Category: Wine Tourism

Escape to Spring Mountain, Where Roots Run Deep In Napa Valley

Sunny Stony Hill Vineyards. Photo: Alexander Rubin.

Confessions: first, I’m usually drinking European wines, where dry farming is the law. And I’ve been pretty brutal to Napa Valley’s wine. The unholy alliance of high alcohol, high points, glamour marketing, and bombastic fruit profiles — the preferred drink of heavy-handed cologne wearers, whose senses are all but dead to the world — is the exact opposite of everything I’m looking for in a wine.

I’ve noted this strange correlation firsthand while working in wine retail. Often, drinkers and peddlers of bombastic, fruity wines are a suit-clad social elite, slathered in an ungodly amount of cologne, obsessed with how many points a wine scores. These are the sellers and consumers of what we’ll call Big Fruit: Amarone, pricey Super Tuscans, post-2000 vintage Bordeaux, and of course, pricey Napa Valley reds.

But not all Napa Valley reds are built alike.

Imagine my surprise upon discovering two producers, Smith-Madrone and Stony Hill,  who have been dry farming a corner of Napa Valley called Spring Mountain — an AVA that until 1993 (Click to Read more)

A Thrilling, Endangered Grape from the Stunning Mountains of Northern Greece

Vertical village (lower left) in the Zagori, nestled on a hillside. Image courtesy www.geozagori.gr

THE ZAGORI region of Greece has only very recently become a hot “alternative” tourist destination — in part since it became a UNESCO protected geopark in 2010.

The Zagori highlands, located within the Pindus mountain range in the larger Greek region of Epirus, are for the most part abandoned, shockingly steep, infertile lands.  As is the case with most of Greece, the Zagori’s beauty stems from its karst landscape; that is to say, a limestone landscape which has been eroded by groundwater.

Natural pools near Papingo, Vikos–Aoös Natural Park.

These karstic landscapes sculpt some of the most beautiful places on earth. (Click to Read more)

Lisbon’s Magical Blend of Youthfulness and Decay

Portugal’s wines must be the most undervalued in the world. While most of us can’t afford to buy aged wine in its prime, in Portugal, you can. You don’t need a cellar and 10 years’ patience; you just need a cheap flight to Lisbon, some AirBnB research, and an empty suitcase with enough wool socks for your bottles.

While every other wine region is struggling to fool folks into believing their wines are blessed with this generation’s buzzwords — freshness, acidity, unique indigenous grapes, and enough tannins to improve with age — Portugal actually delivers. It’s an irrefutable truth whose meaning sets in via your gums once you’ve tasted through your first dozen Portuguese wines. The wines call for food: they are crafted for them.

Even if the Portuguese have anointed a precious handful of crown jewels priced 200-900€ from the Douro — Barca Velha; Pera Manca; Quinta do Crasto; and of course aged ports — the insane value lies outside of these fleeting icons of national pride. (Click to Read more)