Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Unique Food and Wine Trip Offerings

It seems that vacations have become the time to learn new skills, or polish up on your old ones. I’ve seen some great trip ideas come across my email recently. Here are a few of the most interesting ones that I wish I had time to check out myself…

It’s no secret that I am a big fan of Francis Ford Coppola’s wines (and winery) in Sonoma, but that’s not the only venture the Oscar winning director has going. He’s also the proud owner of Coppola Resorts, which consists of luxury acommodations around the world. One of these properties is Blancaneaux Lodge in Belize and they are celebrating the year of the Maya calendar with fascinating opportunities.

The cave explorations include the Rio Frio Cave trip, a dry cavern with a sandy beach that is appropriate for all physical abilities; the Barton Creek Cave, which requires paddling a canoe through the cultural exploration of the cave; the Offering Cave, through a 20-minute jungle walk in Noj Kaaz Meen Elijio Panti National Park; Actun Tunichil Mcnal Cave, one of the main attractions in Belize for the more adventurous; and Caves Branch in Nohuch Ch’en Reserve, where you can experience cave tubing.

For information on the Belize resort and cave explorations, visit the website

I've been working on a trip to Tuscany in the near future and one of the things I am anxious to do is cooking classes. It turns out that’s not something I need to go so far for after all. The Harstone Inn in Maine is offering a week long cooking school led by Chef Benedetta Vitali. The chef comes all the way from the Tuscan region to share her cooking expertise and family recipes. There will also be a cheese making course and private winery tour.

The Tuscan Cooking School will take place June 4-8. The cost starts at $1250 (based on the cost of the room) for five nights accommodations; a welcome Maine lobster bake dinner on the beach; breakfast and lunch each day; and welcome gifts. Additional guests in the room are $525 each. For more information, go to hartstoneinn.com or call (800) 788-4823. 

Santa Barbara is one of the lesser known emerging California wine regions. I’ve spent some time in this beautiful Southern California city, but have yet to check out their wineries. The Hyatt Santa Barbara is making it easier to do check out the Central Coast wine country. This newly renovated hotel (located on the Pacific Ocean) is offering a Vineyard Picnic Tour Package.

In conjunction with Grapeline Tours, you can stay at the Hyatt and receive transportation and a guide to take you to four different wineries. You will also have a picnic lunch at one of the wineries, a Value Passport for discounts at wineries, full breakfast, late checkout and, of course, a bottle of wine.

The package starts at $389 per night is valid through November 14, 2012. You can book it online or by calling (805) 882-1234.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Upcoming Wine and Spirits Travel Events

I’ve been doing a lot of traveling lately and am getting ready to head to London in a few weeks with Beefeater and Plymouth. In the meantime, I’m hearing about special events going on in some of my favorite places in the near future and I’d like to pass them along for those who have schedules with a little more time than mine.

Inn & Spa at Cedar Falls-Logan, Ohio
I had a wonderful trip here and hope to return someday. In addition to the beautiful Hocking Hills local and fantastic food, they offer fun activities, such as the Italian Wines from Super Tuscans to Orviertos on April 27th. Or, a special Mother’s Day Brunch on May 13th. Also look for cooking classes and wine & beer festivals closer to the summer.

For more information or reservations, visit http://www.innatcedarfalls.com or call (800) 653-2557

Celebrity Cruises
The Celebrity Wine Cruise I took last May was just a wonderful experience. The cruise line has a few others that look to be exciting this spring. There is still some availability on the May 5th sailing, an 8-night Wine Cruise on the Celebrity Century that sails from San Diego with a similar itinerary to the one I was on. This one also will have a focus on food, featuring Celebrity’s Senior Traveling Executive Chef, W. Thomas Szymanski.

On May 27th, the Celebrity Summit will take off on a 6-night cruise to Bermuda during which Executive Chef Steve van der Merwe will have activities planned around culinary exploration that include Bermuda culinary traditions.

For more information or reservations, visit http://www.celebritycruises.com or call (800) 647-2251.

Pebble Beach Food & Wine
I have not yet made it to the Pebble Beach Food & Wine Festival, but I’ve heard nothing but good things about it. The 5th annual event is coming up this weekend (April 12-15). Look for celebrity chefs, tasting seminars and one thing you won’t get at any of the other food festivals – golf tournaments on one of the world’s most beautiful courses overlooking the Pacific Ocean.  

For more information or tickets, visit http://www.pebblebeachfoodandwine.com

American Fine Wine Competition
Next Thursday (April 19th)marks the gala event of the American Fine Wine Compeition. Chef Emeril Lagasse will  serve as host as over 600 competing wines are poured. The evening will include a silent auction and entertainment. The gala will benefit the Diabetes Research Institute and the Golden Bell Educaiton Foundation.

The event will be at the Boca Resort & Club. Tickets are $310 and are available on the AFW website.

Tennis Wine Camp
It’s no secret that I was a full time tennis writer before shifting most of my focus to travel, wine and spirits. I still have a lot of contacts in tennis and one invited me to participate in something this June that combines both of my niches.
The Walla Walla Tennis and Wine Camp combines on-court instruction with some of the best coaching around, including my pal Greg Patton who has coached everything from the Boise State’s men’s team to Andy Roddick. The rest of the afternoons and evenings are spent learning about and tasting wine. There are private tastings, wine pairing dinner and even barrel tastings.

Three sessions are taking place this summer: June 21-24; July 12-15; and July 19-22. I will be attending the first session and would love to see some wine lovers joining me. Go to the registration page for more information.