This may be the wine talking, but I really do love wine. That wasn’t always the case. I grew up in a home where my parents weren’t big wine drinkers. So my earliest memories of wine were in high school when somebody brought a bottle of Boone’s Farm Strawberry Hill to a party. I grew up in northern California, so I was aware of the Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino wine regions. My interest in wine grew as I began to travel outside of the Bay Area. As traveling foodies my husband and I developed an interest in wine and have tasted fine vintages all over the world.
Our wine journey began when we started visiting local wineries. Although Napa is quite popular, there are many other regions in northern California that produce excellent wine. One of our favorites is the Livermore Valley where we have spent many lovely afternoons sipping and enjoying the verdant beauty of the vineyards.
Wandering among the grapevines is a peaceful experience. September and October are especially good times to visit since the grapes are being harvested then and their wonderful aromas permeate the air.
Whenever we travel we always visit local wine regions and we have done that in Spain, France and Italy. Our first visit to a Spanish winery was during a trip to Mallorca where we spent an afternoon at La Bodega Santa Catarina, a 500 year old winery on the north coast of the island.
It was much more than wine tasting – we wandered among the vineyards and even toured the lavishly furnished villa on the property. Although it closed in 2017, we look forward to returning to Mallorca to visit other wineries.
During our last trip to Spain we went out to the Penedes wine region – an easy day trip from Barcelona, where we toured Torres, Jean Leon and the Freixenet Cava Caves.
At each winery we were given extensive tours of the vineyards, and the chance to observe the production process from harvest to bottling.
After each tour we were treated to liberal pours of several vintages – each accompanied by delicious tapas.
By the end of the day we were well educated, well fed and feeling no pain.
Wine has a way of bringing people together and breaking down barriers. Even if you begin tasting with strangers, by the second or third glass, it’s very likely that you will have made some connections.
Our Penedes Wine Region tour group included travelers from Japan and Nigeria. Even though the ladies from Japan spoke very little English, we communicated quite well – and have kept in touch on Facebook.
When we returned to Barcelona we found a wine shop in La Boqueria where there were many local wines to choose from.
The Napa wine scene has often been associated with pretentiousness and wine snobbery; and much of it is hype. Wine quality is not necessarily equal to price. A winemaker in Napa once informed us that in his opinion, no bottle of wine is worth more than $20. There are good wines at all price points. We have enjoyed delicious wines in Europe that only cost a few euros per glass.
We also enjoy attending local wine events like the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition that’s held every January. It is the largest wine competition in North America and there are thousands of attendees.
It’s a week-long event and wines are submitted from all over the country; more than 6,800. The public event is held at the Fort Mason Center and there are thousands of attendees. There are so many wines to taste that it’s difficult to know where to begin. Trust me, it’s not for the faint of heart – we had to train for this event. But at the end of the day, I was still standing.
In February we attended Black Vines ,in Oakland, California. It is an annual winter celebration of culture, art, and wine education that brings together Black artists, Black musicians, and Black winemakers and vintners.
We discovered some excellent wines, listened to good live music and enjoyed gourmet hors d’oeuvres. It was more than just a wine event, it felt more like a huge family reunion…..with really good wine.
Cruising is one of our favorite ways to travel. Sipping at sea is more than just fruity umbrella drinks or rum & coke. Cruise lines have made significant strides to step up their wine game. We spent some real quality time in the wine cellar on the Norwegian Bliss.
The center piece of the Celebrity Reflection main dining room is a floor to ceiling wine rack.
Needless to say, we have tasted some excellent wines at sea.
As someone once said, “Wine improves with age. The older I get, the better I like it.” Whether we’re traveling far, or just enjoying a staycation, wine is always on the menu.