The Top Ten Vineyards for Hiking
|Picture of Chacras de Coria, Mendoza, Argentina (Michael S. Levis/National Geographic/Getty)|
Hikers who like to partake in a glass of vino now and again have been known to carry a small stash in their daypack (think PlatyPreserve), sipping contently at an overlook as the sun begins its descent. But there’s a better way to marry your love of wine with your passion for the outdoors: by making a vineyard your next hiking destination. From Portugal’s Douro Valley to Oregon’s Dundee Hills, you’ll discover opportunities to satisfy your palate at a winery tasting room before or after your hiking boots get dirty. Wine regions are often situated among rolling hills that provide a challenging hike—complete with magnificent vistas of trellised vines, coastal fogs, and waterways from Lake Sonoma to Niagara Falls. These ten hikes deliver you straight to the vines and terroir (French speak for “soil”) that produce spectacular bottles of wine. Their distance varies, as does the difficulty of the terrain, but all give you easy access to wineries.
10. Willamette Valley, Oregon
Sokol Blosser Winery—the country’s first winery to receive LEED certification for its underground barrel cellar—hosts a three-mile moderately easy loop in its estate vineyard every summer weekend. The hike, which gains just 400 feet in elevation, comes complete with a catered picnic lunch and a sampling of locally made olive oils from neighboring Red Ridge Farms. At the start/end point of the loop, you’ll find a block of Pinot Noir grapes growing; Sokol Blosser was among the first in the state to plant these grapes—now an Oregon signature—and its supreme dedication to craft shows when you take your first swig of the red. Or, try a glass of Pinot Gris, Riesling dessert wine, or an offbeat white-wine blend called “Evolution.” While tastings are offered during the hike, the tasting room is open daily.
9. Stellenbosch, South Africa
This Western Cape region, known for its elegant white-wine varietals, boasts more wine awards per capita than any of the other 12 South African regions. The vineyards also take the guesswork out of finding the trailhead. Simply venture onto the Vineyard Hiking Trail, accessible near the Sugarbird Manor, to travel through olive groves, forests, and, of course, vineyards. Choose from three options for hike distance, with the longest at 8.8 miles (Mountain Route) and the shortest at two miles (Vintners’ Route). Wineries alon g the trail are pleased to open their doors to hikers, so be sure to bring plenty of water to counteract the wine. Stellenbosch’s Gewürztraminer, Roussanne, and Cap Classique White (sparkling wine) are must-try white-wine varietals.
8. Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada
One of nine sections of Canada’s longest continuous hiking trail—the Bruce Trail, at 550 milescrosses this Ontario wine region, celebrated for ice wines and late-harvest dessert wines, plus cold-weather varietals like Marechal Foch, Gamay Noir, and Vidal. It makes a great day trip from Toronto; two hours from the city and you’re on the trail. The Niagara section, perched in the west side of a deep gorge, runs from Queenston to Grimsby and passes several wineries along the way. Tourism really took off here in 2007 when hockey player Wayne Gretzky opened No. 99 Estates Winery, complete with an outdoor barbecue and televisions in the tasting room airing his best games. But the hiking trails aren’t nearly as crowded, with a mix of bicyclists and pedestrians enjoying them.
7. Woodinville, Washington
Wine critics call this area the next Oregon, with more and more wineries producing quality reds and whites. Actor Kyle MacLachlan, a.k.a. Orson on Desperate Housewives, is even in on the wine boom; he produces “Pursued by a Bear” Cabernet Sauvignon–based wine through Dunham Cellars in Walla Walla. Just a half-hour drive north of Seattle is the Woodinville region, where big-name wine producer Chateau Ste. Michelle (the state’s oldest winery) presides over lesser-known boutique wineries. Hop onto the Woodinville Valley Trail, an easy, paved half-mile trail with a pedestrian bridge that leads to Columbia Winery and Redhook Ale Brewery. It’s part of the King County regional trail system that stretches from downtown Seattle to the north end of Lake Washington. Access this particular section about 1.5 miles from downtown Woodinville in the Sammamish Valley.
6. Santa Barbara County, California
Sunny Santa Barbara isn’t just known for surfing; it’s also a prime hiking region, something that not all travelers (even savvy wine drinkers) realize. The southern portion of the 68,000-acre Dick Smith Wilderness Area, in the Los Padres National Forest, is a mere 12 miles southeast of Santa Barbara. Nearby Santa Ynez Valley is home to fantastic Syrah wines, which you can try in a number of wineries’ tasting rooms. But first, hop on the trail and work up a sweat via the Reyes Peak hike, a seven-mile loop to the peak’s 1,600-foot summit. The first few miles are relatively level, but the hike thereafter is challenging.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication