Do you love wine but are tired of traditional wine tastings? Bored of dry crackers, stiff stools at wine bars and snobbish sommeliers? Spice up the way you experience wine with the world’s top unusual experiences centered around fermented grapes. Chose from unusual pairing classes, fun-filled festivals, active sport-themed wine experiences and hands-on opportunities to be a winemaker for a day — even getting to harvest and blend your own wines. After these adventurous, offbeat and interactive experiences, you will never see wine the same again.
1) Hands-On Harvest (Santa Barbara, California)
Be a winemaker for a day with Bacara Crush, a hands-on California harvest experience where you work alongside winery staff, walking the vines, sorting grapes and assisting with punch downs. During this interactive tour, you’ll learn about wine making in an interactive and memorable manner — with plenty of tastings throughout. After a picnic in the vines, you’ll get a signed certificate listing the wine you helped produce. These half-day tours run September through November; for more information, click here.
2) Get Squirted With Wine (St. Augustine, Florida)
Celebrate the annual St. Augustine Spanish Wine Festival in one of the nation’s oldest cities on Florida’s Historic Coast. From September 10-13, attend the festival’s lavish wine-pairing Spanish dinners and tastings that culminate in the Grand Tasting with 120 wines to chose from. If you like what you try, you can learn the secrets of Spanish wine-making and cooking with classes from Spanish chefs and winemakers. The festival will end with the outrageous Batalla de Vinos, where 2000 participants will wear white and squirt each other with red wine. For more information, click here.
3) Drink Wine At An Ice Bar In The Frozen Tundra Of The Midwest (Kewaunee, Wisconsin)
If you prefer wine festivals at sub-zero temperatures, try touring the snow-covered Parallel 44 Vineyard & Winery. The winery shares the same latitude as the vineyards of Bordeaux and Tuscany, but the vines must withstand freezing temperatures. The husband and wife team have learned to create hardy grapes and you can visit the vineyard to taste their award-winning wines all year round. If you want to relate better to the frozen grapes, come to their annual winter wine fest, where you drink wine at an ice bar, listen to live music and sample vinos and gourmet foods in a heated tent. It’s the only festival of its kind in the Midwest. For more information, click here.
4) Take A Self-Guided Tour Of The World’s Wines With Wine On Tap (Boise, Idaho)
You will never have to worry about opening wine bottles at Bodovino in downtown Boise. This shop has the United States’ largest selection of wine on tap, with over 144 wines to chose from. Visitors can sample 1 oz, 3 oz and 5 oz pours and can bring home their favorites, as all bottles are available for purchase. Bodovino uses special dispensers that keep the wine fresh and ensure it’s served at the perfect temperature for an optimal tasting experience. It’s the perfect place to gather friends and create your own wine tasting. For more information click here.
5) Wine And Chile Tasting (Las Cruces, New Mexico)
Spice up your life with a wine-and-chili tasting in New Mexico’s Mesilla Valley, the heart of uber-popular Hatch green chile country. Join local cookbook author, Kelley Coffeen, for a wine-and-chili pairing class. You’ll try three red and three white wines with six different flavors of chili (red, green, chipotle, habanero, crushed red pepper and jalapeno) served as sauces and salsas on baguette slices. These classes are often hosted at the local La Postra restaurant (www.laposta-de-mesilla.com) in a historic village; however, private tastings are also available. The Las Cruces location is the perfect place for such an experience because it houses the Chile Pepper Institute, the world’s only international organization dedicated to researching chili peppers. Come during Labor Day weekend to celebrate the green chili harvest at the Hatch Chile Festival, just 40 minutes away. For more information click here.
6) Art And Wine Pairing (Las Vegas, Nevada)
Add a visual dimension to the joy of tasting wine with the Bellagio’s “Art & Wine: A Perfect Pairing.” Bellagio’s top wine and art experts team up the second Wednesday of every month for an entertaining and sophisticated evening of art and wine. The Bellagio’s Fine Art Manager chooses selections from the casino’s art gallery, which the Master Sommelier pairs with bottles from the cellar, based on colors, aromas, flavors or any sort of inspiration. After simultaneously experiencing the Bellagio’s incredible selection of wine and art, you will leave with a new perspective on both. For more information, click here.
7) Grape Stomping Or Candy-Wine Pairing (Roselle, Illinois)
When most people think of Oktoberfest, beer is the beverage that comes to mind; however, Lynfred aims to change that. This two-day celebration at an Illinois vineyard, just outside of Chicago, began over two decades ago and continues to be unforgettable. The Annual Oktoberfest & Pig Roast celebration will be held October 4 & 5, 2014. You’ll spend two days joining German sing-a-longs and competing in grape spitting, grape stomping and cork tossing contests. After you work up an appetite savor roasted pig served with warm German potato salad, grilled bratwurst, chili and roasted sweet corn. For dessert, try a taffy apple, apple strudel or German chocolate cake, all paired beautifully with Lynfred wine. If you’re in town earlier in October, take advantage of the vineyard’s candy pairing class. Halloween will never be the same until you’ve tasted Snickers with a Vin de City Red, Twix with Syrah, Candy Corn and Ice Wine, and Strawberry and Grape Nerds and Framboise Port. Find more information about the festival and all upcoming events and tastings here.
8) Wine Tasting In A Submarine (San Francisco, California)
Have you ever sipped wine in a submarine? Visit San Francisco’s Treasure Island — an old World War II naval base — for an unforgettable tasting experience at Sottomarino Winery. Parts of the former “Damage Control Wet Trainer” vessel have kept intact for an authentic atmosphere. The winery specializes in Italian varietals, which you can taste at the downstairs bar or go up to the deck for views of the Bay. For more information, click here.
