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Friday, May 27, 2016

The Best Wine Regions for a Beach Holiday

Memorial Day weekend marks the beginning of the summer season.   Summer always makes me think of the beach, but it also makes me think of Vermentino, Rosé, Sancerre, Torrontes, Viognier and Albariño, along with light reds such as Frapatto and Pinot Noir.  Below are a list in alphabetic order of half a dozen vacation spots on five different continents that offer fantastic enticements for the beach lover, paired with a wine district <50 miles away.

                                     The Canaries' volcanic soils create some fabulous wines

Canary Islands, Spain
The Canaries have become immensely popular with Northern Europeans who come here by the planeloads to soak up the never-ending sunshine at seemingly never-ending beaches.  Located just off the coast of Africa, the Canaries were formed from underwater volcanoes millions of years ago.  Their volcanic soil makes for some of Spain’s most interesting white wines: appealing mineral notes from the soil and well-ripened fruit (think tropical fruits) from the abundance of sun.  Many wine experts are agreeing that the Canaries are making fascinating wines.  Check out the islands of Gran Canaria and the smaller Lanzarote; at both you’ll be surrounded by breathtaking beaches and vineyards.

Breathtaking inlets such as this are only a few minutes from Cassis.

Cassis, France
You may have not heard of this gem of a beach town as it doesn’t have the same panache as jet-setting St. Tropez, Cannes or Antibes.   While St. Tropez has bazillion Euro yachts, art galleries, and wannabes in skimpy bikinis, Cassis offers something much more majestic:  drop-dead gorgeous coves and beaches, along with one of the prettiest harbors you’ve ever seen.  While Americans flock to St Tropez, Europeans head to Cassis for an unspoiled view of French beach life.  The best part?  Two wine areas are within and easy reach.  One appellation, located in the hills just outside the village, makes lovely whites (Cassis A.O.C.).  The second area is Bandol, <30 minutes away where some rock star red wines are crafted.

              Views of Pebble Beach & its world-famous golf course can be seen in the distance                                            
Carmel-by-the-Sea, California
Many people don’t know that Carmel has one of the most magical beaches in the state.  (That’s because the storybook hamlet of Carmel is so ultra-charming that visitors never make it to the very end of the main street….regrettably, the beach is only a few blocks further downhill from the last of the village’s irresistible boutiques).   Many people, awe-struck by the beauty of Carmel, may not realize that they are also in close proximity of some terrific wineries.  Carmel Valley is an easy 20 minute trek where you will find several wineries (love Talbott) and some great restaurants (try Corkscrew Café for lunch).  However, if you don’t want to drive, many of the area’s wineries are opening up tasting rooms in the village of Carmel-by-the-Sea (don’t miss De la Tierra which offers good quality price ratio wines in an attractive tasting room).

                      Grape vines are only a few miles away on the Mornington Penninsula

Melborne, Australia
If you can possibly tear yourself away from Melbourne’s charming 19th century Victorian-laced downtown, then head to its beach area.  It was a no-brainer to put this dramatic coastline on the list.   Not far from this shoreline are two different wine districts.   My favorite is the Mornington Penninsula  which offers some of the most stunning beaches I’ve seen.  Try the award-winning wines of Paringa and Red Hill, the last of which offers jaw dropping vistas of the seashore.  The other wine district, Geelong, is also worth a jaunt.

                                                La dolce vita on Sardenia

Sardinia, Italy
One of my favorite summer varietals is Vermentino.   One of my favorite beach experiences of my entire life was at the magnifico hotel, Pitrizza ( on the island of Sardenia, where the best Vermentino’s in the world are produced   Developed by the Aga Kahn in the 1960’s and now owned by the Emir of Quatar (one of the world’s richest men), the place is the epitome of quiet elegance.  Located on the island’s “Emerald Coast,” it’s within driving distance of wineries (that is, if you can possibly tear yourself away from La Pitrizza.) 

                                    Viña is a little slice of Chilean paradiso on the sea

Viña del Mar, Chile
Referred to by Chileans as “Viña,” this several mile long beach area is located just outside of Valapariso, one of the country’s main cities (and only 100 miles from the capital of Santiago).  Immensely popular with South American beach lovers, Viña seems to have it all:  powdered-sugar-sand, delightful beach-side restaurants, gentle waves for families, and nightlife for every decade.   Oh yeah, the Casablanca wine district is nearby which means opportunities in this mecca for whites and cool weather reds.  Opt for tastings at Veramonte and Morandé, the latter of which has an upscale restaurant with a cutting edge chef.