Sunday, June 10, 2012

Booze tourism

I love booze tourism. I don't mean I like to get drunk when I'm on vacation, I mean I like to visit places where alcoholic beverages are produced. Generally speaking, I don't really care for getting drunk, but I do enjoy some good cocktails. If there is a vineyard or a distillery somewhere in the vicinity of where I'm traveling, I'm going to want to visit.

Santa Rita vineyard, Chile
Booze tourism is AWESOME. You get to see different parts of a city or a country, learn about local customs and traditions, and drink booze. Now, it's not always good booze, sometimes it's fantastic, sometimes it's mediocre, but you almost always learn something new.

Things I've learned during some of my booze tours:

  • In some traditional vineyards, the plant rose bushes next to a line of vines because any pests that may attack the vines will attack the roses first, and they're used as an early warning system. (Also, it looks really pretty.)
  • Most wineries will only use oak barrels for a handful of years, then sell them to others. (At a distillery I learned that a big consumer of those used wine barrels are whisky producers, since apparently whisky aged in old wine barrels is extra smooth, or something. I may have been a bit tipsy during that explanation.)
  • The reason that delicious pear-in-the-bottle brandy is so damn expensive is because they literally grow the pear in the bottle. How labor intensive is that?
  • When in Dublin, the tour of the big beer factory is way more fun and interactive, but the tasting at the end of the whisky distillery tour gives you far more bang for your buck. (*hic*)
  • Undurraga vineyard, Chile
  • The glasses they give you at some winery tours are waaaaay nicer than the ones I purchased for my own home use, even with the winery logo stamped on them.
  • Pretty much every place you go will have a booze tourism destination. People really like their alcohol. Ask your hotel concierge. Or the front desk clerk at your motel. They will hook you up.
View from Guinness Factory, Dublin

There are many other things I've learned about the fermenting and aging process and all that, but right now all I can remember is that great dessert wine from the vineyard in Madera, CA, that fabulous apple brandy from Portland, that beautiful champagne winery in Napa, and that delicious white wine from the Finger Lakes. I've discovered many current booze favorites while on these tours - and have actually combined several of them with work trips. Something about work travel inspires me to find local sources of alcohol, for some reason. Of course, I also have developed a tradition of visiting different wineries with my father. So I guess you can say work and family lead me to drink.

I really want to go on a vacation, which is how I got around to this post in the first place. Unsurprisingly, many of my dream vacation ideas include booze tourism stops - France, Italy, Greece, Australia, Spain and South Africa all produce hooch I want to sample more of. And those Belgian lagers are pretty tasty. I guess what I'm saying is, if anyone knows of any good booze tourism destinations, I'm open to suggestions. Particularly if they're in the mid-Atlantic. And have free tastings. Booze tourism on the cheap is what I'm currently in the market for. (Maybe it's time to start investigating the booze tourism possibilities surrounding my next work trip.)

If given the chance, I suggest everyone check out the booze tour potential of your next trip. Practically every U.S. state and many countries in the world have some sort of wine region, and several have really lovely traditional distilleries. Not only will you probably see some beautiful countryside and maybe learn something new, prices are usually cheaper at the bottling source. ;)

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