Best Wine Destinations (and Wines!) for Spring
The balmy breezes of spring make us want to get out there and see the world more than ever, and some of our favorite destinations for relaxing, romantic weekend getaways happen to be beautiful wine regions. It got us thinking: What are the ideal spring wine country destinations? And, just as importantly if you share our taste for affordable reds and whites, what are some of spring's best bottlings and food-wine pairings?
I had an inspiring conversation with Ian Broome, a member of the Court of Master Sommeliers, certified Level ll with the Wine and Spirits Education Trust, and beverage manager at JW Marriot Starr Pass Resort & Spa in Tucson, Arizona, to get his expert tips about the best wines, and wine destinations, for spring.
Q: What U.S. wine regions are especially suited to spring travel?
A: They are all great in the spring! The scenery is beautiful as things green up, and it's an especially good time to meet the winemakers because there is not nearly as much work going on at the wineries as there will be later in the summer and especially the fall. The warmer regions, like Napa, Paso Robles, Arizona, and eastern Washington have lovely weather in the spring (in summer, the heat in those regions can be a bit oppressive). Cooler coastal climates, like Anderson Valley and the Sonoma Coast, on the other hand, are great summer destinations to get away from the summer heat.
Q: Are there wines you feel are particularly well-suited to spring weather?
A: Vinho Verde has a lower alcohol content and a slight effervescence, which make it a great wine to sip outside as you enjoy the return of warmer weather.
Q: Are there new bottlings in spring that should be enjoyed right away?
A: Affordable Spanish and Portuguese white wines, such as Rias Baixas, Rueda, and the Vinho Verdes from last vintage, should all be hitting the shelves and are best to drink when they are "young." These wines are all values and display good, crisp acidity, light fruit characteristics, and versatility in pairing with lighter fare, perfect for spring.
Q: What wine pairings are you especially fond of for spring produce like strawberries, ramps, asparagus, artichokes?
A: I lean toward Sauvignon Blanc this time of year; the fresh, sometimes vegetal characteristics pair well with the tangy, lively flavors that fresh spring produce brings to the table.
Confessions of a Singing Tour Guide
Jan Tervoort, known as “Amster Jan,” will lead you on a walking tour of Amsterdam and serenade you with traditional Dutch folk songs along the way. Here, his insider hints for visiting the uniquely gorgeous city. (Hpbfotos/Dreamstime)Q: What inspired you to become a singing tour guide? A: I fell in love with Amsterdam when I moved here 12 years ago and started giving tours to friends who were visiting, then decided to go professional. The city’s tourist industry is very competitive, so I needed something to stand out. I brought along my guitar and sang old folk songs. I’m still the only singing tour guide in the city. Q: What’s your best money-saving tip for the first-time visitor to Amsterdam? A: Contact me at Amsterjan.nl. Start with a general tour of the city. A two-hour tour costs 100 euros, but the tips and advice you will get in the two hours will help you save time and money the rest of the trip. Q: I’ll bet you get asked a lot of interesting questions on tours. A: One family brought their 89-year-old grandma in a wheelchair to the old Amsterdam neighborhood where she was born. They brought along a very old picture of the house where she was born, and for some reason she didn’t know the address. From clues in the picture, we went for a search through the neighborhood and found the place. It was very interesting and emotional. Q: What’s your number-one Amsterdam secret that you’re willing to share? (Frank Cornelissen/Dreamstime)A: Visit the Western Islands, created in the 17th century for the shipping industry. Tourists haven’t discovered them yet. They’re in the center of Amsterdam close to central station, the busiest part of the city, but on the islands it is totally quiet. There is almost no traffic, beautiful old storehouses, little old wooden walking bridges, a little children’s farm, nice canals, a local bar, and no shops. You’d actually feel as if you’re going back in time if it weren’t for the big yellow submarine that rests in the central canal. Q: What’s the weirdest encounter you’ve had on a tour? (Hpbfotos/Dreamstime)A: In the posh neighborhood of Jordaan, I was telling a tour group about one of Holland’s most famous gangsters, and the gangster in question actually pulled up on a scooter to say hi. Everyone went silent, then began to laugh. The man is currently in jail, charged with several murders.
