Do you love wine but are tired of traditional wine tastings? Bored of dry crackers, stiff stools at wine bars and snobbish sommeliers? Spice up the way you experience wine with the world’s top unusual experiences centered around fermented grapes. Chose from unusual pairing classes, fun-filled festivals, active sport-themed wine experiences and hands-on opportunities to be a winemaker for a day — even getting to harvest and blend your own wines. After these adventurous, offbeat and interactive experiences, you will never see wine the same again.
Bacara Wine Room…if you want to pursue their selection after your hands-on harvest adventure. Photo courtesy of Bacara.
1) Hands-On Harvest (Santa Barbara, California)
Be a winemaker for a day with Bacara Crush, a hands-on California harvest experience where you work alongside winery staff, walking the vines, sorting grapes and assisting with punch downs. During this interactive tour, you’ll learn about wine making in an interactive and memorable manner — with plenty of tastings throughout. After a picnic in the vines, you’ll get a signed certificate listing the wine you helped produce.
Getting Ready for Battle at St. Augustine Wine Festival. Photo courtesy of St. Augustine Wine Festival.
2) Get Squirted With Wine (St. Augustine, Florida)
Celebrate the annual St. Augustine Spanish Wine Festival in one of the nation’s oldest cities on Florida’s Historic Coast. From September 10-13, attend the festival’s lavish wine-pairing Spanish dinners and tastings that culminate in the Grand Tasting with 120 wines to chose from. If you like what you try, you can learn the secrets of Spanish wine-making and cooking with classes from Spanish chefs and winemakers. The festival will end with the outrageous Batalla de Vinos, where 2000 participants will wear white and squirt each other with red wine.
Sunset – Frozen Tundra Wine Fest in Wisconsin. Photo courtesy of Parallel 44 Winery.
3) Drink Wine At An Ice Bar In The Frozen Tundra Of The Midwest (Kewaunee, Wisconsin)
If you prefer wine festivals at sub-zero temperatures, try touring the snow-covered Parallel 44 Vineyard & Winery. The winery shares the same latitude as the vineyards of Bordeaux and Tuscany, but the vines must withstand freezing temperatures. The husband and wife team have learned to create hardy grapes and you can visit the vineyard to taste their award-winning wines all year round. If you want to relate better to the frozen grapes, come to their annual winter wine fest, where you drink wine at an ice bar, listen to live music and sample vinos and gourmet foods in a heated tent. It’s the only festival of its kind in the Midwest.
Bodovino: Wine on Tap in Boise, Illinois
4) Take A Self-Guided Tour Of The World’s Wines With Wine On Tap (Boise, Idaho)
You will never have to worry about opening wine bottles at Bodovino in downtown Boise. This shop has the United States’ largest selection of wine on tap, with over 144 wines to chose from. Visitors can sample 1 oz, 3 oz and 5 oz pours and can bring home their favorites, as all bottles are available for purchase. Bodovino uses special dispensers that keep the wine fresh and ensure it’s served at the perfect temperature for an optimal tasting experience. It’s the perfect place to gather friends and create your own wine tasting.
Chilies. Photo courtesy of Nattu.
5) Wine And Chile Tasting (Las Cruces, New Mexico)
Spice up your life with a wine-and-chili tasting in New Mexico’s Mesilla Valley, the heart of uber-popular Hatch green chile country. Join local cookbook author, Kelley Coffeen, for a wine-and-chili pairing class. You’ll try three red and three white wines with six different flavors of chili (red, green, chipotle, habanero, crushed red pepper and jalapeno) served as sauces and salsas on baguette slices. These classes are often hosted at the local La Postra restaurant (www.laposta-de-mesilla.com) in a historic village; however, private tastings are also available. The Las Cruces location is the perfect place for such an experience because it houses the Chile Pepper Institute, the world’s only international organization dedicated to researching chili peppers. Come during Labor Day weekend to celebrate the green chili harvest at the Hatch Chile Festival, just 40 minutes away.
Art And Wine Pairings at the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art
6) Art And Wine Pairing (Las Vegas, Nevada)
Add a visual dimension to the joy of tasting wine with the Bellagio’s “Art & Wine: A Perfect Pairing.” Bellagio’s top wine and art experts team up the second Wednesday of every month for an entertaining and sophisticated evening of art and wine. The Bellagio’s Fine Art Manager chooses selections from the casino’s art gallery, which the Master Sommelier pairs with bottles from the cellar, based on colors, aromas, flavors or any sort of inspiration. After simultaneously experiencing the Bellagio’s incredible selection of wine and art, you will leave with a new perspective on both.
Oktoberfest at Lynfred Winery. Photo courtesy of Lynfred.
7) Grape Stomping Or Candy-Wine Pairing (Roselle, Illinois)
When most people think of Oktoberfest, beer is the beverage that comes to mind; however, Lynfred aims to change that. This two-day celebration at an Illinois vineyard, just outside of Chicago, began over two decades ago and continues to be unforgettable. The Annual Oktoberfest & Pig Roast celebration will be held October 4 & 5, 2014. You’ll spend two days joining German sing-a-longs and competing in grape spitting, grape stomping and cork tossing contests. After you work up an appetite savor roasted pig served with warm German potato salad, grilled bratwurst, chili and roasted sweet corn. For dessert, try a taffy apple, apple strudel or German chocolate cake, all paired beautifully with Lynfred wine. If you’re in town earlier in October, take advantage of the vineyard’s candy pairing class. Halloween will never be the same until you’ve tasted Snickers with a Vin de City Red, Twix with Syrah, Candy Corn and Ice Wine, and Strawberry and Grape Nerds and Framboise Port.
Submarine Wine Bar at Sottomarino, San Francisco. Photo courtesy of Sottomarino.
8) Wine Tasting In A Submarine (San Francisco, California)
Have you ever sipped wine in a submarine? Visit San Francisco’s Treasure Island — an old World War II naval base — for an unforgettable tasting experience at Sottomarino Winery. Parts of the former “Damage Control Wet Trainer” vessel have kept intact for an authentic atmosphere. The winery specializes in Italian varietals, which you can taste at the downstairs bar or go up to the deck for views of the Bay.
Trinitas Wine Cellar… It could be filled with you and your co-workers making cocktails or learning the different parts of your tastebuds. Photo courtesy of Estancia La Jolla.
9) Mapping The Tastebuds On Of Your Tongue… With Your Co-Workers (La Jolla, California)
Have you ever worked for a company that required employee retreats? You know the ones that should get you having fun and getting to know your co-workers but in reality, involve longer hours, more sitting and no plausible escape? Bring your business meeting (or bachelor party, or any small group for that matter) to Estancia La Jolla Resort in San Diego, California for a bonding experience you will never forget. Instead of a coffee break with stale scones or an ice cream social awkward enough to make you cringe at middle school memories, Estancia La Jolla can arrange a private class to loosen everyone up during break time.
You could start with the informative Wine 101 or increase your employees’ perceptiveness with a Blind Tasting class. Another class will allow you to sample different foods and lit up different tastebuds on your tongue then challenge you to identify which activations happen with different wines. If you are willing to move beyond wine, get your employees’ creative juices flowing with a Mixology or Make Your Own Cocktail class.