1. NAPA VALLEY, CALIFORNIA
What's good in Napa? If the only thing you know about wine is that you love to drink it, then Napa is where you want to go. It's perfect for someone who's starting their wine education. Many wineries run daily tastings and tours, walking you through the entire process and flavour profiles in a very approachable way. The Culinary Institute of America has boot camps and courses for enthusiasts of all levels.
Winemakers to visit The Chandon caves are well worth the trip (and don't forget a glass of Étoile Champagne afterwards); Sterling enjoys sweeping views of the valley; Silverado Vineyards has top-notch wines, a stunning property, and an amazing film-poster collection (it was founded and owned by the Walt Disney's daughter). If you love cabernet sauvignon, be sure to check out these vineyards: Silver Oak, Corison, Scarecrow, Spottswoode, Bond and Inglenook.
If you need a break from drinking Stop off at Shed, a market and café in Healdsburg (part of Sonoma County), or get a massage at Charlie Palmer's Hotel Healdsburg and spend the afternoon lounging at the pool — you won't regret it. Also, if you like English muffins, put the Model Bakery on your list.
When is the best time to go? Since it's in California, is great all year round. But there's something truly special about the harvest season, which runs from late August to October. If you happen to be there over the summer, make sure to buy tickets for Auction Napa Valley, which is like the Super Bowl of wine events.
2. SAINT-ÉMILION, BORDEAUX, FRANCE
What's good in Bordeaux? Situated in southwest France, Bordeaux is one of the most historic and important wine regions in the world, and visits there should not be taken lightly. It's serious about wine, but that doesn't mean you need to be intimidated by it. Saint-Émilion, located on the eastern edge of the Bordeaux wine-growing region, is a particularly magical spot, full of stunning châteaux, wonderful food, and places to taste for both novices and connoisseurs alike.
Winemakers to visit Many of Saint-Émilion's most famous names do not open their doors to the public, but plenty of others will gladly do tours and tastings if you call ahead of time. Go to Château La Dominique (plan to stay for lunch on the rooftop), Château Villemaurine (take a tour of the miles of underground caves), and if you want a truly family-run experience, try Château de Sales Pomerol (which has been passed through the generations since 1464). Organise a visit to the wine school in Bordeaux (L'École du Vin) or in Saint-Émilion (Maison du Vin de Saint-Émilion), where you can acquaint yourself with the wines and discuss tasting notes and top vintages.
If you need a break from drinking Relax at the spa at Hôtel Grand Barrail(which offers hydromassage baths of grape juice and anti-stress massages with grapeseed oil); take a class with Françoise Lannoye at her cooking school, Château Ambe Tour Pourret; or head to the city of Bordeaux (which is a Unesco World Heritage site) for shopping, a cruise on the River Garonne and Michelin-starred dining.
When is the best time to go? The temperatures are generally mild throughout the year, but the spring and autumn are especially pleasant. One thing to keep in mind: the biggest international wine museum is set to open next spring in Bordeaux.
3. FRANCIACORTA, ITALY
What's good in Franciacorta? While prosecco is Italy's most famous sparkling wine, Franciacorta is regarded by many experts as the nation's best fizz producer. It is increasingly viewed as one of the top sparkling wines in the world. (Those claims are not unwarranted — they are beautifully balanced and elegant. And who doesn't love a good bubbly?)
If you need a break from drinking The northern Italian region gets more sunshine and warmth than Champagne, but makes its bubbly using the Champagne method. Along the Strada del Franciacorta (wine road), you'll find historic mansions and over 150 different wineries. The area, surrounded by a coliseum of stunning hills, is absolutely breathtaking at every turn.
When is the best time to go? Harvest season here usually happens in August and September, so that's an exciting time to visit. Plus, the temperatures are ideal then as well.
Lakeside image provided by Demetrius Fordham.
