As the age of the Disney cruise ship and resort fades, two values dominate the desires of the modern traveler: direct experience and cultural authenticity.
These travelers are forgoing the artificial and pampered environment of past tourists for a more natural environment, valuing an experience on a single visit. Add to that another mainstream travel trend, that of the iPhone-wielding epicurean, and the appeal of the wine resort becomes crystal clear.
Indeed, the wine resort intersects with many modern travel preferences. Located inside or next to the vineyards, guests experience the mechanics of wine production up close; better yet, they taste it. By definition therefore, these resorts are located in areas off the beaten track, in an unspoilt hinterland where tourists rarely venture.
Here is a selection of the most interesting properties in the world in this emerging tourism trend. Stretching from the United States to Argentina, all of these resorts artfully merge modern luxury with rustic charm, balancing local authenticity with ornate opulence. And, of course, lots of vino.
Castle L’Hospitalet—Narbonne, France
Gérard Bertrand, a rugby player turned wine baron, revamped this charming resort last year. Fervent supporter of the culture of the vine in the respect of the environment, without pesticides, the aesthetics of the station reflects its ecological philosophy. Towering trees shade the grounds around a pretty chateau while a small pool by the dining room catches the Mediterranean sun. Beyond the green hills of Languedoc, the sea is easily visible from the vast vineyard. There are 41 well-equipped rooms on the 1,000 hectare site, including 28 suites.
Unlike the hustle and bustle of Cannes on the east coast of France’s grand southern coast, the Languedoc region, where Bertrand grew up, is one of unspoiled landscapes, friendly locals and medieval ruins (the Abbey of 11th century Fontfroide, where Ridley Scott shot his recent film, The last duel is a short drive away). Beyond wine tours, an on-site art gallery, spa, and yoga classes, the resort also just opened a small resort nearby with a shaded bar and restaurant.
Six Senses Douro Valley—Samodães, Portugal
The Douro Valley, at the sunny peak of Portugal, is one of the most underrated wine regions in the world. Port, a sweet red wine and the country’s most famous alcoholic export, dominates production there and the varieties used for it – Tinta Barroca, Tinto Cao, Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz and Touriga Franca – make up most of the vineyards.
This valley of green hills, fed by the Douro River, overlooked by the hotel, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site – it is the oldest demarcated wine region on earth. This 60-room oasis, famous for its design aesthetic, occupies a 19th-century mansion surrounded by vineyards. Like the spectacular neighboring city of Porto, the resort offers unpretentious style and luxury. With a beautiful spa, sunny pool, and unlimited wine, it’s a place of rejuvenation.
Meneghetti Wine Hotel & Winery – Istria, Croatia
Just opened in March, this 40-room, century-old stone boutique hotel is located in the westernmost region of Croatia, Istria, a predominantly Italian county. The Istrian peninsula on which it sits, which the Romans called magic land, has pristine beaches, which Meneghetti guests can enjoy at a private beach club. The new complex is a Relais & Châteaux property, a renowned French hotelier. Beyond vineyards and a cavernous wine cellar housed in a military hangar, the property produces award-winning olive oil.
Grace Cafayate—Province of Salta, Argentina
The province of Salta in Argentina’s mountainous northwest is like a mix between Arizona and Washington state, with high-altitude fern forests and a gaping cactus-pepper desert. The luxury hotel Grace Cafayate is in the Calchaquies Valley, which looks like a greener Sedona.
The resort, which features vineyards, a spa, a large swimming pool, a wine bar and a stunning restaurant, is part of “La Estancia de Cafayate”, a 1,360-acre estate popular with equestrian sports, all backed by sandy peaks. Wine is the largest industry in the valley, which at 5,500 feet above sea level receives little rain and plenty of sunshine; at night, the galaxies hypnotize. In the charming 19th-century town of Cafayate, many wine cellars are open for tours, with excellent hiking and horse-riding trails in the mountains.
Farmhouse Inn—Sonoma County, California
For a more intimate affair, there’s the refined rusticity of Sonoma’s famed Farmhouse Inn, a 25-room spot brimming with charm and luxury. There’s a pool and spa on-site, alongside a Michelin-starred farm-to-table restaurant (take the antelope tenderloin), but most of his time is spent in the myriad vineyards at -of the.
The award-winning inn, which sits on a wooded property dating back to 1872 and is now run by a brother and sister, partners with dozens of Sonoma County wineries and artisans for special tastings and tours reserved for hotel guests only. Drivers can be pre-booked or customers can choose to drive themselves in a Volvo SUV available on site. The rooms, with fireplaces, sliding doors and large cozy beds, combine rural charm and modern refinement.
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