There has never been a better time to get into bubbles. Sommeliers almost universally love Champagne, and, across America, our collective thirst for Prosecco is growing at record speed. Sales of Prosecco are expected to surpass both rosé wine and “discounted Champagne” by 2020, according to Vinexpo CEO Guillaume Deglise.
This presents a compelling case to visit Italy’s Prosecco Road. Largely under the radar of most American travelers — for now! — this 25-mile stretch is situated about two hours north of Veneto.
“This area is akin to Sonoma twenty years ago,” travel writer Mark Ellwood declared in Conde Nast Traveler. Almost every inch of the narrow, meandering stretch, called La Strada del Prosecco in Italian, is surrounded by vines. Pedestrians and cyclists share passage with cars and Vespas as the road winds between Conegliano and Valdobbiadene, passing some 175 wineries along the way. Everyone is heading to a winery to drink Prosecco or a local restaurant to relax over a three-hour dinner.
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Wines along Prosecco Road span rare styles and ancient processes, quite different from the fruity, sweet Proseccos sold at American grocery stores. The sparkling wine made in this region is Prosecco Superiore, designated so because of Conegliano Valdobbiadene DOCG’s exceptional growing conditions. Select wineries in the area produce still Prosecco, a local specialty nearly impossible to find outside Italy.
Travelers can cover the area in a three-day trek, making Prosecco Road an ideal long weekend or side trip from Veneto. Our tips include where to go, how to get around, and, of course, what to drink.
Start at Gregoletto, a small, family-owned winery in Premaor that dates back to 1600. Make an advance appointment for a tasting and tour of the estate, including its ancient cellars and library decked out with works of art relating to oenology and viticulture. If it’s available, make sure you sample Gregoletto’s still Prosecco, made from Glera and bubble-free.
For lunch, Osteria dai Mazzeri in Follina serves locally sourced Venetian cuisine. Take a few minutes before or after your meal to visit the town’s Romanesque Abbey, and stroll around the 12th-century Cistercian church and its silent cloisters.
After lunch, head to BiancaVigna, one of the newer wineries in the region. Located in San Pietro di Feletto, with an appointment you can sample one of its 12 Proseccos, including the Dosaggio Zero Rive di Soligo, a bubbly with no sugars added after fermentation.
For dinner and your evening’s lodging, head to Hotel Locanda al Sole, a modern, 20-key hotel in Rua. The hotel’s restaurant menu changes daily and specializes in fresh and seasonal produce from the region. For a more romantic stay, the Maso di Villa country inn in Susegana has six rooms, complimentary Prosecco upon check-in, and homemade breakfasts.
In the morning, visit the Bellenda winery in the hamlet of Vittorio Veneto, and make sure your tasting includes “Cosi e” Col Fondo. Col Fondo means “with sediment.” The oldest style of Prosecco, this is how it was made before the second fermentation was done in tanks. The yeasts remain in the bottle, creating a Prosecco markedly different in taste from the modern norm.
From there, make your way to the Osteria senz’Oste for a picnic lunch. This old stone farmhouse has stellar meats, cheeses, bread, eggs, wines, and desserts, all available for purchase via honor system. Dine outside on tables overlooking the hills of the Cartizze, often referred to as the grand cru region of Conegliano Valdobbiadene. Or, follow the arrows that say Cartizze Prosecco Machine that lead you up a path to a Prosecco vending machine atop a high hill. You can purchase bottles of wine and a few snacks from the machine and enjoy them at one of the tables among the vines.
Since you’re in Italy, you owe it to yourself to make sure you get your fill of gelato. A regional favorite is the Gelaterita in Miane, a hidden gem for delicious gelato that uses local ingredients.
In the afternoon, visit the Caglieron Caves in Fregonia. These famous caves in the picturesque countryside are created from a series of caverns formed over centuries. Or, visit the extraordinary Cistercian Abbey of Santa Maria in Follina with its cloister, monastery, and Basilica of St. Maria.
End the evening in Valdobbiadene, located in the opposite end of the region. Locanda Sandi is known for such traditional fare as grilled meats, served with Villa Sandi wine. You can also spend the night there in one of its rooms and wake up to an Italian breakfast. Alternatively, stay the night at Il Follo Bed & Breakfast, a farm hotel with a terrace overlooking the region’s beautiful steep vineyards.
If you want to visit one more winery before you leave the Conegliano Valdobbiadene DOCG, go to Ruggeri in Valdobbiadene. You can’t go wrong trying any of Ruggeri’s wines, but make sure to sample the Vecchie Viti, which means “old vines.” Fewer than 5,000 bottles are made each year from hand-selected vines that are 80 to 100 years old.
Conegliano is 45 minutes by car or about an hour and a half by train from the Venice airport. If you need somewhere to stay before heading out, book a room at the Best Western Hotel Canon d’Oro in the historic town center. Erase the image of an American Best Western. This hotel is in a 16th-century building with a frescoed facade, located within the walls of the oldest part of the city. In the morning, the buffet breakfast has chocolate croissants, Nutella-filled tarts, cheese and cured meats, and coffees made to order.
There are several ways to get around the region. You can rent a car, bicycle, Vespa, or scooter. Or you can hire a noleggio con conducente (NCC), a rented driver, as a chauffeur — ideal if you want to do a lot of tasting at each winery. Some drivers, like Oriana Balliana and others at Chauffeur and Car, will recommend wineries and restaurants to visit, help make appointments, and point out places of interest along the way.