7 Wineries to Visit for More Than Just the Wine
Looking to up your wine IQ? According to industry advocate group WineAmerica, American wineries welcome nearly 30 million visitors a year. Though California produces 90 percent of US wine, with Napa and Sonoma providing the flagship tasting experience, wine is now being produced across the US in even the unlikeliest of places, which means diverse experiences for wine-loving travelers. And though tasting is surely a top priority, the offerings at these seven wineries are sundry and distinct and sometimes even enjoyed by the entire family.
1. Island Grove Wine Company: Kissimmee, Florida
When you think Orlando, Mickey—not wine—likely comes to mind. But this sustainable winery (www.formosawinery.com) in Kissimmee, delivers a family-friendly, organic, eco-minded experience on top of its award-winning fruit wines. The two-story, 13,000-square-foot winery is surrounded by eight acres of botanical gardens and farms where they grow more than a dozen different fruit crops (lychee, anyone?), including the blueberries for their specialty blueberry wine. Tastings are very low-key, allowing you to sip as you mosey around the property. Hungry? Take a wander over to the Blue Grove Baking Company, which serves vegan and vegetarian options among its selection of flatbreads, sandwiches, salads, and home-baked goods. Check out seasonal events like Oktoberfest, a British Festival, and, of course, the Blueberry Festival.
2. Francis Ford Coppola Winery: Geyserville, California
(Courtesy Francis Ford Coppola Winery)
Francis Ford Coppola makes no apologies for the kitschy pleasures of his eponymous winery in Sonoma (www.francisfordcoppolawinery.c...). By design, this is a family destination. “The Godfather’s” production designer, Dean Tavoularis, styled the property after Copenhagen’s Tivoli Gardens, one of the oldest theme parks in the world. It includes two restaurants; a movie gallery of props, scripts, and other memorabilia; a family gaming pavilion fashioned after “The Godfather: Part II” with bocce courts, board game tables, live entertainment, and interactive events; and a groovy, reservations-only swimming pool with cabanas. Of course, if your focus is wine, there’s plenty of it. Private tours include a full journey of the grounds. Other options include the First Flight Tasting featuring limited production wines, a Sonoma Inclusive tasting of the entire region, and a behind-the-scenes peek at the state-of-the-art bottling facility.
3. Wolf Mountain Vineyards: Dahlonega, Georgia
Located on Wolf Mountain, this 10,000-square-foot winery (www.wolfmountainvineyards.com) sits 1800 feet above the fieldstone-encased cellar overlooking the foothills of the Southern Appalachian Mountains. The high elevation provides the vineyard with warm days and mild evenings, which give the grapes a long warm period to flower, set, and ripen, and helps explain the 200-plus medals its wines have won. Enjoy tastings of six bottlings with impeccable views of the vineyard and mountains, then grab a full glass and locally sourced bites from the café on the open-air veranda. A Sunday brunch changes monthly and includes a themed cuisine, live music, food and, of course, vino. Gourmet Winemaker Dinners are sporadically announced and include a Cellar Reception with appetizers, a three-course dinner, and paired wines.
4. Bendell Cellars: Cutchogue, New York
The Hamptons may boast celebrities, nightlife, and pristine beaches, but when it comes to wine, you’ll want to head to the North Fork, Long Island’s more laid-back coastline. Bedell Cellars (www.bendellcellars.com) sits in Cutchogue, a quiet town known for its stunning views of craggy cliffs overlooking the Long Island Sound and miles of bucolic farm land. Bedell, however, features 75 acres of vineyards. Tastings take place in the refurbished New England-style barn with a mahogany garden pavilion and intimate loft area with vaulted ceilings and fireplace. Elegant small plates are the draw at its seasonal restaurant, Noah’s. Book a group reservation for a sommelier-led tasting of both current and limited production wines or just walk in to customize an individual tasting. Local events include live music, wine and cheese parings with samples from New York City’s famed Murray’s Cheese, and even stargazing evenings organized by a local observatory, complete with telescopes. And wine specials.
5. Raffaldini Vineyards: Ronda, North Carolina
Nestled near the Yadkin Rover and Blue Ridge Mountains, this Tuscan-style villa and tasting room (www.raffaldini.com) sits at a 1200-foot elevation and is the centerpiece of the winery’s 40-plus acres that grow classic French and Italian varietals. Regular tastings are offered on a walk-in basis and include a commemorative Riedel glass. And because the National Wildlife Federation recognizes the vineyard as an official Certified Wildlife Habitat, you’ll want to join one of the moderate hikes with vintner Jay Raffaldini, which are offered on select Sundays throughout the year. Other events include the educational Afternoon in Tuscany, a two-hour wine experience with lunch, a guided tour of the property, and an outdoor concert. Various Italian festivals take place throughout the year.
6. Chateau Ste. Michelle: Woodinville, Washington
(Courtesy Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery)
Founded in the 1930s and producing European varietals since 1967, this Washington state winery (www.ste-michelle.com), which uses grapes grown in the eastern Columbia Valley, is lauded for its eight different styles of Riesling. The Woodinville-based namesake Chateau is surrounded by 105 wooded acres and located just outside Seattle, making it the perfect pit stop if not a destination. The new state-of-the-art visitors’ center lets you customize your afternoon. Try the daily Feature Flight of five reserve wines; a Champagne and bubbly literacy session with food pairings; a free half-hour tour of the property; and a personalized wine-blending session to create your very own bottle to take home. There’s a café with daily specials to fortify you while you’re there. And make sure to check out the lively calendar of events, including a summer concert series that supports over 400 local non-profits.
7. Domaine Serene: Dayton, Oregon
Producing award-winning Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from a 42-acre hillside estate, Domaine Serene is a classic example of the style of the Dundee Hills in the Willamette Valley in Oregon. In addition to a new winery dedicated to white wines and bubbly, the estate includes both a tasting room and a 30,000-square-foot Clubhouse. Inspired by a 15th century chateau in Burgundy, France, it offers a diverse lineup of wine-related experiences. The most luxurious contribution is the 45th Parallel Experience, a four-course wine and food pairing inside a lighted wine cave. Go behind the scenes with a guided tour of the winemaking facility or head off to tour the estate armed with a glass of Rose. A more formal and educational Prestige Tasting includes seasonal wine flights or you can just take in the valley views at the more casual Estate Tasting with light bites.
Hotel We Love: Hellenthal Lofts, Juneau, AK
About 1.5 million passengers come through Juneau’s cruise port each year, and while the compact, scenic seaside town is a stopover for many, it’s also an excellent destination for a longer stay, what with its vibrant dining and brewing scene, proximity to natural wonders and hiking (there’s over 250 miles of trails and only 42 miles of road in town), and all kinds of interesting historic remains of the booming Gold Rush era. One of those holdovers is the Hellenthal Building smack in the middle of downtown. It opened as a hotel in the summer of 2018 after extensive renovations and it's an affordable, comfortable and convenient lodging option if you plan to visit this scenic Alaskan capital city. THE STORY The building was constructed in 1916 by J.A. Hellenthal, a lawyer for a big mining company. It started out as offices then became a bank. An Art Deco-style theater was housed in an adjacent space. But the theater closed in 1971 after the building fell into disrepair. Christine Hess and Dale Whitney, who took a “left turn” from their legal careers, bought the rundown property in 2016 and after two years of planning and giving the space a complete overhaul, the boutique hotel opened in June 2018 with six airy, contemporary loft spaces, each individually designed and decorated with shrewd minimalism. The renovation, much of which Christine and Dale did themselves, preserves the building's infrastructure. Particularly impressive are the three wood beams, each made from a single Juneau-grown tree, that run across the length of the structure under the roof. They discovered this architectural marvel only after they ripped out the attic. Chris and her 80-year-old mother sanded and stained them themselves. THE QUARTERS Most units sleep six people, but the biggest, one of the lofts, features a queen bed, a pullout queen, and futon queen bed and can accommodate eight. Each of the units has an open floor plan, spacious closets, a washer and dryer, flat-screen televisions, and free wifi. They're all also equipped with a full-size kitchen complete with modern appliances, a roomy fridge, and all the cookware, flatware, and dishes you could