserve, bordering Kruger National Park, and stay at Londolozi. And travel from Pretoria to Cape Town on the luxurious Rovos Rail.
Use Cape Town as your home base to explore the surrounding wine regions. Drive to the enchanting Franschoek Valley and enjoy a tasting with winemaker Achim von Arnim at his Haute Cabrière winery, which produces the country’s most highly regarded sparkling wine, Pierre Jourdan.
Go with: X.O. Travel Consultants (www.xotravelconsultants.com)Where to sip: Klein Constancia (www.kleinconstantia.com); Haute Cabrière (www.hautecabriere.com)Where to stay: Londolozi (www.londolozi.co.za); Mount Nelson Hotel, Cape Town (www.mountnelson.co.za) What to ride: Rovos Rail (www.rovos.co.za)
New Zealand may be the world’s best-kept wine secret, but word is getting out as kiwi wines rapidly improve. Start in Auckland and enjoy the wineries of Goldwater Estate and Stonyridge on the island of Waiheke. Then fly to the Hawke’s Bay region to explore Maori culture; taste your way through the day and stay at the charming Mangapapa Lodge. Drive to Martinborough, a vineyard village oasis set among the rolling Wairarapa farmland, and taste the elegant Pinot Noirs of the Palliser and Ata Rangi wineries.
Next head to Blenheim, the center of the Marlborough wine-growing area, for intensely flavored Sauvignon Blancs and dynamite Rieslings. Enjoy a tasting at New Zealand’s most famous winery, Cloudy Bay, and end your tour in Queenstown, exploring Fiordland National Park.
Go with: X.O. Travel Consultants (www.xotravelconsultants.com)Where to sip: Craggy Range (www.craggyrange.com); Cloudy Bay (www.cloudybay.co.nz)Where to stay: Mangapapa Lodge, Hawke’s Bay (www.mangapapa.co.nz); Chateau Marlborough, Blenheim (www.marlboroughnz.co.nz)
When it comes to wine, Argentina is frequently eclipsed by its more renowned neighbor, Chile. Yet the country is the world’s fifth-largest wine producer and is famous for its trademark Malbec grape. And, since less than six percent of its production is exported, chances are you’ve never tried many of the wines in Mendoza province.
Stay at the beautifully restored Park Hyatt, with its 19th-century Spanish colonial façade. One hour south lies the magnificent Uco Valley, home to Argentina’s highest-altitude vineyards. Visit O Fournier, famous for gravity-only winemaking and stop in Luján de Cuyo, considered the birthplace of Argentina’s modern wine movement. Taste at Bodega Achaval Ferrer, whose 2002 Finca Altamira Malbec scored 94 points in the 2004 Wine Spectator.
Go with: Vines of Mendoza (www.vinesofmendoza.com); The Grapevine (www.thegrapevine-winetours.com)Where to sip: O Fournier, Valle de Ocu (www.ofournier.com); Bodega Achaval Ferrer, Luján de Cuyo (www.achaval-ferrer.com)Where to stay: Park Hyatt, Mendoza (mendoza.park.hyatt.com)
In southern Portugal, stretching from the Atlantic Ocean to the Spanish border, lies the magical and relatively undiscovered wine region of Alentejo. Here, pioneers in winemaking work mostly with indigenous grapes. Visit cork forests and abandoned Moorish castles in between winery tours and stay in Évora, a whitewashed town and UNESCO World Heritage site, at the Convento do Espinheiro, a luxurious five-star converted convent with a fabulous spa.
Add two days in Lisbon at the start or end of your trip and take a cruise down the Douro River (famed for its port wine) in a private traditional “rabelos” boat.
Go with: Cellar Tours (www.cellartours.com)Where to sip: Esporão (www.esporao.com); Herdade dos Coelheiros (www.sahc.pt)Where to stay: Convento do Espinheiro, Évora (www.conventodoespinheiro.com); Lapa Palace, Lisbon (www.lapapalace.com)
Napa and Sonoma, of course, have some of the world’s best luxury accommodations, landscapes, restaurants and artisanal foods, as well as famous large-scale wineries and hand-crafted, boutique vineyards.
