Your group can unwind in style at these wine destinations.
In a country celebrated for its wine, France’s Burgundy region still manages to stand out. Burgundy is renowned not only for its wines but also for its history and cuisine; the area has more Michelin-starred restaurants than any other region in France, said Effie Palantzas, executive director of French Country Waterways, which provides canal cruises through some of France’s legendary wine regions.
Burgundy’s Côte-d’Or is the “Napa Valley of France” because the area, anchored by Dijon, is home to many well-known vineyards, Palantzas said. Burgundy’s popularity is why the company has three of its five ships based there, cruising the canals and waterways that crisscross the region.
“Burgundy really does have a little more notoriety, especially among wine lovers,” she said. “But the lower Burgundy is a little more off the beaten path.”
Passengers get to experience a private wine tasting in Chablis, a village known for its wines. The French wine industry enforces strict regulations, and only wine made from the chardonnay grapevines around the village may carry the “Chablis” name. Similarly, only sparkling white wine made in the Champagne region, where the company also offers cruises, may be called Champagne.
Wine plays a starring role during the cruises. Day excursions feature trips to prominent vineyards for tastings and tours, and the ship offers a white and a red wine with every meal.
Niagara-on-the-Lake and Twenty Valley, Ontario
People often think of Ontario, Canada, as cold and snowy, not realizing that the southern portion of the province is at the same longitude as southern Oregon. And the region’s climate is perfect for vineyards, said Magdalena Kaiser, director of public relations for Wine Country Ontario.
Ontario has about 150 wineries, and more than 80 of those are in the Niagara wine region, north of Niagara Falls. Niagara wine country runs from Niagara-on-the-Lake westward along the shore of Lake Ontario in an area known as Twenty Valley.
Three wineries pioneered the region’s wine industry beginning in the late 1970s: Château des Charmes, Reif Estate Winery and Inniskillin Wines. Though Château des Charmes and Reif are both still family owned and operated, Inniskillin and its sister company, Jackson-Triggs Estate Wines, are now part of Constellation Brands.
The region’s cool climate tends to produce wines that go well with food and that have a nice fruit expression and a slightly lower alcohol content, Kaiser said. Ontario has long been known for its icewine, a type of wine made from grapes that ripen during the summer, then are left to naturally freeze on the vine during the cool but not too cold winters. Icewine put the province on the map, but people are also discovering the region’s other offerings.
“People are slowly but surely discovering we can do great chardonnay, riesling and pinot noirs” Kaiser said.