hope for, so if you're on a budget, stocking up on food and having a few meals in would be a good idea. Just take note: grocery shopping requires a cab trip, as there are no markets within walking distance. THE NEIGHBORHOOD Three words: location, location, location. The building is smack in the middle of the bustling downtown, which is very compact. Restaurants, bars, galleries, a bookstore, and gift shops--not to mention the ocean--are virtually all right outside. THE FOOD There is not an affiliated eatery within the hotel, but Devil's Club Brewing Company is located next door in an adjoining space formerly occupied by the theater, so it's close enough. The lively brewpub with communal tables serves creative beers and pub grub with a global twist. Chris and Dale created a curated guide of their favorite nearby restaurants and bars with snapshot descriptions of each that they leave in each room alongside with a variety of Alaska-themed books. Consider it their personal recommendations. ALL THE REST The Hellenthal Lofts can be booked through Airbnb or by calling the hotel's office directly. It's self-check-in, though sometimes Chris and Dale will be there to welcome guests. RATES AND DEETS Starting at: $150 Hellenthal Lofts100 Franklin StreetJuneau, AK 99801(907)523-0703 // www.airbnb.com/room/24287288?s=51
We Dare You to Visit These Hauntingly Beautiful Montana Ghost Towns
Sure, you know Montana as the home of two of America's most famous national parks. But there's another side to Big Sky Country that's decidedly, well, haunting. Montana's history is largely based on the gold and silver deposits that lured miners here in the 1860s, hoping to strike it rich. Boomtowns sprang up providing the services they needed--lodging, saloons, schools, general stores, livery stables, and churches. And, for the troublemakers who couldn’t behave by the code of the West, there was a jail or two. This history remains frozen in time at many of Montana’s ghost towns where, thanks to preservation efforts, you can wander through the settlements. Some of the towns are still occupied, while others are abandoned, and, according to locals, ghosts of the past can occasionally be seen and felt moving about. Bannack (Donnie Sexton) When gold was discovered in Grasshopper Creek in 1862, the town of Bannack got its start as miners arrived hoping to strike it rich. Today, with over 50 buildings still standing, it is one of the best-preserved ghost towns in the US as well as a State Park. Town tours, living history weekends, ghost walks in October, and ice skating in winter make Bannack a year-round destination. Bannack Days, the third weekend in July, is a lively celebration of a bygone era, with demonstrations of pioneer life, reenactments, gold panning, music, wagon rides, and candle-making. Also, be on high alert: there's a likelihood of a stagecoach holdup by would-be robbers looking for the loot. Elkhorn (Donnie Sexton) Peter Wyes, a Swiss immigrant, discovered a vein of silver back in 1870 at what is now Elkhorn Ghost Town State Park. In its heyday, the town of Elkhorn was home to 2,500 people, many of them immigrant families. While there are many ramshackle buildings scattered about, Gillian Hall and Fraternity Hall are the town's showpieces. These wooden structures were the heart of the community where the locals gathered for dances, prize fights, graduations, and theater productions. Various fraternal groups, such as the Masons and Oddfellows, used the second floor of Fraternity Hall for their meetings. A cemetery tucked into the mountains is the resting place of many children who died from the diphtheria epidemic that ravaged the town between 1884 and 1889. Garnet (Donnie Sexton) Named for the semi-precious ruby stone found in the area, the town of Garnet sprung up in 1898, a year after gold was discovered in the Garnet Range by miner Sam Ritchey. The town haphazardly grew to 1,000 strong with four hotels, four general stores, two barber shops, a union hall, a school, a butcher shop, and 13 saloons, and numerous other businesses. Today, Garnet, which is located about 30 miles east of Missoula off Highway 200, is open year-round. Just keep in mind that winter access is only possible via snowmobiling or cross-country skiing. Granite (Donnie Sexton) The skeletal remains of Granite Ghost Town, at one time home to over 3,000 miners and their families, and business owners, sit above the delightful town of Philipsburg. The town got its start in 1872 when a prospector named Holland discovered silver. In its heyday, the Granite yielded $40 million worth of silver, making it the richest silver mine on earth. Bi-Metallic, a second mine in the area, yielded about $12 million worth of silver. But the town had its challenges. The soil was decomposed granite, which made it impossible to dig wells, so water had to be transported in. The mining came to a halt in 1893 when the demand for silver plunged. Nevada City (Donnie Sexton) With news of gold being found in Alder Gulch in 1863, the sister towns of Nevada City and Virginia City sprung up and would eventually swell to a population of 10,000 people. By the end of the first three seasons, about $30 million worth of gold was removed from the Gulch within the first three seasons. Throughout the 18th and 19th century, it is estimated that this area in Southwest Montana yielded $100 million worth of gold. Today Nevada City is an outdoor museum with over 100 buildings, and thousands of artifacts which tell the story of Montana’s early mining days. Entrance into the Nevada City Museum takes visitors through the Nevada City Music Hall, a colorful antique collection of automated music machines, many of which are still in working order. Virginia City (Donnie Sexton) Virginia City is both a ghost town and a lively summer destination, complete with historical accommodations, eateries, stagecoach tours, and theater productions. Every August, the Grand Victorian Ball is an occasion to dress up in period costume and parade across the boardwalks of Virginia City before heading to the dance hall to two step with the Virginia Reel, Spanish Waltz, and other period dances. Boot Hill Cemetery, overlooking the town of Virginia City, is the final resting place of five road agents, who were hanged by the Vigilantes on January 14, 1864. The criminals' notorious leader, Sheriff Henry Plummer, was both lawman and outlaw famously responsible for orchestrating the robberies of stage coaches. Pony (Donnie Sexton) Pony, set against the mountain backdrop of the Tobacco Root Mountains, is unique in that it's a ghost town as well as home to about 100 residents and the Pony Bar, the only place for miles to get a cold one. Like many of the ghost towns in southwest Montana, the discovery of gold led to its creation. From 1860 to 1870, it was home to over 5,000 people who settled in to strike it rich or provide the services to miners. The town’s name comes from one of these miners, Tecumseh Smith, who was nicknamed "Pony" because of his small stature. The most notable building in Pony is the twenty stamp mill constructed in stone. Virgelle (Donnie Sexton) The homestead-era town of Virgelle is located a short distance from the Missouri River in Central Montana. Two buildings remain, the Virgelle Mercantile and the Bank Building, owned by the town’s two residents. The Mercantile was built in 1912 by Virgil and Ella Blankenbaker, who had moved to Montana and settled in the area. The Mercantile was originally a general store serving the needs of local settlers, with upstairs used as boarding rooms for those working the spur line railroad that followed along the river. Today, the restored Mercantile is an antiques store on the first floor, with guest rooms upstairs. Six homesteader cabins, all from within a 40-mile radius of Virgelle, have been brought in for additional cozy accommodations.
Hotel We Love: Hotel Max, Seattle
Seattle was established as a city in 1851, yet chances are that when its history is written in 50 years, the most memorable chapter will be about when Howard Schultz opened his little coffee shop in Pike’s Place Market in 1971 and called it Starbucks. Or it will be about the 1990s when Seattle served as ground zero for the grunge music that defined Gen X. It’s the latter that takes center stage at Hotel Max, a creative downtown option that’s part boutique hotel and part shrine to the city’s indigenous sound and laidback vibe. THE STORY Hotel Max isn’t just in downtown Seattle, it is Seattle. At every turn there is something to remind you where you are, from the signed prototype of the Gibson bass guitar designed by Nirvana’s Krist Novoselic perched in the spacious lobby to local craft beer at the bar and served during happy hour to the 350-plus paintings and photos by area artists on display throughout the ten-floor hotel. Among that collection of photos are the images on the exterior of each room’s door. Each floor is dedicated to a single photographer’s work and perhaps the most notable of all is the collection of Charles Peterson’s shots on the fifth floor. Known for documenting legends, the photos here include dramatic concert shots of Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and more. But that’s only the start of the fifth floor’s story. Seattle’s seminal music label Sub Pop Records celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2013 and for the occasion, the hotel transformed the rooms on the floor as a tribute to them. Each room is now equipped with a record player and vinyl collection, a bathrobe styled as a grey hoodie, and cheeky references to the bands, like the do-not-disturb door tag that reads “Nevermind” and the hair dryer stored in a cloth bag labeled “Blow.” THE QUARTERS There are five different size options among the 163 spacious rooms, from minimalist option with a full-size bed to four increasingly bigger sizes, including one with a king-size bed and separate sitting space. They’re