[dropcap]While[/dropcap] honeymoons catering to food and wine lovers have been increasingly popular over the past decade, specific destinations appealing to those couples are readily familiar to most travelers – New York, Paris and Madrid, to name a few of the obvious. But, a table’s bounty awaits honeymooners in all sections of the globe.
Dining Down Under
Oceania was already a hot general tourism destination before global moviegoers traced hobbits to quiet, pastoral New Zealand. But while many travelers focus on sporting itineraries, Australia makes for a delicious oenophile honeymoon.
Outside Melbourne an hour by car, the Yarra Valley is a spectacular destination to stay or to visit on a wider itinerary. Lush, rolling green hills and misty forests accentuate the pristine environment. Here, more than 50 wineries dot the countryside, ranging from small family operations to well-known names such as Chateau Yering and Domain Chandon. Some of Australia’s finest pinot noir and sparkling wines are made here, among others. Explore and sample the wineries however suits you best – from self-guided tours to limo tours; and a sunrise hot air balloon excursion over the valley is most memorable. Dining is luxurious here, with the region also being famed for its dynamic produce. For a spectacular afternoon, consider packing a basket of local products and taking to the National Rhododendron Gardens for a picnic among lush flowers.
Other significant wine regions include Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale in the south and Margaret River and Swan Valley in Western Australia.
Into The Cape
Like Australia, South Africa has witnessed a notable increase in the popularity of its wine and food in recent years. And also like Australia, tourism has benefitted as a result and today South Africa draws as much interest in its fine dining as it does its famed veldt. Fortunately, ample elegant options for accommodations and fine dining in Cape Town, just a short distance from many of the nation’s leading wineries. Just 20 minutes from Cape Town, Constantia is a leading wine region with myriad offerings. The Route 62 wine trail has been called the longest wine route on earth with a host of wineries and vineyards along its winding path, and the Stellenbosch Wine Route and its famed JC Le Roux sparkling wine is the country’s oldest trail. Famed destinations include the 245-year-old Spier Wine Estate; the town of Robertson, home to the acclaimed Robertson Winery, winner of numerous international awards for its shiraz, sauvignon blanc and chardonnay varietals; the Wellington region, famed for its brandy; and Paarl, South Africa’s third oldest town and home to internationally renowned Nederburg Wine Estate, as well as numerous other premier brands.
Fine dining can be found throughout the Cape, but the nearby Franschhoek Wine Valley is considered the “gourmet capital of South Africa,” and is a terrific alternate to Cape Town for honeymooners’ stays.
At the veritable end of the world, Chile’s mid-southern region offers adventurous honeymooners with a taste for good wine and food an emerging destination rich in opportunities. Chilean wines, predominantly reds, are wildly popular today for quality and value. Primary wine destinations, easily accessible from the capital of Santiago, include Maipo Valley, San Antonio Valley, Cachapoal and Casablanca Valley. Hospitable wineries cheerfully greet visitors throughout, crafting tasting experiences thrust against the beautiful backdrop of the sea to the west and the mountains to the east. Chilean wines will present surprises to even veteran wine aficionados.
In culinary terms, Chile’s best features are an abundance of fresh produce from its green core and the bounty of the sea. But being a city of some five million people, many different cuisines are represented, and foodies will find countless opportunities to indulge themselves in Santiago. In addition to ample high caliber food and free-flowing local wine, there are beautiful accommodations in Santiago and more than a few city attractions to ensure a memorable stay at the far end of the world.
Of course, after France, the first destination many American think of when it comes to wine-driven travel is California wine country. And when it comes to the quintessential Sonoma Valley venue, that image is of Healdsburg.
Everything about the town and its immediate vicinity appeals to wine and food lovers. Numerous vineyards and wineries are within easy travel of the quaint, lush town and there are numerous tasting rooms surrounding the central town square. Terrific zinfandels, pinot noir from Porter Creek and the Petite Sirah from Froppiano’s are among wine treats. Pair those wines with top-notch dining as well, since Healdsburg is a foodie paradise with an emphasis on fresh California cuisine in numerous restaurants located in town as well as fresh local products available in shops.
Capping Healdsburg’s travel appeal is that it caters extensively to wedding parties and honeymooners who want to enjoy the best that wine country has to offer.
Island in the Stream
Mention Portugal to many travelers and their thoughts might turn to smoky red wines and, of course, the homeland of the world’s greatest port wines. But Pico Island in the Azores might be the nation’s premier destination for true aficionados.
With Mt. Pico towering over it, Pico is a beautiful, serene, lush island that might look like somewhere in the South Pacific. But the South Pacific doesn’t produce world-famous wines, nor is it home to UNESCO world patrimony designated vineyards – unlike Pico, which can make both claims.
There are a few wineries worth visiting. Here you will want to sample regional wines and table wines under the Terras de Lava, Frei Gigante and Basalto labels and Pico’s most famous libation, fortified verdelho wines (Lajido). Dining life revolves around informal and very friendly cafes and dining is simple but very fresh and regional. Informal also describes accommodations, although service is likely to be warm and personal.
From whale watching to water sports, Pico is a nature lover’s paradise. And when you witness sunset from Mt. Pico after a beautiful 2-3 hour hike, “paradise” will definitely come to mind. What more could one ask of a honeymoon?