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19 quirky and unique food and wine experiences

From California to Portugal to The Barossa Valley, the world’s foremost wine regions never fail to dazzle. Natasha Dragun tries out these unique food and wine experiences with a twist.

Sip Mexican wines on horseback

Wines in Mexico, the land of tequila and cerveza? Turns out Baja California is a hotbed for tasty grapes. The sovereign state’s Valle de Guadalupe region, just 90 minutes south of the border, is gaining a reputation as the Napa Valley of Mexico.

It’s here that you’ll find Adobe Guadalupe, an elegant hacienda where rooms open to an enormous courtyard, all surrounded by vines – the vintners make everything from cinsault to rosé and chardonnay. The estate’s stable of handsome Azteca horses are an attraction in their own right, with these shiny beauties available to gallop you across the region’s rolling hills, only slowing so you can sip a local tipple.

Adobe Guadalupe offers the unique experience of galloping on Azteca horses across the vines
Gallop on Azteca horses at Adobe Guadalupe © Cinita Soto

Create, distil and indulge in Argentina

You’ll have the peaks of the Andes as your backdrop when you arrive at Espiritu Zorro in Mendoza. This postcard-perfect, vine-laced micro-distillery is in the heart of Argentina’s wine country. Mendoza is famous for its bold reds – and the team here will give you a glass or two while you prepare an Argentinian feast.

Your cooking class draws upon ancestral recipes that utilise fresh, seasonal produce. While meats are marinating and vegetables are baking, you’ll head into the Tasting Cave to distil your own liquor. The day culminates with an epic feast, wines and spirits flowing and stories being shared. To top it off, you’ll get to take away a bottle of your own creating – cheers to that!

Then head to The Vines Resort & Spa for wine-making, cuisine and culture. Learn how to barbecue Argentine-style at award-winning chef Francis Mallmann’s Siete Fuegos, or make your own wine. A sunset cocktail and horse ride in the Andes is a memorable experience, and there are multi-course menus accompanied by matching wines. The best time to visit is harvest season in March and April, but various wine-based activities are offered year-round.

Vineyards in Mendoza, Argentina
Mendoza, Argentina © Shutterstock

Drink in an ice cave

Jungfrau, Switzerland

At 3,454 metres tall, Jungfraujoch is known as the Top of Europe. In this part of Switzerland you can walk on a glacier, snow crunching under feet, then venture inside it to glimpse ice sculptures that glint like gems.

Behind a locked door is perhaps the world’s coolest little bar and a unique wine experience. The Ice Palace is carved entirely from ice and set aglow with LED lights. Champagne corks pop, Swiss wines are poured, canapes are served… and all around is glacial snow that dates back to the Bronze Age.

Jungfraujoch Ice Palace
Jungfraujoch Ice Palace

Get moving in Bordeaux

Bordeaux’s Marathon Des Châteaux Du Médoc is more a wine event with a side of exercise than the other way around.

Over the course of 42 kilometres, runners pause to refuel at 23 stops. But there’s no Gatorade here, only the region’s finest cheeses and charcuterie paired with an equally delicious glass of wine. Not many people make it to the finish line. But everyone has a rollicking time… and barely notice the blisters forming. It occurs over one bacchanalian day every September.

Wine and seafood on the ocean floor

Nova Scotia, Canada

While Canada’s Nova Scotia is famed for its seafood (think lobsters and enormous Digby scallops) it’s a little known fact that it also produces some of the country’s best wines.  In fact, it even has its own appellation, Tidal Bay. The crisp, aromatic white is unique to this part of the world.

You can toast this innovation while dining on the ocean floor – yes, on it – when you sign up for Flying Apron Cookery’s aptly named ‘Dining on the Ocean Floor’ experience. The province’s Bay of Fundy has the highest tides in the world – when it goes out, sea levels drop 16 metres, giving chef Chris Velden four hours to set up a table and serve guests a memorable meal featuring local ingredients like mussels, clams and seaweed, paired with Tidal Bay drops sourced from wineries that surround.

Catch the Wine Tram in Franschhoek, South Africa

You can opt to hop on and off the old-fashioned, doubledecker Wine Tram that explores South Africa’s Franschhoek Valley at a leisurely pace, perhaps pausing to visit a cellar door or to enjoy lunch in the sun.

Or, take things up a notch with the ‘Exceptional Wine & Cuisine’ experience, which sees you jump aboard for a guided breakfast flight of the region’s finest wines, then continue on through lunch, when truffles might appear on the multi-course menu. The best part? There’s no driving, so you don’t have to feel guilty about bubbles with eggs benedict.

You can also catch a Wine Train through California’s Napa Valley. The train’s gleaming carriages come in two types: the two-storey Vista Dome, an elevated observation-style dining car with plush booths and mahogany panelling; and the Gourmet Express, refurbished antique Pullman carriages that nod to the glamorous days of rail travel.

