Top 10 wine spots, none in U.S.

I realize that, on the world stage, our homeland isn’t exactly the most popular place right now. Part of it stems from eight years of political buffoonery, and a healthy dose comes from traditional “old world” bias against the United States. Like most of us, I’ve learned to adjust for a touch of this when I read international news coverage. To a certain extent, I understand it … we’re more like France than we realize. But, it’s tough when our country doesn’t get the credit it deserves.

This is especially the case for wine.

In an article detailing the top 10 wine spots in the world, Forbes deemed none in the United States worthy of the list.

1. Castello Banfi, Tuscany, Italy: not an adventurous pick for the top spot
2. Montes, Colchagua Valley, Chile: trying to seem enlightened, succeeds
3. Ken Forrester, Stellenbosch, South Africa: see #2, with the same results
4. Fournier, Mendoza, Argentina: doubling up on South America in the top five? Trying too hard …
5. Leeuwin Estate, Margaret River, Australia: could call for the middle of the pack
6. Felton Road, Central Otago, New Zealand: again with the doubling up …
7. Bodegas Ysios, Rioja, Spain: classic location, should probably be higher
8. Quinta do Portal, Douro Valley, Portugal: this would have been more exciting at #3 or #4
9. Chateau Lynch-Bages, Bordeaux, France: obligatory, but at #9?
10. Peter Jakob Kuhn Oestrich, Rhein/Mosel, Germany: obviously added to the list out of a sense of obligation

And, where are we? No Sonoma? No Napa? Or, a break from the norm with Oregon?

The collection of wine destinations seems to a certain extent like a Little League awards banquet. No country is on the list twice, giving the impression that the reporter sought to dish out as many trophies as possible. The wide reach, of course, makes those absent even more evident.

As you can see, the list is more likely the result of a careful analysis of balancing out different regions and meeting reader expectations than it is a genuine reflection on the most interesting wine destinations in the world.

This is why I hate “listicles”: they have less to do with the content than they do with managing perception. Blech.

To relax or invest, vineyards worth a look

Take a beating in the stock market this year? There’s nothing quite like a dose of financial abuse to make you want to disappear to wine country for a week or two. While you’re out there, though, it may pay to turn your head back to investing, if only briefly. Lease or buy a vineyard-or just hide in a villa for a weeks-with a bit of help from BeautifulPlaces.

Sorry for the reality check, but this form of therapy isn’t cheap. The BeautifulPlaces properties are upscale, and the amenities are focused on the high net worth crowd. The Napa and Sonoma Valley properties range from Tuscan estates to Provencal cottages, from Carneros to Dry Creek Valley, CA. As these lavish settings would suggest, guests typically take advantage of the certified nannies, professional photographers and in-villa spa treatments that BeautifulPlaces can arrange. If you’re inclined, get a unique tour of the night sky with the help of an astronomer.

No, I’m not joking.

Of course, if you’re hitting Napa or Sonoma, wine is on your mind. Tours, tastings and custom wine blending experiences can be arranged. Even people like me have access to these activities, though. If you’re looking for something unique, spend some time with Master Sommelier Evan Goldstein. President and wine guru of Full Circle Wine Solutions, he’ll walk you through an intricate tasting day. This “day” may start months in advance, when Goldstein talks to you about your preferences-food and wine-as well as whether you collect (or, like me, just gulp right from the box glass). When you hit the ground, Goldstein will create wine and meal pairings you won’t soon forget, especially when you’re “cooking” meals in the microwave at home.

If all this isn’t enough, and you just have to buy a vineyard, BeautifulPlaces will put you in touch with Premier Pacific Vineyards. These guys invest in and develop vineyards along the west coast. For serious financial types, this is a great way to get a foot in the door.

Head out to California wine country, but be ready to drop a few bucks along the way. It’s probably worth it. After the way the markets have treated us this year, even the rich deserve a break.

Ride to Live, Live to Drink Wine

There are only a few things better than firing up the Harley Heritage Softtail (with a Springer front fork, rented this weekend) and heading out for a motorcycle ride through Napa and Sonoma Counties in now-sunny California, where I happen to be right now.

It’s the middle of the wine harvest, most of the tourists are gone, and the weather is perfect, so the locals head out to see the harvest in action. Although Napa only produces 4% of California’s wine by volume (according to the Napa Farm Bureau), it’s definitely the heart of the wine industry here, and accounts for 27% of it’s wine sales volume. The trees are just starting to turn and you can smell the sweet smell of grapes in the sun. Just don’t get squashed by the massive trucks hurtling by, carrying juicy grapes.

Places in America: Travelistic

I’m a bit of a video snob, but I love wine, so I was a bit conflicted watching this new video from the good folks at Travelistic. The video, part of a series called Places in America takes us on a tour of the Fess Parker winery in Northern California. We even get to meet Fess Parker himself, a one-time movie star (remember the black and white Daniel Boone?), though that aspect of who he is is not fleshed out in the vid (I had to google him).

Anyway, as I say, since I produce video stories for a living and am both a traditionalist and someone who enjoys a certain rawness, I both loved and hated this video.

Jerky camera movements are one thing, but when it seems like the cameraman is drinking wine while he’s filming, well, that’s too raw. And the rather weak acting scene here was kinda silly and distracting. That said, it’s a nice little piece of travel journalism that takes you to the winery and teaches you a little bit about running one. I give it a hesitant thumbs up.

Overall, though, the folks at Travelistic are dong some killer work, and urge you to go over there and browse their ever-growing selection of online travel vids.

Wine Boot Camp

Sir, that tastes like a Chardonnay grape, sir!

Chardonnay?! You don’t know a Pinot Grigio when it hits your worthless palate, scumbag? Now, drop and sip me twenty!

Or so the dialogue might go if you were to attend a session of Wine Boot Camp, a new twist on the age-old experience of wine tasting. Myself, I love a good wine, and I adore wine country, and if I have to bang out fifty push-ups to enjoy a superb vintage, well, I suppose I could do that. Of course, there are no push ups. Wine Boot Camp is merely the catchy name given to these intense 12-hour workshops offered several times a year in Napa.

Billed as “the ultimate fantasy experience for wine lovers”, the camp is not just about drinking vino, it’s also about learning how the stuff is made and the science behind the grape. “At the end of the day, people feel exhausted and empowered,” says founder and director Barbara Drady. Yeah, and what about drunk? Anyway, the camps go to many different vineyards in Napa, and I am pretty certain that by the end of the day, you will not only know a lot more about wine, but that your head will be spinning from all that happy sipping.