Great wine tasting around the world part I: New Zealand, California, even India
I’m not a wine snob. But I have a decent knowledge of the stuff and I know what I like. Luckily, wine and travel go together like a cork and a bottle. With that in mind, here’s a purely personal look at some favourite spots for sipping around the globe.
1. New Zealand. An awesome food scene to go with remarkable wines in a country that feels like Canada but looks like California, Switzerland, Scotland and, at times, Tahiti mixed together. Marlborough is famous for crisp Sauvignon Blancs, and they make gorgeous reds up in Hawkes Bay. Central Otago makes probably the best, most consistent and full-bodied Pinot Noir in the world; with great fruit. There are something like 178 wineries in Central Otago alone these days, which is pretty crazy. I didn’t like Pinot much until I visited NZ a few years ago and now it’s my favourite summer wine. Chard Farm has a fun tasting room and an interesting drive along a steep canyon, while Rippon, near the town of Wanaka, has killer lake and mountain views (see photo above). This is a country with great seafood (yes, and also a bit of fresh lamb), spectacular scenery and marvellous people make this my favourite wine destination on the planet.2. Ontario. The food and wine scenes both are incredible. Try Ravine Vineyards, especially if
you can sit out on the patio. Great reds with plenty of body. Excellent Rieslings abound in Niagara and it's a hugely versatile food wine that goes great with pork and also with curry and Chinese/Thai dishes. And don't forget our world-class ice wine. Looking for something different in Ontario? Check out
the growing wine scene in Prince Edward County, about 90 minutes east of Toronto.
3. India. Okay, the wine’s not exactly incredible just yet, but there are some tasty varieties being made
in the north of India and the food has always been a world-beater. A truly exotic, off-the-beaten-path
destination for wine.
4. California. Napa and Sonoma are great, but nothing beats a Santa Maria-style grilled steak and a bottle
of Paso Robles Syrah. The Paso Robles area is growing increasingly
diverse and sophisticated by the day, and they do marvellous things with
Rhone blends. Santa Barbara (see photo at left of the lovely and fun Alma Rosa winery a few miles out of town) is a great area for Pinot Noir, as any fan
of the movie Sideways will attest. If you're in the East Bay area of San Francisco, check
out some of the great spots in the Livermore Valley, an underrated wine area with good prices and lots of great wines, especially Cabs and Chardonnay. Try Tamas or, for more of a touristy experience, Wente Bros.
5. Nova Scotia. The wine I’ve had isn’t amazing, but they grow some pretty good stuff in up around
Wolfville; lighter-style reds and some nice whites. Luckett’s was the best of the bunch I tried this summer. Excellent food can be found at several Wolfville restaurants, including Tempest and, they say, Le Caveau at Grand Pre Vineyards.
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THIS AND THAT
How about that Horizon Air attendant in the U.S. who apparently stole a guy's iPad? Isn't it bad enough they rob us blind with pillow fees and baggage fees? ... Interesting to see WestJet adding British Airways as a codeshare partner. It should help WestJet attract more business into Toronto, with connections to London. And vice versa for Brits coming to Canada, I'd think ... Mitt Romney is getting a lot of abuse for talking about how the windows can't open on airplane to help put out a fire. Regardless of the science, wouldn't it be cool if you stick your head out the window. I mean, aside from the lack of oxygen and the wind factor of a plane going 400 mph it'd be pretty cool to make like an Irish setter and take a look without having to peer through scratchy windows. I know it's a silly comment to make but the guy's gotta be whipped from a brutally long campaign. I had lunch with Romney and his assistant when I was covering Salt Lake's Olympic organizing commitee. And The Star's Rick Westhead and I had a Chinese dinner with him at a hotel in Moscow in 2001 during the run-up to the International Olympic Committee's vote on the site of the 2008 Summer Games. He's a very bright guy, but I'm still more of an Obama fan ...