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Holiday Gifts for Wine Lovers: Wine Tours

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While the simplest gift for a wine lover is certainly a bottle of vino, going straight to the source is a truly unique experience--and since no one likes to travel alone, it can be a bit of a treat for someone the wine lover loves, too. It's a happy coincidence that the world's wine-growing regions are some of the world's most scenic, romantic spots, so planning a trip to any of them leaves you with plenty of options.

1) Bikes A-Go Go: An indulgent trip through the French countryside, feasting on foie gras and sampling from the various vineyards, won't have to show up on your waistline if you bike your way through the back roads.

Going with a Michelin guide and a map is certainly possible, but packaged tours make things much simpler, providing bikes for riders, vans for passengers (and the purely exhausted), and accommodations along the way. BikeSherpa offers week-long tours of Burgundy, from Mâcon to Beaune, with wine dinners and tastings in five different wine regions. On the higher end, Trek Travel offers a luxury tour of the Bordeaux region, staying in several famed luxury hotels, attending wine tasting school in St. Emilion, visiting the Caudalie spa (famed for its grape-based treatments), and dining at multi-starred Michelin restaurants.

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2) Going Off The Rails
: It may seem unbelievable that you can take a fantastic vacation in California without ever getting into a car, but The Napa Valley Wine Train manages to pull it off. The train offers different combinations of lunch and dinner experiences, taking you to and from downtown Napa, throughout the scenic countryside, and delivering guests to various luxury resorts and spas, via limo tours to different wineries for tastings. The luxuriously restored vintage rail cars are home to several lounges, dining rooms, and a kitchen car, where on-board chefs prepare gourmet meals in an open kitchen guests can observe--tasting all the while.


3) Luxe Life:
When Bonnie Brayham founded her bespoke travel company, she named it Purple Truffle because even though there's no such thing, if there was, she'd find it for her customers. Founded in Paris, the company runs amazing gastronomic experiences in France and Italy, with a special sensitivity for out-of-the-way restaurants, friendly locals who like to share their cuisine, and the particular quirks of each strongly defined regional identity. Consult with their experts to create your dream trip, from the white truffles and white wines of Piedmont to the cuisine of Emilia-Romagna and the most super of all super-Tuscan wines, and they can arrange whatever kind of experience you have in mind, from the rustic to the ultra-romantic--a 13th century palazzo for your accommodations, anyone?

4) Up By Your Bootstraps: The terraced vineyards of Switzerland's Lavaux region are a UNESCO World Heritage site, and in the summer, hiking the roads along the northern shore of Lake Geneva is made even more idyllic by stopping into the caves for a quick tasting. The Swiss have been growing wines here since the 11th century, and drinking most of them right here, paired with fresh fish straight out of the lake and fresh vegetable from the terrace gardens. The walk can be a fairly significant distance (there are thirty miles to cover) but trains run regularly from Geneva, making getting here a snap and drinking here a pleasure.


5) Get On The Road: A quick flight down south will get you to Argentina, where the wines of the Mendoza await you. The city of Mendoza is pleasant and well-equipped, but it's a full day of driving to see two or three vineyards, for which it's simplest to engage a taxi--your hotel can suggest an itinerary that makes sense for each day, or if you have particular favorites, it's a great way to get up close and personal with the growers, plenty of whom are still small producers and happy to greet guests. Many of the vineyards also have inns on their property, if you're looking for more of a resort vineyard experience, and you can enjoy the quaint accommodations and beautiful mountain views with a glass of the region's signature Malbec in your hand.

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