4. VALLE DE GUADALUPE, MEXICO
What's good in Valle de Guadalupe? Wine might not be the first beverage that comes to mind when you think of Mexico, but this largely untapped wine region along the north of Baja California is changing that. Right now, it makes a host of noteworthy red and white wines. Expect to taste full-bodied reds (cabernet sauvignon, malbec, tempranillo, zinfandel, etc.) with black-fruit flavours and a high alcohol content; the whites are typically very dry and a bit tart (sauvignon blanc, viognier and sémillon).
If you need a break from drinking Dine at Deckman's en el Mogor, where the chef Drew Deckman dishes up market-fresh, Baja seafood-based fare that is sure to impress. Or, stop at the popular Troika taco truck, where you can pick up tostadas, sliders and tacos with fresh octopus and crisped skinned lechón, or roasted suckling pig.
When is the best time to go? Situated just a few hours from San Diego, California, Valle de Guadalupe boasts beautiful weather no matter what the season (except for the late-summer months, when temperatures are regularly over 100 degrees).
What's good in Oregon? Portland is a very funky, but incredibly alluring, city. It has always been hub for the active types, as well as creative minds, and has also made its mark as a world-class culinary destination for chefs and wine lovers alike. Oregon is making a name for itself on the wine scene these days. Pinot noir is by far the most-planted grape in the state, and fittingly, its most-prized juice. Unlike some of the Californian and Australian pinots, Oregon pinots are subtle and not quite as alcoholic or sweet.
Winemakers to visit Stop by the SE Wine Collective, a wine bar and tasting room where you can sample produce (made onsite) from 10 different wineries. If you are in the Willamette Valley, try Domaine Drouhin, Lemelson Vineyards or Argyle.
If you need a break from drinking Head to Powell's City of Books, one of the largest bookshops in the world, for shelves and shelves of reading options (ranging from rare cookbooks to graphic novels). Or sober up with a Stumptown coffee at the ever-popularAce Hotel (which is also home to Clyde Common, a restaurant with an excellent cocktail list), then go shopping at Canoe, where you'll find plenty of local designs for purchase.
When is the best time to go? Harvest season tends to start in late September and lasts until early November. If you are not all that eager to see the picking in action, summer is quite majestic here.
6. FINGER LAKES, NEW YORK
What's good in the Finger Lakes? If you are looking for something off the beaten track, try the Finger Lakes wine region in upstate New York. You'll find world-class wines (riesling, in particular), unparalleled scenic views around the three lakes and a burgeoning food scene. This is one of the wine world's best-kept secrets and it won't remain this way for much longer.
Winemakers to visit Go to Dr Konstantin Frank (one of the region's most iconic labels), Ravines Wine Cellars (named one of Wine Spectator's top 100 wineries in the world), Hermann J Wiemer, Sheldrake Point Winery (situated right on the shores of Cayuga Lake) and Lamoreaux Landing Wine Cellars.
If you need a break from drinking Take in the area's rich history. Visit the Women's Rights National Historical Park in Seneca Falls, the birthplace of the women's rights movement. Alternatively, enjoy the region's stunning natural landmarks, including its 19 waterfalls and abundant hiking trails.
When is the best time to go? Plan a visit for summer (when temperatures linger at around 80 degrees) or early autumn, when the colours are beautiful.
7. HAWKES BAY, NEW ZEALAND
What's good in Hawkes Bay? If you like wine and working out too, Hawkes Bay is your spot. It is situated on the east coast of the North Island and offers award-winning wines and 22 miles of well-executed bike trails (Wineries Road) to cycle to and from the wineries.
If you need a break from drinking Take a hike or drive up Te Mata Peak for extraordinary views of the surrounding area, tour the city of Napier and admire its Art Deco architecture, or go snorkelling and diving in the Te Angiangi Marine Reserve.
When is the best time to go? This destination is sunny all year, so there is hardly a bad time to go. However, the harvest takes place in late May, and the wine festivals begin in January and February.