There’s a whole world of wineries to visit, but these spectacular standouts — from historic castles to modern-day architectural marvels — should be on your tasting itinerary.Wine writers can be a hardened bunch, what with visiting wineries on one continent and touring vineyards on another. But that fall day, as a group of us first entered Château Cheval Blanc in Saint-Emilion in the Bordeaux wine region of France, we were almost giddy. Maybe it was the drive up to the château along the manicured grounds; maybe it was the high-roofed 19th-century building that looked like it was waiting for Napoleon III to arrive. Or maybe it was that Cheval Blanc is acknowledged as one of the world’s great wineries and its 1947 vintage is said to be as good as wine gets. Because, as Richard Carleton Hacker, one of the writers, pointed out as he looked over the grounds that day: “This is the kind of wine country that the rest of the world aspires to.”
In other words, there’s a lot more to a winery than the tasting room and gift shop. Maybe, as with Cheval Blanc, it’s the pedigree. But it could be centuries-old history, like Austria’s Schloss Gobelsburg, or a location in the Argentine Andes, like the setting of O. Fournier. Or, perhaps it’s something that’s billed as a winery park, as is the case with movie mogul Francis Ford Coppola’s eponymous Sonoma County winery. Whatever it is, there are wineries throughout the world where a certain something makes them unique and special — just like the nine we have featured here.
CHÂTEAU CHEVAL BLANC, FRANCE: See a legend. Everything about the 179-year-old winery, from the furnishings in the main building to the vineyards, exudes an air of wine royalty. And why not? Cheval Blanc is noble. It’s a favorite of Robert Parker, the pre-eminent wine critic in the world, and a bottle of the sublime 1947 Bordeaux — possibly the most celebrated wine of the 20th century — has sold for as much as $24,000. chateau-cheval-blanc.com
QUINTA NOVA, PORTUGAL: Eat, sleep, and dream wine. Quinta Nova bills itself as the first wine hotel in Portugal. That’s a bit like calling the Washington Monument the first of the capital’s great memorials and leaving it at that. As Dave McIntyre, the wine columnist for the Washington Post, says, “The view in the pictures, with the pool overlooking the vineyards, is spectacular, and you wonder how anything can live up to that. But it does.” Quinta Nova, in the premier Douro wine region, includes the hotel, which is set in a restored 18th-century manor house, plus a museum and cultural center that are located in the town’s renovated train station and in the homes where the train workers once lived. www.quintanova.com
O. FOURNIER, MENDOZA, ARGENTINA:Behold a 21st-century winery. Most wine drinkers know Argentina for its malbec. What they usually do not know is that Mendoza, its best wine-growing region, is at 4,000 feet in the Andes, making it one of the highest wine-growing regions in the world. The ultramodern O. Fournier winery is in the Uco Valley, a key Mendoza area. And what does a winery that is at 4,000 feet offer? Mountain peaks no matter where you turn and highly regarded boutique-style syrah and red blends. ofournier.com