The Wine Train is a unique wine experience
The the Gourmet Express Wine Train, Nape Valley

Cycle through the vines in Chile

Around 150 kilometres south of Santiago, Chile is one of the most cutting-edge wineries in the Americas.

Vina Vik is the darling of the Cachapoal Valley. Amid a gorgeous swathe of hills, valleys, gorges and lakes, and wedged between the Pacific coast and the foothills of the Andes. The estate’s dramatic Guggenheim-esque hotel is reason alone to visit; the winery and its vintages will convince you to never leave.

When you’ve cycled through the vines, or drifted over them in a hot air balloon, pull up a chair on the sprawling alfresco granite boulder installation that doubles as the entrance to the cellar – your private, candle-lit meal here features organic produce plucked from the kitchen gardens a few metres away. Farm-to-table at its finest.

Helicopter into your vineyard in Ontario

Canada

Once you’ve enjoyed a scenic tour of Niagara Falls from above, have your helicopter drop you at Peller Estates.

This Canadian winery, located in the town of Niagara-on-the-Lake, welcomes those arriving by chopper with a glass of sparkling rosé, before whisking them off to try ice wine in an igloo lounge – carved from 13,607 kilograms of ice and kept at a frosty 10 degrees below zero. You’ll burn calories trying to stay warm, which is all the justification you need for your next culinary activity: a cheese-making class matched with wines. There are three restaurants, should you wish to linger; or book the Ultimate Food & Wine Experience, a special food and wine tasting that sees the estate’s gurus talk you through bites and matched beverages: pork belly with pickled onion relish and a glass of Private Reserve Gamay Noir, anyone?

Peller Estates' igloo lounge
Peller Estates' igloo lounge

Live on your own Portuguese wine estate

Algarve, Portugal

The Vines project at Quinta dos Vales, in the heart of Portugal’s Western Algave, gives you the chance to become the owner of a lodge on this beautiful property – and when you’re not there, the managers will rent it out for you. You can also become owner of part of the vineyard, which means when you are in residence you can set about making your own personal vintages.

Become the owner of your own lodge at Quinta dos Vales
Become the owner of your own lodge at Quinta dos Vales

An epic Private Library Tour and Tasting

Napa Valley, USA

Sitting pretty in California’s Napa Valley, Inglenook may be historic – its origins date back to 1879 – but it’s also forward-thinking. Inglenook produces wines that take home global awards, not in the least the signature Rubicon.

The estate’s grand chateau is the setting for a day out here: on a ‘Private Library Tour and Tasting’ you go backstage, learning about the architecture and grounds, before settling into velvet sofas in one of the historic cellars. A flight of library wines, charcuterie and cheese round out the incredible experience. If you’re here during harvest, be sure to join the bacchanalian festivities.

Inglenook Chateau and Vineyard - unique wine experience
Inglenook Chateau and Vineyard © Chad Keig

Sip at sub-zero in Wisconsin

Wisconsin’s Parallel 44 Vineyard and Winery may share the same latitude as Bordeaux and Tuscany, but it’s a world away in its icy tundra.

The vines here are able to withstand freezing temperatures, with the hardy grapes turned into pretty much every type of vino imaginable: sparkling, rosé, white, red and ice. Visit during harvest for a unique wine experience. You’ll be getting your feet dirty helping stomp the grapes. But for a true taste of the region, touch down during the Annual Frozen Tundra Wine Fest in February to savour gourmet food, sip wines in an ice bar, tap your toes to live music and take wagon rides through the snow. It doesn’t get more Midwest than that.

Australian food and Wine experiences

Travel back in time in Tasmania

There’s something about Tasmania’s bucolic grape-growing country that ignites passion.

Welcome to Pooley Wines, northeast of Hobart, where you can not only enjoy award-winning chardonnay, pinot noir and riesling (among other varietals), but do so in the estate’s Georgian, convict-built, heritage-listed home, Prospect House.

Step back in time and savour some of the Apple Isle’s most applauded labels within the grand sandstone manor (across the road from the estate) – your libations are best paired with Tassie cheeses and truffled pizza.

Explore the Mornington Peninsula in a 1956 Chevrolet

Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula is home to some of Australia’s most forward-thinking wineries, not to mention dramatic hotels and artisanal producers. Why not wind back the clock and explore them in style?

D’Luxe’s fleet of classic cars includes a turquoise 1956 Chevrolet Sport Sedan affectionately known as Lois, and then there’s Lucille – a 1957 Chevy Sport Coupe so shiny you can see your reflection in her bodywork. Take in the region’s attractions at a leisurely pace.  Stop for lunch at Pt Leo Estate’s applauded restaurant Laura, with a stroll through the alfresco sculpture park before you leave. Your driver will ferry you on to revamped Montalto for a wine flight, before dropping you at Peninsula Hot Springs for a little soak in the facility’s freshly minted thermal offerings.