Begin your journey in Napa, where you can choose from more than 230 nearby wineries to suit your precise taste and style. Stay at the spectacular Auberge du Soleil, overlooking the valley’s rolling vineyards. Dine at the famed French Laundry, one five Michelin three-starred restaurants in America. Next, head to Sonoma, where you can check out Davis Bynum, a Pinot Noir pioneer in the Russian River valley. The tour includes a walk through the permaculture garden and explanations of the winery’s organic farming practices.
Go with: Food and Wine Trails (www.foodandwinetrails.com)Where to sip: Opus One, Napa (www.opusonewinery.com); Davis Bynum, Sonoma (www.davisbynum.com)Where to stay:Auberge du Soleil, Napa (www.aubergedusoleil.com); Hotel Healdsburg, Sonoma (www.hotelhealdsburg.com)
When they hear the phrase “Italian wine vacation,” most people think Tuscany. Genevieve McCarthy of Cellar Tours thinks Piedmont, which produces Barolo and Barbaresco wines made from the Nebbiolo grape. “They’re inky, unctuous wines that need to age forever,” she said.
Aside from being the least touristy region in Italy, Piedmont’s food and wine are both spectacular. Time your visit to coincide with the famous fall truffle harvest. Visit Roagna, a charming, upscale family-owned winery, and stop at the Mossio winery, which produces a top Dolcetto—it offers a light, zippy contrast to the typically heavy wines of the region. Stay at the Relais San Maurizio, home to the luxurious Caudalie wine spa, where you can indulge in grape seed scrubs and wine baths. Or go cozy and comfortable at La Villa, a four-star hotel in Mombaruzzo.
Go with: Cellar Tours(www.cellartours.com)Where to sip: Roagna (www.roagna.com); Mossio (www.mossio.com)Where to stay: Relais San Maurizio (www.relaissanmaurizio.it); La Villa (www.lavillahotel.net)
Although Hungary has been famous for its Tokaji dessert wines since the 17th century, wine production suffered under the Iron Curtain. Not until 1991 was the wine industry privatized, spurring a flood of foreign investment. Today, Hungary is producing world-class wines.
Start with few days in Budapest, one of Europe’s grandest cities. Then venture to the Tokaj region, where you can explore the famous Chateau Megyer winery. Stay at the picturesque Lillafüred castle hotel, surrounded by hanging gardens and a waterfall. On your way back, stop in the town of Eger, characterized by its Turkish-influenced architecture.
Where to sip: Chateau Megyer, Sarospatak; Tibor Gál, Eger (www.kobrandwine.com)Where to stay: Four Seasons Gresham Palace (www.fourseasons.com/budapest); Hunguest Hotel Palota, Lillafüred (www.hunguesthotels.hu)
Serious wine aficionados can spend an unforgettable week in Burgundy, France, finely tuning their palates to appreciate the subtle differences between the grapes from this hill and the next one over. Clive Coates, a world-renowned wine critic, leads the master course, limited to no more than 10 participants. Every day the itinerary includes visits to prestigious regional domaines, tutored tastings with Coates and intimate dinners with winemakers.
At $8,700 for the week, the trip is highly personalized and exclusive. Tastings of some 200 Grand Cru and Première Cru wines and hard-to-find vintages alone are valued at more than $8,500.
Go with: X.O. Travel Consultants (www.xotravelconsultants.com)Where to sip: Domaine de la Vougeraie, Côte de Beaune (www.domainedelavougeraie.com); Clos des Lambrays, Côtes de Nuits (www.closdeslambrays.com)Where to stay: Hostellerie du Vieux Moulin, Bouilland (www.le-moulin-de-bouilland.com)