With so many breathtaking wine regions, burgeoning cocktail scenes, historic distilleries, and scenic beer trails seeming to multiply around the world, deciding on a travel destination can be challenging. This is even true for industry professionals.
VinePair reached out to 10 wine pros from around the country to find out which drinks destinations are on their bucket lists. Be prepared: Your wanderlust could go into overdrive.
“For me it is Reims, France. I am a huge fan of sparkling wines and would love to go to the classic Champagne houses there. It is a beautiful area and town by all accounts, and has to be a wonderful place to experience both the history and the future of winemaking.” — Lawrence Main, General Manager, Delphine, Los Angeles, CA
“It would definitely be Oaxaca, Mexico for mezcal. [There is] something about the culture (which is very unique, even within Mexico) and the spirit itself that really resonates with me. The wild agave plants that are harvested exhibit the unique complexities of the terroir, as well as the depth each species has to offer.” — Mohammad Rahman, Wine and Spirits Director, Kata Robata, Houston, TX
“One of the places that I have not been yet and is still on my bucket list for wine travel is the Azorean Islands, a Portuguese archipelago situated in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. On the island of Pico the vineyards are sheltered from the sea winds by black volcanic stone walls that are designated a World Heritage site.” — Jenelle Engleson, Sommelier and Assistant General Manager, Henley, Nashville, TN
“Currently, South Africa is at the top of my list. There are many interesting producers working with many different varietals and changing the face of South African wine right now, making a place with a long wine-making history feel new again. It also doesn’t hurt that the landscape is breathtakingly beautiful.” — Andrew Pattison, Wine Director, Sushi Note, Sherman Oaks, CA
“Okinawa prefecture in Japan is at the top of my list. Not only is the place ecologically spectacular, but the Okinawan Islands are where the Japanese produce the indigenous, distilled spirit awamori, made from indica rice. I am hoping to have a psychoactive experience tasting different examples of it while gallivanting from island to island.” — Leo Le, Sake Sommelier, Uchu, New York, NY
“Georgia, where there are some of the oldest winemaking traditions in the world. Sometimes you have to go to the region to taste some of its best wines because they don’t get exported. The country has started growing more traditional varietals, but some of their most important grapes are things we don’t typically hear of, including Ojaleshi, Mtsvane, Rkatsiteli, and Saperavi.” — Andrey Tolmachyov, Wine Director/Head Sommelier, Maude and Gwen Butcher Shop & Restaurant, Los Angeles, CA
“Considering myself a Negroni enthusiast, I would really like to see the Campari factory in Milan, Italy. There is a ton of rich history there and I’d love the opportunity to try samples.” — Zackariah Taylor, Wine Director, Gibsons Italia, Chicago, IL
“Frasca Food and Wine in Boulder. I’m ashamed to say I’ve yet to see Bobby Stuckey and his incredible team in action. All I hear about is how it is a true haven for wine and, more importantly, hospitality.” — Scott Woltz, Beverage and Wine Director, Quality Branded, NYC/Denver/Miami Beach, FL
“I think the road to heaven must proceed through Voiron, France, the home of Chartreuse liqueurs. I would love to tour the cellars and the monastery to literally sample centuries.” — Larry O’Brien, Master Sommelier, Kendall-Jackson Protagonist/Distinction, Jackson Family Wines
“Armenia. I worked with some of the wines during our One Fifth Mediterranean concept and was fascinated by the Voskeat and Areni Noir varietals. Winemaking in the region dates back at least 6,000 years, so to me it would be worth the trip just from a historical standpoint, but the wines are pretty amazing!” — Matthew Pridgen, Wine Director, Underbelly Hospitality, Houston, TX