all designed in a neutral grey palate with pops of bright color throughout--the pillows, the throws, the bathroom walls--that evoke 1960s design. Local pride rings through in the exclusive Sub Pop television channel, which broadcasts the label’s current and vintage videos, and a mini fridge stocked with spirits made at the nearby Sun Liquor Distillery. Each room features a flat-screen TV, free Wi-Fi, and, like its sister property in Portland, Oregon, Hotel deLuxe, a clever “You Got It” button on the phone that connects you to the front desk for all requests—even whimsical ones, within reason. THE NEIGHBORHOOD The hotel sits smack in the middle of downtown Seattle, a notably walkable city. An array of local restaurants as well as familiar retailers—Nordstrom, Macy's, H&M—are located within blocks. It takes 15 minutes or less to walk to the famed Pike Place Market or the hip enclave of Belltown, and a little more than that to reach Capital Hill, a popular tourist destination for coffee-loving visitors, as it's home to the sweeping Starbucks Roastery, a veritable carnival of a coffee house with a food court–like setup and a huge roaster that attracts a picture-snapping crowd every few hours when it motors up. There's even a bar. Should you feel like venturing out to the beach or opt for public transportation to and from the airport, the hotel is a few blocks away from a Link light-rail station. THE FOOD A nine-foot-long custom-built, brass-accented grill anchors Miller’s Guild, the hotel’s restaurant that’s retrofitted into a space originally built in 1925 to house workers and craftspeople who worked at the Vance Lumber Company. Helmed by James Beard Award-winning chef Jason Wilson, the emphasis here is on local and nose-to-tail butchering of heritage breed livestock. The butcher block, in fact, is on full view. The menu features all kinds of wood-fired indulgences, like 75-day dry-aged beef, straight off the flames of the showcase grill. The drink list is just as engaging, with an extensive selection of local spirits and beer as well as cocktails aged in barrels perched behind the bar. A full breakfast menu is served here, too. There's also free locally roast coffee each morning in the lobby. ALL THE REST Two words: Happy hour. Each day between 5:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m., guests are treated to complimentary pints of local beer in the window-lined lobby, which is equipped with comfy furniture and board games. And dog-owners, take note: in accordance with classic Pacific Northwest lifestyle, the hotel is pet-friendly. Amenities for four-legged guests include everything from room service with eco-minded food choices, groomers, veterinarians, and a few more bourgeois services, like pet acupuncture and psychics. RATES & DEETS Starting at $125 Hotel Max 620 Stewart St. Seattle, WA 98101 (206) 728-6299 / hotelmaxseattle.com
Locals Know Best: Salt Lake City, Utah
Brad Wheeler is many things: a DJ at KUAA 99.9FM, a Salt Lake City radio station owned by Utah Arts Alliance, the program director and music director at the station, a blues musician who plays a mean harmonica and lists Willie Nelson and jazz saxophone legend Joe McQueen among the artists he's performed with, and teacher, estimating he's taught about 20,000 kids to play harmonica over the past few decades. Most of all, though, he's a die-hard lover of Salt Lake City, his hometown for decades. We checked in with him to get his recommendations on where to eat, shop, and listen to music, as well as where to go when you just wanna get outta dodge. Eat your heart out If there’s one thing Brad wants everyone to know, it’s that Utah has the greatest Mexican restaurant in the world, and not just for the food. “Ohio may have the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but we have the Red Iguana. More famous musicians have come through the doors there than I can tell you,” he says. The late Ramon Cardenas, whose parents founded the restaurant, is the Red Iguana's patron saint—and maybe Salt Lake’s music industry’s patron saint, too. As legend has it, his parents came from Mexico and opened the restaurant in 1985. While they ran it, he’d go out to concerts and if he liked the band, he’d pile them into his hot rod after the show and drive them over to the restaurant to chow. He placed ads all over the punk magazines. A cult classic was born. (Being featured on the Food Network's "Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives" only furthered the cause.) It’s so popular that when they opened a second one around the block in 2011, the lines were immediately just as long as the ones at the first. And its fans are so loyal, Brad says, that the day someone rammed his car into the restaurant, lines formed around the car. But that’s not the only spot Brad insists on taking out-of-town guests. Caputo’s Deli is high on the list, but the Italian deli foods here aren’t even half of the allure. The shop has what is said to be