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Travel: Top 10 stops for the wine tourist

Monday - 4/28/2014, 7:48am  ET

Whether you’re a wine aficionado or an eager wine student, pack your bags and make sure to bring a corkscrew, because these far-flung locales have just the bottle of wine for you.

1. Napa Valley, Calif.

Napa Valley — home to some of the most charming cities in the U.S. — is also one of the world’s best wine-growing regions, with hundreds of wineries sprawling across the rolling hills. Wineries can occasionally feel a little touristy (it’s not uncommon to see a tour bus parked outside), but perhaps that’s inevitable in one of the world’s top wine-tasting destinations. The valley is actually divided into fourteen sub-regions, each suited to a particular grape, so you can map your tour based on your wine preferences.

Where to stay: If you’re daydreaming of a luxury stay in the heart of wine country — complete with impressive views, rustic-luxe charm, and lavish amenities — you can’t do much better than the Harvest Inn. Each guest receives a bottle of wine upon arrival, and many rooms overlook the neighboring vineyards of St. Helena.

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2. Tuscany, Italy

Consistently one of the world’s most popular destinations for the wine-inclined, Tuscany stuns visitors with its gorgeous undulating hills and picturesque villas. Visitors to the region can plan whole trips around a wine tour, even staying on-site at an operating winery to learn the ropes. But the Tuscan countryside is easily accessible from Florence for travelers only have time for a day trip. From Florence visitors can reach the towns of San Gimignano (known for its Vernaccia, one of Italy’s most important white wines),Montalcino (origin of the ever-popular Brunello), and Montepulciano (well-regarded for both its red Vino Nobile, or Noble Wine, and also its amazing dessert wine, Vin Santo). Of course, we cannot forget theChianti region, just south of Florence and north of Siena.

Where to stay: If you’re using Florence as your hub while visiting Tuscany’s best wineries, one of the most authentic stays is the Hotel Loggiato Dei Serviti. This 16th-century property features a distinguished facade, and an impressive history to match. Together with the famed Ospedale degli Innocenti building, it forms one of Florence’s most stunning Renaissance-era architectural complexes.

3. Loire Valley, France

Known as “The Valley of Kings,” France’s Loire Valley is famous for its lovely countryside, laden with picturesque chateaux, as well as its delicious wines. The region is France’s third-largest wine producing area, beat only by Languedoc, in the south of France, and Bordeaux, on the Atlantic coast. The wines produced here vary depending on where along the Loire River the winery is situated, but overall the region is known primarily for its white wines. Sauvignon blanc, Chenin blanc, and Muscadet are popular varieties from across the breadth of the valley. Located about two hours from Paris, the Loire Valley can, like Tuscany, be treated as an excursion for those on budgeted time, or it can be an entire vacation in itself.

Where to stay: With a sweeping private entrance surrounded by green lawns and an impressive fountain, the upscale Saint James– considered the only chateaux-hotel in the city – is a rare find. For a taste of country life in the City of Light, this 19th-century manor is a stunning choice.

4. Buenos Aire, Argentina

Though many opt for Mendoza, Argentina’s main wine-producing region, Buenos Aires offers a more centrally-located destination, and has great red wines to boot. There are plenty of options in the hip Buenos Aires neighborhood of Palermo to try a glass of the good stuff during your Argentinian visit.

Where to stay: A tranquil, minimalist vibe pervades the Awwa Suites & Spa in peaceful (and wine-friendly) Palermo. It’s a great pick for those who prefer a quiet location that’s nonetheless close to shopping, dining and nightlife.

5. Athens, Greece

Greek wine making has been revitalized in recent years as growers have begun to incorporate modern technology into their practices. The results have been a resurgence of the nation’s well-regarded, full-bodied wines. It is in the Sterea Ellada region of Greece, where Athens is located, that Dionysus supposedly first introduced Greeks to the wonders that is vino. Today, the region produces some of best red and white Greek varieties. The Greek isles — and Santorini in particular — are also known for top-notch wineries.

Where to stay: The historic Classical King George Palace is one of the most luxurious and exclusive properties in Athens. Everything about this hotel is chic — from the aviator-clad doormen to the gourmet restaurant with stunning views of the Acropolis.

6. Portland, Ore.

If you’re a fan of smoky and smooth Pinot Noirs, then Oregon is a must-stop on your world wine tour. Located about an hour’s drive outside of Portland, Willamette Valley produces some of the best wines in the state — that’s recently become quite the stateside destination. Many notable wineries hug Oregon’s Route 99W highway, making a visit easily accessible. If you can’t get out of the city, Portland (while it may be better known for its brews) offers some great opportunities to taste local wines. Wine cellars across the city boast popular local appellations and an educated group of local wine aficionados are sure to instruct visitors on all things pertaining to Oregon’s vintners.

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