It is nearly impossible to choose my favorite wineries. It’s difficult enough for me to choose my favorite bikes, food, hotels… my travels have brought me to countless vineyards across the beautiful stretches of Europe, and all have impressed me. Now, with harvest season upon us, it feels like the proper moment to pick out a few of my favorites from the destinations I have visited. If you are a wine lover, or find yourself in any of these areas, assure you make time for a stop, or plan ahead with a visit on a bike tour.
Lynch Bages Winery
What’s better than spending a few days biking around Bordeaux, France through endless acres of vineyards from the Dordogne to the Gironde? Not much to be honest, but a great addition to the trip would be a stop at the famous Lynch Bages winery after a comprehensive visit to their historic cellars. This estate’s long-standing personality maintains a high standard of excellence, and a tasting here will yield you as much appreciation for the dedication and history of the estate as for the wine itself.
Cantine Vittorio Innocenti
One of my absolute favorite wine stops is a private visit to my friend and Tuscany winemaker Vittorio Innocenti’s cantina in the small, medieval town of Motefollonico. Family managed and maintained, the farm is beautifully kept and the cellar buildings date back to the 13th century. Vittorio entertains with his background as a philosopher and playwright, and the scenic landscapes are easy on the eyes as you enjoy Vino Nobile and Vin Santo in his garden overlooking the Chiana Valley.
Another Italian option, Gulfi Winery has forged a reputation as one of the finest Sicilian producers of Nero d’Avola. This hidden local winery is very young, but don’t let that discourage you! Regularly garlanded with Tre Bicchieri awards from the Gambero Rosso, Gulfi was named ´Winery of the Year´ by the Guide to the Best Italian wines of 2012. And, I’d be lying if I said the views from Gulfi winery didn’t take my breath away every time I return.
In Rioja, you can expect wine AND food at the Arabarte Winery. Guests enjoy a tasting of the large collection of wines (many prize-winning) while delighting in a meal that combines “the glamour and sophistication of French cuisine with the gastronomic tradition of Rioja.” What’s my favorite part of this location though? The produce used in meals is handpicked from their gardens, and again the views are spectacular! With Rioja increasingly touted as an up and coming wine destination, this is a visit you can’t miss.
Chateau de Pibarnon
Alright oenophiles, here’s one to remember: Chateau de Pibarnon in Provence, France. The vineyard has exceptional local soil and overlooks the Mediterranean, both factors that make the location ideal for growing, and gives Pibarnon has the advantage of being one of the best producers on the Mediterranean coast. You’ll get to know the mourvedre grape during your time here and develop your history knowledge with time spent in the medieval village of La Cadière d’Azur.
With that, I’ll be headed back to Europe to round up some wine following the harvest season, and a stop at these five will be a necessity. Expand your palate, refill your glass, and decide…which destination will yield you the best winery visit? Cheers!
Andy Levine is the President/Founder of DuVine Cycling + Adventure Co.