From California to Spain, learn about the land that produces the wines you love on guided hikes, snowshoeing treks and cycling tours
As you’ll learn on any winery tour, what’s in the bottle is all about what’s in the earth – so it makes sense to get out there and experience that terroir firsthand before diving into a glass. That desire to connect visitors to the land – coupled with the fact that most wineries are set in scenic locations – has led to many facilities offering outdoor activities designed to work more than your taste buds.
“Our hikes have become extremely popular with people looking for something new and different to up the ante on their tasting experiences,” says Alice Warnecke Sutro, founder, owner and winemaker at Sutro Wine Co. in Healdsburg, California. “Hiking the land with a sommelier is a hands-on way to gain wine knowledge and become intimate with our unique volcanic terroir. With the benefit of exercise and fresh air!”
Whether you’re not a big drinker but still want to accompany friends on a vineyard visit or want to pair your imbibing with something a bit more active, there’s something on this list for you. From snowshoeing through vineyards in Northern Michigan to cycling through Italy’s Prosecco country, here are seven ways to explore the land before you start sipping.
Sonoma Vineyard Hike at Jordan Winery
On the four-mile Sonoma Vineyard Hike at Jordan Winery, a sprawling 486-hectares estate marked with rolling hills in Sonoma County’s Alexander Valley, you’ll get to see the many ways this winery – which famously makes Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon – earned its farm-to-table stripes, as not just wine grapes but also olive oil, honey, fruits and vegetables are harvested on site. You’ll also learn about this history of the family-owned operation, which was established in the ’70s and is now on its second generation of Jordans. Post-hike, relax with a spread of wine and charcuterie (from seasoned Sonoma County winemaker Pete Seghesio’s Journeyman Meat Co.). Seasonal hikes start in April (the first ones are on April 22 and 23) and are US$110 (S$148) per person; tickets go on sale in early March.
After the first snow, Grand Traverse Bike Tours swaps out bicycle rentals for snowshoes – but still sticks to wineries in the Old Mission Peninsula and Leelanau Peninsula AVAs for its backdrop. (HGTV Trading Spaces star Carter Oosterhouse and actress-wife Amy Smart even have a winery here, Bonobo Winery.) On the Vine to Wine guided snowshoe tour, you’ll stop at three spots: Suttons Bay Ciders for cider; Ciccone Vineyard & Winery, for a sampling of the 16 grape varietals superstar Madonna’s parents began planting in 1995; and big Little Wines, for a taste of everything from a Riesling to a Pinot Noir sparkling cuveé, crafted by two brothers. You’ll also dig in to a hot catered lunch both on the Full Tour (8.8 kilometres) and the Point to Point (4.8 kilometres) options. Tours take place Saturdays at 11:45 am EST; rates are US$69 (S$93) per person, and reservations are required.
While it’s still cold in the northern hemisphere, bask in sunshine on VBT Bicycling Vacations’ seven-day Chile’s Coastal Vistas & Vineyards tour. Check off bucket-list vistas like Valparaiso’s seaside and cobblestoned streets and the penguins and sea lions of the offshore islands, then head to Casablanca Valley wine country, where you’ll shortcut through vineyards on what tour organisers call “easy terrain” that’s “ideal for beginner cyclists.” Chile’s flagship grape, Carménère, thrives here, and in addition to tastings, you’ll get the chance to create your own wine blend. Daily mileage clocks in anywhere from 18 to 55 kilometres (between one and four hours of cycling) and e-bikes are available upon request. Overnights are in top-notch hotels, including the 16-suite Hotel Casa Real, surrounded by vineyards. The all-inclusive tour will take place in February, March and April; rates start at US$3,695 (S$5,340) per person.
Owner-winemaker Alice Warnecke Sutro comes from a long line of architects who were also grape growers on a Sonoma County ranch. With Sutro Wine Co., she’s the first to make wine using those grapes. “I moved here to be an artist and secure my own connection to this land by making wine,” she says. “My art now is focused on architectural canvases.” After a 2.4 kilometre hike with Sutro through volcanic terroir – what she describes as “vine-covered Mayacama benchlands rising out the narrow Russian River corridor,” – you’ll retreat to a shady oak grove to taste three signature wines: the 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon, 2019 Merlot and 2020 Sauvignon Blanc. Guided hikes are US$45 (S$60) per person, and take place 10 am and 12:30 pm EST, Wednesday through Saturday. Reservations required.
WineTourism’s guided four-hour vineyard hike takes the scenic route to Pfitscher, a small, family-owned vineyard and winery in the storied Alto Adige region (among Italy’s smallest), where the 20-some grapes grown include Gewürztraminer, Grüner Veltliner and Pinot Grigio, all drawn from soil formed with the Alps. This blend of Mediterranean and Alpine climates means both fruit trees and snow-capped mountains are at home here. A member of the Pfistscher family will be your guide as you walk along a route lined with monuments and attractions such as the Caldivo Castle ruins and the Ora and Gleno waterfalls. Rest your feet post-hike while tasting four wines born out of Müller Thurgau, Pinot Bianco, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Nero and Lagrein grapes. Rates for a day hike and wine tasting start at approximately €80 (S$123) per person; reservations required.
Cycling through Prosecco vineyards in Veneto, Italy
On Tourissimo’s new seven-day Grappa and Prosecco bicycling tour of the Conegliano-Valdobbiadene Superiore Prosecco region (named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2019), you’ll pedal up and down steep, hilly terrain to really earn your glass of bubbly. With a sommelier as “captain,” each day’s itinerary will range from 43 to 61 kilometres. (Your New Year’s resolution could be to start training.) This includes traversing through Glera-grape vineyards and along “hogback” hills (steep slopes on each side of the route). The trip itself is far from rugged, though, as it also includes dinner at a Michelin-starred restaurant, tasting at a Grappa producer and two wineries, breaks over cappuccino and gelato and picnicking alongside a restored 17th-century water mill. Nights are at four- and five-star hotels like Hotel Villa Abbazia. The all-inclusive tour will take place June 12-18, 2022 and Sept. 19-25, 2022; rates start at US$4,695 (S$6,320) per person, based on double occupancy.
If you really want to feel immersed in the Penedès region – the denominación de origen where some of Spain’s best Cava is produced by small, family-owned organic wineries – this three-mile day hike led by Artoba Tours takes you directly through it on easy-to-moderate terrain. After pick-up by car in Barcelona, you’ll spend the morning trekking among the Penedès vineyards and then to Olèrdola, an abandoned medieval village that first introduced wine to Catalonia during the Iron Age. A picnic lunch folding in Cava and Catalonian cuisine is followed by tasting at a winery. Rates for the guided hike starts at approximately €200 (S$308) per person per person and includes lunch and wine tasting; reservations required.