9) Mapping The Tastebuds On Of Your Tongue… With Your Co-Workers (La Jolla, California)
Have you ever worked for a company that required employee retreats? You know the ones that should get you having fun and getting to know your co-workers but in reality, involve longer hours, more sitting and no plausible escape? Bring your business meeting (or bachelor party, or any small group for that matter) to Estancia La Jolla Resort in San Diego, California for a bonding experience you will never forget. Instead of a coffee break with stale scones or an ice cream social awkward enough to make you cringe at middle school memories, Estancia La Jolla can arrange a private class to loosen everyone up during break time. You could start with the informative Wine 101 or increase your employees’ perceptiveness with a Blind Tasting class. Another class will allow you to sample different foods and lit up different tastebuds on your tongue then challenge you to identify which activations happen with different wines. If you are willing to move beyond wine, get your employees’ creative juices flowing with a Mixology or Make Your Own Cocktail class. With activities like this, everyone will be counting the days until the next retreat. Click for more information about the hotel and wine bar. Guests can call 858.964.6516 to reserve a private class, tailored to your needs.
10) An Immersive Wine And Agriturismo Experience (Amalfi Coast, Italy)
Join Epicure & Culture and G-Adventures for their Amalfi Coast Local Living Tour, which weaves together wine and culinary culture with a local home stay and hikes through beautiful landscapes. You will reside in a 16th century former monastery farm stay and explore rolling hills filled with vineyards, olives and lemons. Some major highlights are learning how to cook Italy’s best dishes from a local, hiking the astonishing “Walk of the Gods” and discovering historic Pompeii, while drinking wine throughout your journey. This travel experience is designed to immerse you in how to drink and appreciate wines, as well as food, history and natural landscapes, like a local in one of Italy’s most beautiful areas. For more information, click here.
11) Wine Wind Down After Shark Cage Diving (Cape Town, South Africa)
Take advantage of some of South Africa’s most memorable attractions: swimming with sharks and savoring wines unique to South Africa. Africa Adventure Consultants can customize an experience for you where a morning of shark cage diving can be followed by lunch and an afternoon of wine tasting in one of the Western Cape wine areas – Constantia, Franschhoek, Stellenbosch or Paarl. You will start with a 5.5-hour tour that combines shark breaching and cave diving in one trip. Witness great white shark’s natural predation technique of breaching off Seal Island. After watching this from the boat, divers will be submerged into a cage for up to 30 minutes each. No prior experience is needed and all dive equipment is provided. After this Air Jaws Morning Trip and lunch, you’ll visit South Africa’s incredibly scenic winelands, where you can try the wines the area is most well-known for: a Chenin Blanc white and Pinotage, a red wine cross of Pinot Noir and Cinsault unique to South Africa. For more information, click here or e-mail Africa Adventures Consultants.
Don’t miss unique wine pairings with gelato and macarons in the Durbanville Wine Valley, a lesser-known South Africa wine region.
12) Wine And Chocolate Pairing (Adelaide Hills, Australia)
Head to the oldest surviving German settlement in Australia for a euphoric tasting experience of two of the world’s best treats: chocolate and wine. Hahndorf Hill Winery offers a ChocoVino experience has been included in CNN’s ‘Top 10 global adventures for chocoholics’, and it also ranks in the ‘Top 10 food and wine touring options’ of South Australia. You will take your taste buds on a pleasurable journey of discovery as you learn to appreciate gourmet chocolate and fine wine. They specialize in boutique, alternative wines which they pair with internationally acclaimed chocolate. You will learn how to taste and pair these treats. For more information, click here.
13) Bike Through Vineyards And Refresh Yourself With A Wine Bath- (Umbria, Italy)
Cycle through some of Italy’s most picturesque places and refresh yourself with drinking wine and relaxing with wine-inspired spa treatments. You will cycle through olive groves, quiet medieval towns, and vineyards of Sagrantino grapes before taking a break to taste local wines — like the spicy and intense Rubesco Riserva made from Sangiovese and Canaiolo, and Sagrantino di Montefalco, a high quality DOCG wine made from 100% Sagrantino grapes. Savor unforgettable meals at local restaurants and stay at Le Tre Vaselle, a five star hotel with a spa specializing in vinotherapy treatment. Grapes and their leaves have antioxidant properties, which can be enjoyed in a variety of ways. Try a luxurious wine bath, a purifying scrub with red vine leaves, massage with grape seed oil or cold wrap with wine. Find out more about DuVine Cycling + Adventure Company’s Umbria Bike Tour here and Le Tre Vaselle’s vinotheraphy spa treatments here.
14) Make Your Own Blend (Adelaide, Australia)
Australia’s Barossa Valley is filled with wine cellars and artisanal cheese makers. That being said, Penfolds Winery stands out as it gets you involved in creating your own wine to take home. You are invited to the Winemaker’s Laboratory to learn about the process of winemaking and to get to know the varietals to be used: Grenache, Shiraz and Mourvedre. You’ll then chose how to combine them in a personalized concoction, bringing home your own wine in a custom bottle. Find more information, click here.
15) Run and Taste Your Way Through 26 Miles of Vineyards- Bordeaux, France
Join Marathon Tours & Travel for a 26.2-mile run through 59 vineyards in the fabled villages of the Medoc region of Bordeaux, France. The Marathon du Medoc takes you through dozens of the areas best vineyards and chateaus, tasting wine along the way. To add another layer of fun to this jubilant race, each year has a different “theme” and the majority of entrants dress up accordingly. Find more information here or preview the shenanigans here.
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