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It wasn’t that long ago that wine aficionados were often mocked in this country. They were considered uppity and weird. It was an evocation that was for pretentious snobs who used words like “velvety,” “fruity” and “robust” (maybe said with a rolling of the “r”). One got the feeling that these wine experts really wanted to be in Europe instead of the U.S. — but that Europeans probably didn’t want them.
These days, everyone seems to know something about wine. Before, when you wanted a good bottle of wine, you had the choice between one French vineyard or another French vineyard. Now, I can go to my corner store and find a dozen different malbecs from Argentina, syrahs from Australia or tempranillos from Spain. Wine knowledge isn’t just mainstream; it’s mandatory.
Naturally, along with this growth in education and consumption comes an interest in visiting the places where wine is produced. In this issue’s cover story, “On Cloud Wine” (page 14), we look at a few of the top wine tourism destinations — places where visitors will not just sip great varietals, but where they can also immerse themselves in the laid-back, culinary-focused culture that is typical of many wine regions.
It’s really a combination of local food, good wine and an easygoing attitude that draws most tourists to wine country. After all, vineyards tend to be located in places that have great weather, farm-fresh food and the kind of people who value the simple joys in life. I have a true respect for the tourism visionaries who realized that the lifestyle and ambiance of these communities are something that people all over the world would want to experience — I’m sure there were more than a few farmers who thought they were crazy. The growth of wine tourism is a good example of how creativity and a fresh perspective can breathe new life into an old — and in this case, very old — profession.
Along those lines, we’re looking for examples of your creativity for our seventh-annual Reader Photo Contest. Send us a few of your best travel shots for a chance to win cash prizes and the opportunity to be featured in a future issue of TravelAge West. Visit TravelAgeWest.com for details. The deadline for submissions is Nov. 10.