The mention of wine tasting probably conjures up images of an indoor tasting room, a perfect row of glasses, and perhaps a scene from the 2004 film Sideways. Wine is always an adventure, but for oenophiles or those used to rosé all day, the typical taste experience can feel a little dull. In 2020, the market for wine tourism – also known as wine tourism – worldwide was estimated to be worth around US$8.7 billion. It took a big hit due to the pandemic, but is back on track for a speedy recovery…and then some. By 2030, it is estimated that wine tourism will reach around 30 billion US dollars.
With numbers growing exponentially, there is a need for a variety of hospitality experiences that incorporate tourists’ interest in wine with other activities. Wine producers are answering the call and offering guests once-in-a-lifetime experiences to make the occasion memorable. From culinary delights to adventures that will get your pulse racing, there is a unique experience for all wine drinkers to try.
Phil Hansell, Director of Hospitality at Robert Mondavi Winery in Napa Valley, CA is the perfect guide to help you navigate the world of wine tasting. Hansell and the entire team at Robert Mondavi constantly enjoy making sure every difficulty is taken into account when creating a unique guest experience. “[Robert Mondavi] was the master of the host,” he explains. “He and Margaret Mondavi were the hosts and they are no longer around. We want to offer something that is a bit in-depth, immersive and gives you a real sense of place and an experience.”
A perfect example of this is the popular Legacy Dinner. The idea is to immerse people in the soul of Napa Valley by giving them a wine and culinary experience they couldn’t get anywhere else. “This one-of-a-kind dinner will taste a variety of wines that no one outside the winemaking team has access to, as well as offerings from the current vintage to showcase and contrast the longevity and structures of the storied vineyard,” Hansell says. They take it a step further and try to keep dinner sourced in-house as much as possible. “Each wine is perfectly paired with innovative culinary creations many of which are sourced from the garden at Robert Mondavi Winery.”
Other types of experiences you can come up with when researching wineries around the world include underwater tastings, overnight stays in wine barrels, and yoga-infused events. And while participating in a unique tasting can seem intimidating to a novice or casual wine drinker, they can help ease new oenophiles into the world of tasting in a fun and stress-free way. “[It’s] an opportunity to bring someone into the fold, and maybe they will take the next step, says Hansell. “We start with wine and then we build around it, and what better way to build?”
Ahead, some of the most unique wine tasting experiences around the world that you’ll never forget, no matter how much you drink.
Phil Hansell has nothing but praise for executive chef Jeff Mosher and his legacy dinner. “He cooks where he makes the wine the star of the show,” he says. “Good wine, good food, and then the surroundings, the trifecta of the experience. It’s a triangle of pleasure.” The three-hour dinner combines rare selections of Robert Mondavi wines from the past five decades that celebrate “how storied and rich Kalon Vineyard is.”
The rare wines and garden-to-table dining, such as a recent pairing of the 2019 Red Blend and mushroom arancini with miso, make this an event not to be missed. “[That wine] goes beautifully with the subtle umami flavor from the miso and the earthiness of the mushrooms, says Hansell. “The crunchy exterior of the arancini is a counterpart to its rich center, which is refreshed by the rice vinegar in the aioli and creates a balanced yet decadent flavor profile that suits this delicious and deeply complex wine.” This dinner is by appointment only.
Spend the night in a vineyard in the famous Douro wine region…in a wine barrel. Quinta Da Pacheca’s vineyard is home to ten 270 square meter barrels that have been transformed into suites to provide the comfort, luxury and facilities of a traditional hotel. Open your barrel door and you will find yourself in the vines. Experiencing a night’s sleep in the vines allows guests to connect with the land and enhances their wine tasting experience.
Bodegas Monje gives a whole new meaning to “under the sea”. Embark on a wine tasting adventure in a submarine where you will taste the red volcanic wine that has been aged for months under the sea. After the submerged tasting, return to Bodegas Monje for lunch on the terrace and a comparative tasting between the underwater wine and the wine from the land. This exclusive tour is limited to a maximum of four people.
If you’re the type of person who likes to sweat before drinking, the E-Bike Tour & Tasting experience at Justin Vineyards & Winery is right up your alley. A guide will lead you on an electronic bike tour through the vineyards, sharing stories and the history of the property. As the E-Bike portion ends, guests are treated to a tour of Barrel Chai and an al fresco tasting on the castle’s patio.
Wine and wellness are an unusual combination, but Château de la Croix believes there is no better way to enjoy a reprieve from the hardships of recent years. The yoga session takes place in the vineyard to relax and unwind in nature. After the yoga session, the participants are treated to a unique wine tasting with a focus on the palate and awakened senses from the class. In 2023, Yoga & Wine Sessions will take place every Wednesday from June to September.