10 Wine Tasting Tours You Had No Idea You Could Book
Wine tasting tours are always in style. Whether you prefer bold cabernet sauvignons or oaky chardonnays, or even luscious dessert wines like ice wines and vintage ports, there’s a wine tasting experience just for you. You don't have to spend your vacation standing at tasting room bars. Get a little more adventurous. We’re talking wine tasting by helicopter, by kayak, or even on skis. Here are the wine tasting tours you had no idea you could book, but should pencil in now that you know.
Set sail with Tahoe Tastings on glistening Lake Tahoe aboard the 40-foot Golden Rose, a classic wooden boat that was re-imagined as a Venetian Water Taxi. Twice-daily cruises chart a course from South Lake Tahoe to magical Emerald Bay—but only after guests sample a sparkling wine from Napa-based winery, Domaine Carneros. Over the next two hours, enjoy seven more wines, each hand-selected from boutique wineries across Northern California. Cruises sail with no more than 16 passengers, allowing for a more intimate experience in which to explore the character and complexity of each pour.
Lace up your running shoes and prepare to criss-cross nearly 60 vineyards over 26.2 miles as part of Le Marathon des Châteaux du Médoc in Bordeaux, France. Each September, the race attracts more than 8,000 participants, the vast majority of which run in fairly elaborate costumes. At every mile expect a water station, but keep your ears perked for a volunteer asking your wine preference: red or white. It’s much more than a race. There are 20 music groups across the course, and even oysters at mile 23. Marathon Tours & Travel organizes five-day travel packages that include it as well as vineyard and chateau tours across the wine region.
Don’t want to wind through a vineyard on two feet? Try a Segway. In Canada, book a one-hour Niagara Winery Segway Tour to take in the scenic vineyards of Short Hills Bench at the Henry of Pelham Family Estate in Niagara-on-the-Lake, 14 miles downstream from the Falls. The guided tour begins with a 10-minute training session so guests feel comfortable up on two wheels (it’s easier than you might think) before venturing out into seemingly infinite rows of grape vines. Once back on terra firma, sample four wines ranging from refreshing ice wines to the estate’s signature Baco Noir, a medium body red wine made from a hybrid grape.
No need to let the first (or third) snowfall keep you from tasting wines across the region. In Michigan, strap on a pair of skis or snowshoes and make your way across snow-covered vineyards along the Traverse Wine Coast. A 7.5-mile groomed trail connects the 45 North Vineyard & Winery, near the village of Lake Leelanau, with Tandem Ciders, just north of Suttons Bay. Sign up for a self-guided cross-country ski “micro adventure” along the Leelanau Wine Trail with Grand Traverse Bike Tours in Suttons Bay that includes equipment rental, a hot lunch, and a glass of mulled wine at Shady Lane Cellars.
You’ll earn a glass of wine (or two) after navigating a kayak with Outdoor Odysseys, which wows with a three-day wine tasting and kayaking tour (pictured) that starts at San Juan Island, just off the coast of Washington. Keep your eyes open for wildlife such as harbor seals and eagles, then set up camp at Jones Island. In the evening, a gourmet meal awaits, as do healthy pours of thoughtfully paired wines from Bordeaux Cellars of Leavenworth, Washington. New to kayaking? Consider the 45-minute Paddle Your Glass Off Tour with Southeast Expeditions in Central Virginia that includes wine tastings and a tour of Chatham Vineyards on Church Creek.
Experience Oregon’s Wine Country from the vantage point of a helicopter, high in the sky, taking in the delightful scenery across the Willamette Valley. A five-hour wine country helicopter tour with Tour DeVine by Heli includes stops at three wineries of your choice, plus lunch. Up to six can ride together, and while this wine tasting tour costs more than the average tour (at $399 a person), an excursion that includes such dramatic (and Insta-worthy) views of the vineyards from 1,500 feet up certainly delivers more than the average tasting tour.
The well-known Napa Valley Wine Train in Northern California is a popular way to experience the wineries and landscapes across that region, but it’s not the only wine train worth a ride. Book a ticket on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad in Ohio for a two-hour wine tasting called the Grape Escape. Let the picturesque scenery of Cuyahoga Valley National Park roll by as you sample five or six wine selections along with tastefully prepared hors d’oeuvres. Changing excursions throughout the year present wines that pair perfectly with seasonal foods and dishes.
Burn off the calories before you even take a sip with a Hike & Wine Tour with Active Wine Adventures. Enjoy a half-day hike over rugged hills and across verdant forests, taking in breathtaking views of the Napa or Sonoma Valley in California with every step. You’ll hike four to six miles before settling in for lunch at a wine tasting room in-town or breaking for a picnic on the grounds of a family-owned wine estate. You’ll stop at scenic viewpoints along the way, enabling you to experience the world-famous wine country from the comfort of your hiking boots.
It's not well known outside the U.S. East Coast that more than 35 wineries lie within 30 miles of Charlottesville, where Thomas Jefferson built his famous plantation home. Explore the rolling countryside of the Monticello Wine Trail on one- to two-hour guided horseback rides by Indian Summer Guide Service. Settle into your saddle as you amble across pastoral meadows, flowing creeks, and row upon row of aromatic grape vines, pausing now and then to hitch your horse at the acclaimed wineries you pass. Indian Summer organizes guided rides to six different wineries, as well as a cidery.
Wine and wellness—they just go together. At least, that’s according to Morgan Perry, certified yoga instructor and founder of Yoga Unwined. She’s come up with what may be the perfect wine pairing for body and taste buds: Once or twice a month, she teams up with an area winery to conduct 60- to 90-minute yoga sessions that let you sip, pose, and leave feeling more mindful about both local wines and yoga. So clear your mind, get into a side plank, and raise your glass (for another pour). It’s available to the masses in Austin, Texas, and New York City. Namaste.