the largest collection of artisanal chocolate bars in the country—over 300 and counting. And if you’re planning to be in town for a while, sign up for one of the chocolate tasting classes. But wait—there’s more. It’s the only place in the country to have not one, but two cheese caves for aging. As proof of just how superior they are, Brad notes that Cristiano Creminelli—a superstar in Italy for his salami—pinpointed Salt Lake City as his homebase not simply because the pigs he found roaming in Spanish Fork, a nearby town, were perfect for his meat, but also because Caputo’s caves were an ideal aging facility. Paradise City for music lovers Let’s be very clear: the Heavy Metal Shop sells far more than just heavy metal vinyl and CDs. Brad proclaims owner Kevin Kirk one of rock and roll’s greatest fans, and he’s curated such an excellent selection that word’s out all over the world. In the early 1990s, Alice Cooper and members of the metal band Slayer were spotted wearing the store’s branded t-shirts on a television interview and magazine cover, respectively. Kurt was flooded with orders—via phone. (It was the early '90s, after all.) Now people around the world sport his t-shirts and hoodies and musicians like the Athens alt-country band Drive By Truckers swing through when they’re in town to shop and even perform quick acoustic sets. There’s also Randy’s Record Shop, one of the top four oldest record stores west of the Mississippi and another one of Brad’s go-to’s for excellent vinyl--both familiar and obscure. Keep an eye out for the monthly $1 sale. “It’s unreal,” Brad, who's known to his listeners as "Bad Brad," assures. That’s hardly the only reason Salt Lake City is a destination for music lovers. There are a number of options for anyone looking for live shows. Garage on Beck is a funky venue located in the middle of an oil refinery, just bear in mind: the concerts—which range from rock to jazz—tend to sell out and the parking lot is a very narrow stretch of land, so if you get there late, prepare to trek up to more than a mile from your car. When you arrive, though, you’ll be richly rewarded with the funeral potatoes, a deep-fried potato ordeal that involves jalapenos, cheddar cheese, bacon, scallions, and a corn flake crust. It’s a Mormon tradition gone off the deep end. For something a bit more low-key, but not much, there are three downtown clubs all within three blocks of one another, and Brad endorses them each for their own individual reasons. Metro Music Hall is a mid-size venue that hosts local and national acts, the Depot is a retrofitted old Union Pacific depot that now hosts mostly DJs and rock shows, and the Complex is, not surprisingly, a complex of several venues hosting marquee name musicians as well as sports events. Daytripping Music is so deeply woven into Brad’s sense of being that he measures drive times by CD lengths. Salt Lake City is two and a half CDs from the canyons and rock formations that distinguish Capital Reef National Park. The mighty Moab is three or four CDs, depending on how fast you drive, and Zion National Park is five or six. And they’re both must-sees while in Utah. “They’re places that change the way you look at the world—they change you from the outside in,” he says, still in wonder of the landscapes despite visiting them for decades. Chalk it up to the incredibly varied landscape. “One minute you’re in an Alpine forest, like something in Switzerland, then the next minute it’s like a scene out of Dr. Seuss. Or Mars." A bit closer to town is Snowbasin, a resort known for its 3,000 acres land, much of which is skiable. It’s actually, however, a year-round destination with swimming, concerts, tram rides, and alpine slides in the warmer months. Regardless of the weather, Brad recommends stopping off at the Shooting Star Saloon on your drive to the resort. It's the oldest bar west of the Mississippi and it proudly stays true to its vintage roots. You’ll find burgers cooked on electric griddles, a jukebox with vinyl records, and more. Those interested in older history should head about 30 minutes east for a day in Park City and explore its mining legacy. And if you’re if even older history is more your speed, the scene is pretty much primordial at the Bonneville Salt Flats. Tens of thousands of years ago it was a tremendous saline lake and today, with the water gone, it’s one of the flattest places on the planet, a fantasy playground for bicyclists, kiteboarders and hot rod drivers. (“On a clear day, you can see the curvature of the earth,” says Brad.) Not too far is Danger Cave, an archaeological site that Brad, who studied archeology, loves to recommend. Some of the oldest weavings in the world were found there. It all just adds to the mysterious glory of the place. “It just feels like you’re in a Fleetwood Mac video—you're just out there where there’s nothing,” he says. “It’s big and flat and all out there.” Pick up some sandwiches from Caputo’s and make a day of it.