Dumb Things Tourists Did This Week
This has been a banner week for stupid tourist stunts, and we're calling them out. From putting a wild animal into a hatchback to defacing precious natural wonders, here's what the unenlightened have been up to in some of our favorite places to visit: 1. Two tourists in Yellowstone National Park put a baby bison in the back of their SUV because it "looked cold." What more can we even say about this? Not kidnapping wildlife to "rescue" it because you think you know more than Yellowstone park rangers would be a good start. It's not only dangerous; it's illegal. Adding to the ignorance, the high was 50 degrees that day. Not exactly an icy tundra. Because of these two geniuses, the baby bison later died. The Washington Post reported: “Park rangers tried repeatedly to reunite the newborn bison calf with the herd. These efforts failed. The bison calf was later euthanized because it was abandoned and causing a dangerous situation by continually approaching people and cars along the roadway.” 2. Vanessa Hudgens agreed to pay a $1,000 fine for carving a heart into a red rock wall in Sedona, Arizona—and then Instagramming it. Frankly, we expected more of actress Hudgens, who seems like a nice young woman. What makes the defacing more obnoxious is the heart contained the names "Vanessa" and "Austin"—a.k.a. Hudgens and her boyfriend, actor Austin Butler. There are no real winners here except Hudgens's Instagram followers, who alerted the media, causing the authorities to get involved. They issued her a citation for "a misdemeanor count of damaging a natural feature on U.S. Forest Service land," according to the Associated Press, hence the fine of $1K. Good on ya, Vanessa fans. 3. A dude in Portugal smashed a 126-year-old statue after climbing it...to take a selfie. We're shaking our heads right now. Which is more than we can say for poor Dom Sebastiao, a 16th-century king of Portugal, whose statue was smashed to pieces when a tourist allegedly tried to scale it and snap a photo, Artnet News reported. The statue is in Lisbon's Rossio train station, and the suspect "attempted to flee." Big surprise. Check out the pre-smashing and post-smashing photos here. They will make you very sad. We won't speculate on whether a selfie stick was used, but let's just all agree not to use selfie sticks while we're around priceless artwork...or maybe ever.
Baker City, Oregon, Is in the Lead in Our Coolest Small Town in America Contest
We love the way Baker City, Oregon, has jumped to the head of our Coolest Small Towns contest. Of course, there are weeks remaining until our 11th annual Coolest Small Town in America contest closes (at 11:59 p.m. on June 6), but we're impressed that Baker City (bordered by the Elkhorn and Wallowa mountains in northeast Oregon at the intersection of three Oregon Scenic Byways) has grabbed more than 40 percent of all votes so far to take a commanding lead. Right behind Baker City in early voting, Sykesville, Maryland, has gotten our attention with more than 27 percent of all votes. But we're eager to see how each of our 15 finalists fares in their quest to take the title of coolest. Check out all 15 finalists and vote for your favorite HERE.
Prepare to Binge on Budget Travel's Addictive Coast-to-Coast Video Series!
My name is Robert and I am addicted to Budget Travel's Coast-to-Coast by Word of Mouth video series. I honestly thought I was immune. After all, I'm the editor in chief who greenlighted the crazy coast-to-coast concept: Our photo editor, Whitney Tressel, would drive from Los Angeles to Charleston, sans GPS, sans guidebooks, following only the advice of locals she met along the way; Whitney would shoot video and still photography and deliver dispatches from the road, which our senior, Jamie Beckman, turned into fun blog posts, a huge feature, and a pleasantly endless slideshow. But I'm not immune to binging on this incredible video series. From the moment Whitney hits the Pacific Coast Highway in Los Angeles to her final sunset in South Carolina, these short films keep me watching and smiling. And I'm not the only one: The great travel tips, amazing food, and friendly faces of Whitney's informal "tour guides" earned Coast-to-Coast by Word of Mouth a nomination for MIN's Best of the Web award for multi-media feature. To watch our Coast-to-Coast by Word of Mouth preview and episodes 1 through 4, visit Budget Travel's video collection (where you'll also find incredible "day-in-the-life" footage of Cuba, Antigua, Miami, Berlin, Bangkok, and more).