While most people do it all in a day, we recommend overnighting at Jackalope – book a suite with pool panoramas.

Read: Wineries you can sleep at in Victoria

Jackalope Hotel Mornington Peninsula
Jackalope Hotel Mornington Peninsula

Blend your own wine in the Yarra Valley, VIC

Fancy yourself as a fledgling winemaker? Grab at least three of your best friends and sashay into the Yarra Valley’s Rochford Estate for a wine tasting with a difference. Upon arrival you’ll be handed tasting charts and aroma kits; all the tools you need to win a friendly vino blending competition.

Victoria’s oldest wine region is also home to top distiller Four Pillars Gin (they, too, offer blending masterclasses) and a host of luxe hotels to enjoy when you’ve had your fill of food and wine. Head over to Seville Estate, where the light-filled homestead and villas have been transformed into upscale accommodation.

Read: The best Australian gins to add to your liquor cabinet

Prosecco festivities, King Valley, VIC

Dal Zotto Wines first planted prosecco in the King Valley 21 years ago. And the vintners here make it an annual ritual to celebrate the grape at Primavera del Prosecco – La Dolce Vita held in November each year. It is a weekend of prosecco cocktail masterclasses, private wine flights and helicopter joy jaunts.

The latter sees you chopper over some of Victoria’s most postcard-perfect wine country, enveloped by the rivers and mountains that characterise the state’s Alpine National Park – you’ll want to rest your head at Casa Luna, which is like a slice of the Cotswolds. Come back during harvest to pick grapes that will be turned into a bottle of bubbles you can pop the cork on the following year.

Vineyards in the King Valley
Vineyards in the King Valley © Visit Victoria, Cormac Hanrahan

Drive a Ferrari in Adelaide Hills, SA

If you love your car to be as smooth as your wine and as sophisticated as your food, then you’ll be happy to hear Mount Lofty House, Bird in Hand and Hentley Farm have teamed up with Prancing Horse Driving Experiences. The union means that you can now sink into the leather seat of a Ferrari 488 GTB or Lamborghini Huracan and enjoy a high-octane drive across the Adelaide Hills and Barossa Valley.

Taking in South Australia’s countryside is thirsty work – it’s a good thing your day is punctuated with a five-course lunch at Hentley Farm’s two-hatted restaurant, not to mention stops at Bird in Hand Winery and Applewood distillery. Final stop? Sequoia Lodge at the historic Mount Lofty House.

Read: Australia’s best secluded accommodation

Margaret River, WA

The best way to make an entrance in Western Australia’s premier wine region is to drop in from above. Your chariot from Perth to the is a Swan River Seaplane. It will whisk you south to the Margaret River for a lavish day of wine tasting and cheese grazing in the sun.

Before you touch down you’ll take a sky-high tour of the region, including a lofty loop over the coast and Sugarloaf Rock. On the ground, wine flights await at two estates, with a long alfresco lunch prepared to showcase the area’s stellar produce: think Olio organic olive oils, Yallingup cheeses and seafood plucked straight from the sea just metres from where you sit. If you can’t bear to leave, head to grand Cape Lodge instead, where your room comes with vineyard views.

Highlights of the Barossa Valley

Cruise around this postcard-perfect patch of South Australia. Meander through charming historic towns, linger at cellar doors, meet the winemakers – then settle in for an indulgent lunch at an award-winning restaurant.

Locations not to miss in the Barossa Valley are the landmark Penfolds’ estate to sip Grange at the cellar door, historic Seppeltsfield Winery, where you can swill a Tawny made the year you were born. The Barossa comes with an abundance of luxurious accommodation, not in the least The Louise, where country-chic rooms sit beside on-site restaurant Appellation, which has three chef’s hats and serves degustations that speak of the region.

© The Louise, Barossa Valley

Horse ride in the Hunter Valley

The Hunter Valley is impossibly pretty during the day, but it really shines at sunset, when the last rays of the afternoon cast a fiery orange glow over the vines. While most people take in the spectacle from the closed-off comfort of a car, with Hunter Valley Horse Riding & Adventures you’re given a front-row seat to nature, the wind in your hair as you gallop past some of the region’s most fabled estates.

Jump off halfway and lay out a picnic blanket under a tree, sipping a local chardonnay or shiraz. Your accommodation for the night? Spicers Vineyard Estate, where each of the 12 rooms come with an open fireplace.

This article originally appeared in Signature Luxury Travel & Style magazine. To subscribe to the latest issue, click here.