These days, you’d be hard-pressed to find a decent resort anywhere that doesn’t offer at least a few nice wines. But as luxury travel becomes increasingly competitive, resorts keep upping the ante, presenting wine programs that would impress even the most discerning connoisseur, giving guests something to tell their friends about. “Today’s traveler is looking for a unique, memorable experience,” says Isaac Novoa, Food and Beverage Director at The Resort at Pedregal in Los Cabos, Mexico. “Something more than a stunning view and a nice glass of wine. Memories are created when we make an emotional connection with whatever we’re doing, so innovative wine programming hits home for modern travelers.” Below find a list of the most interesting wine offerings from resorts around the world.
On The Resort at Pedregal’s Champagne Terrace in Los Cabos, you can watch the sun set as waves crash against the tall rock formations and rise all the way to the railing, spritzing anyone who gets too close (they say it’s good luck, so get in there). The resort’s champagne sommelier will teach you everything you could ever hope to know about bubbly in half an hour. Choose from 22 champagnes and order a flight of three served with salts that enhance the taste (two from Hawaii and a pink one from the Himalayas). The terrace is part of one of the best restaurants in Mexico, El Farallon, so once you’re good and tipsy, wander over to your table, order the lobster, charred tomato with peanut sauce, and risotto with rocoto pepper.
Who doesn’t love a vending machine? It’s a throwback to youth, an instant gift dispenser, a beacon of light in a hotel corridor. But only the Ritz-Carlton would know how to make vending machines classy. In the lobbies of the Ritz-Carlton Resorts of Naples, Florida, you’ll find Moet & Chandon vending machines. Through the window, in lieu of peanut M&Ms and those weird cheese-cracker-and-peanut-butter sandwiches, you’ll see little bottles of Imperial Brut and Rose Imperial vintages. The machines don’t take regular money, but you can purchase magical coins at the front desk.
If you’re picky about wine, book your next vacation at The Little Nell in Aspen where the cellar holds 20,000 bottles. Book a private dinner and enter a cool speakeasy setting – the cellar is located under the hotel in the parking garage, and you’re only allowed in with an escort. Enjoy five courses (personalized, based on a conversation you’ll have with the executive chef and master sommelier) with premium wines, including Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, 1985, listed at $48,000. The cellar is lit with red lights and the music will be tailored to your preferences.
If you want one of the most astonishing views of your life, look no further than Renaissance Tuscany Il Ciocco Resort & Spa in Tuscany’s Serchio Valley. Sit by the pool or at the outdoor restaurant and you’ll see rolling green hills, windy roads, and charming villages. The food is incredible (ok, the food everywhere in Italy is incredible) and you can even take a pasta-making class with the chef, but the highlight of your stay will be a visit to the biodynamic winery down the road (the resort will arrange it for you). Podere Còncori provides more gorgeous views, a tour of the winery with some fascinating education in biodynamic wines, and then a multi-course lunch with pairings that will leave you with the best buzz of your life: without all those additives, wine just makes you happy. Period. Head back to the resort, hop in the pool, and enjoy another glass.
These days at Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea, twenty sommeliers roam the property, ready to stop and chat with guests about all things wine. If you book the Elite Suites, you’ll have access to a special wine program designed by world-famous wine expert Christian Navarro. The program is four-pronged: glassology (classes in how wine glasses affect taste), Meet the Somms (order a bottle and have it delivered and opened by an on-site sommelier who will teach you about decanting and whatever else you’re curious about), a private dinner with wine pairings, and visits to global wineries.
The Finger Lakes
Here’s an idea for your honeymoon: hit the Finger Lakes (a six-hour drive from New York City, Philadelphia, or DC) and book The Inn at Glenora Wine Cellars. You and your beloved will partake in behind-the-scenes cellar tours, cocktail-hour wine tastings, and a Wine Blending Ceremony during which you’ll create your own blend, symbolizing the mingling of your lives. You’ll also make your own label. Take the wine home or savor it together at the Wine Cellar Dining Room, where you’ll get a view of Seneca Lake and the vineyards.
Hyogo Prefecture, Japan
In the Hyogo Prefecture (number one sake-producing area of Japan), in the Setouchi Region of Japan, the Arima Hot Spring resort town is home to Tócen Goshoboh, the oldest inn in the valley. Hyogo Prefecture’s five sake-brewing villages, known as “The Purity of Nada,” are famous for having the highest quality water – important for sake brewing because sake is 80% water. Inn guests can visit Fukuju Brewery, learn about the differences between wine and sake (one key difference is that sake is best when it’s young) and choose a sake to bring back to the hotel to drink with dinner.
Diana Spechler is the author of the novels Who by Fire and Skinny, of the New York Times column Going Off, and of a forthcoming nonfiction book from Crown Publishing. Her work has appeared in GQ, Esquire, Afar, Travel & Leisure, Wall Street Journal, Saveur, Bon Appetit, and many other publications.