Top wine destinations named

A leading wine publication, Wine Enthusiast, has revealed its Top 10 Wine Travel Destinations for this year, and many are real eye-openers.

It based the choices on international wine countries, extraordinary food and cultural points.

Italian locations could have taken up all 10 and then some, but possibly the rules of choice allowed one per country, and the winner was (cork-pop please)…Umbria!

Last year, Italy remained on top as the biggest exporter of wine to the U.S., with consumers paying up for better quality Italian wines than ever before, from Brunello to Barolo.

Umbria is Italy’s only land-locked region, surrounded by Tuscany, Marche and Lazio. Lots of rolling hills and green valleys paint a beautiful portrait of vineyards and olive trees.

Several well-preserved cities and towns beckon.  They include:  Orvieto, Assisi (home of the iconic Basilica of St. Francis) and Perugia, the district capital.  Montefalco is home to many of the well-known wineries that make wine from the native grape Sagrantino.

At the top of the winery list stands the Arnaldo Caprai estate.  It made Sagrantino what it is today, a powerful, highly structured, earthy, almost fiercely tannic wine.  Not to worry on the tannins as better winemaking techniques have balanced the grape for a unique and flavorful experience.

Another better-known wine destination in California is Sonoma County.  An hour north of San Francisco, and just west of the well-known Napa Valley, Sonoma is big, beautiful and known for Pinot Noir, Cabernet and Chardonnay. Zinfandel also does well in this cool, ocean-influenced wine country.

The town to visit is Healdsburg, with quaint B&B’s, many tasting rooms within walking distance and rustic restaurants with farm to table menus.  For wineries, concentrate on these wine AVA’s:  The Russian River Valley, Dry Creek and Alexander Valley.

Further north, another surprise destination was Walla Walla, Wash.  The town has come to model itself as the epicenter of Washington’s wine tourism.  One hundred twenty wineries call Walla Walla home and include some from northern Oregon.

This is another town that is packed with tasting rooms, better to compare than commuting around the nearby Blue Mountains to taste. Look for classic Bordeaux blends, Cabs and Merlots, and most recently, Syrahs are moving up in popularity. Red wines are dark and complex, the result of long, hot summers with 14 hours of daily sun from this most northern of all wine countries in the U.S.

Other fascinating wine countries named were:  Aegean Islands, Greece; Valle de Guadalupe, Baja Mexico; Hill Country, Texas; Mondoza, Argentina; Baden, Germany; Barossa Valley, Australia; and Languedoc, France.

Marchesi de Frescobaldi: From Tuscany to Vittorio’s

Marchesi de Frescobaldi is a Tuscan wine family dating back to the 1300’s now with nine estates and 2,500 acres. To taste a Frescobaldi wine is to taste the history of Florence, from the Middle Ages to the present day.

Vittorio’s: that Italian Family Style Trattoria in Carmel Valley, recently brought in Italian wine specialist Marcos Mazzau.  He chose the ultimate wines for each course served, from the 2012 Frescobaldi Vermentino with roasted vegetable salad, to the powerful Frescobaldi 2011 Tenuta Castiglione Supertuscan, a world-class blend of Cabernet, Merlot, Cab Franc and Sangiovese.  See for the next wine dinner.

Wine Bytes

Family Winemakers of California are holding their annual event at the PasadenaConvention Center March 9. Consumer tasting is 3:30 to 6 p.m.  Various levels of ticket options available starting at $60 pre-sale.  Purchase and details online at

Firefly Grill and Wine Bar in Encinitas is planning a wine dinner March 12 at 6:30 p.m., featuring Powell Mt. Cellars of Paso Robles.  Cost is $70 and held in partnership with Baker & Olive of Encinitas.  This is a four-course dinner with five wines.  Firefly has a new Bar & Lounge Tasting Menu from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. nightly featuring small plates and drink specials.  RSVP at (760) 635-1066.

Encinitas Wine Merchants has Frank Family Wines Napa Valley Tasting March 13 from 5 to 7 p.m. Taste Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Zins and Cabs. Details at (760) 407-4265.

PAON Restaurant and Wine Bar in Carlsbad is having a special Happy Hour with Patz and Hall wines from 5 to 7pm on Thurs. March 13.  Call 760-729-7377 for more.

Frank Mangio is a renowned wine connoisseur certified by Wine Spectator.  His columns can be viewed

He is one of the top wine commentators on the web.  Reach him



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