Wine a little, you’ll feel better…

“Nothing makes the future look so rosy as to contemplate it through a glass of Chambertin.” 

― Napoleon Bonaparte

Infact, if you whine with wine, you’ll feel even lighter! 🙂 So, who else out there is missing wine country? Come on, let’s whine together!


Once upon a time, there was a studious city girl who went on a grand trip with her bae, to San Francisco, the city of her dreams and also the city hosting a Radiology conference. While this trip was being planned, she chanced upon a luxury travel magazine and fell in love with the pictures from Napa valley. “Oh, please can we go…” she chimed! “You don’t even know wine or enjoy wine!” stated DH, matter-of-factly. “Why do I need to know wine…I just want to enjoy the beauty of a lush countryside, the vineyards, cycle around the rolling green hills…!” DH…rolled his eyes so hard, he saw his brains!- True Story!

Yes, somewhat like that, in an unconventional way, started our life-long love of Wine-countries and then, Wine!

Though Australia and South America are yet to be uncorked, we have some of the European (the Old world vintage) and North American (new world charm) wine regions, bottled up! (do see the movie Bottle-shock, if you haven’t already!)

Sitting with a cuppa coffee (folks please, it’s early morning) I’m flipping through tons of pictures on Iphoto and drooling over wide open spaces, something we city dwellers sorely miss. Noticing that some of the greenest scapes are from our travels to wine regions, I started compiling a list of my favourites and hence this post, based in order of the impact they have left on our memories and the special charm they bring to the table!

Napa-Sonoma (Northern California) (2007)

Since this was the first-ever wine-country experience, it will remain our favorite. Though pictures 13 yrs back were not DSLR quality, we still had to discover wine snobbery 😉 and our palates were not as refined (not saying we are connoisseurs now but can differentiate the fruity notes of a Pinot Noir, from a spicy Syrah), we loved the experience which is etched on the memory as if it was yesterday!

Different notes that one can expect in a typical red wine

Right from the pre-planning stage when we read and acquainted ourselves with etiquettes of wine-tasting which included, practicing “spitting” in the wash-basin, to reading California Driving manual (for rules against DUI), extensively planning which towns to stay and which wineries to visit and pre-renting cycles, mapping the routes, this trip was an eye-opener.

It was like being Alice, in a wonderland, exploring wide-eyed, an entirely extraordinary world! It’s not only about tasting, buying and drinking wine, we learnt about viticulture (which is the art of growing wine) and vinification (the process of making wine, including the grape crushing, mainly staged for us, the tourists, but still fun!).

Ever visited a temperature regulated, cool and dry wine cellar, stacked roof-to the floor with wine barrels, collecting wine from a barrel using a Wine-Thief and keeping a straight face when all about you are claiming to sniff peppercorns or red berries in their wine.

Did you know that some of the wineries are actually housed in beautiful mansions or places of historical interest or simply owned by famous families/ popular personalities, housing memorabilia, made into museums, and giving private pre-booked tours of the properties? One such was the Jacuzzi-family winery, yes the same jacuzzi that we soak-in.

Some of the wine-makers might entice visitors with wine-food or wine-cheese pairings while others might break the ice with a game of basketball or Golf!

Almost every tasting room has a view to-die-for and prices of some of the “Reserva” wines on offer, to die-off. Most of the wineries predictably have shops selling labeled wine merchandise but also, wine-vinegars, olive oils, preserves, all produced locally, worth the money that you buy it with and worth the effort put into bringing it back home!

Though, this is not a Napa Valley exclusive post, its still worth mentioning that we stayed at the top of the valley, in a town called Calistoga, very scenic with hills dotting the backdrop, ideal for those long cycling days, and known for its Mud-baths!

France (2017)

Stop smirking right there and let me explain. Its very-very difficult for me to choose between the famous wine regions within France (hell we drove for almost 20 days and through some of the most scenic routes). I cannot choose between Bordeaux, Burgundy, Loire or Provence and cannot ignore upcoming regions like Bandol.


Before the trip, as usual, we scavenged for information on forums, as to which regions to visit for which wine, the wineries to visit, any festivals around that time, best cycling paths, and which child-friendly routes to take. A note that kept popping up was the snootiness of french winemakers and how making appointments was mandatory and sticking to them, even more. Now either we call the french snooty or accept that they appreciate punctuality and that’s no reason to think they are uptight.

In fact, our experience was in most part, very pleasant except for one very over-priced wine-lunch which, in all honesty, could be blamed partly on me being a vegetarian and partly on lack of vegetarian cooking skills of rest of the world. In one particular incidence, the host at a winery in the village of Pommard, in Bourgogne (popularly Burgundy) was so helpful and patient with us, despite us getting massively delayed due to a small biking accident, that he hosted us very pleasantly when we showed up three hours later for a cellar tour and tasting!

There is something to be said about being the old world when you can boast of cellars about 1000 yrs old, all cobwebby, no electrical lighting, wax candle-lit tasting, and in all a bit vampire-style spooky if everyone is wearing black! 🙂 It’s only polite when you buy not one but four bottles! Pity we couldn’t ship back an entire case!

We had the time of our lives, cycling in Burgundy, picture-perfect in every way, on the Véloroute! Enjoy the scenic vistas and do check out the dedicated post from our trip to Burgundy, before planning your next trip (Don’t worry, it’ll happen sooner than you imagine…keep the faith)!

Repose in Bordeaux, in the middle of a vineyard, near St Emillion, was as high as it can go in terms of staycation experiences, and we cannot wait to go and park ourselves there, again! Pictures are worth a thousand words…so here they are!

It’s like a painting!

Can one have enough of cycling? Never, says me, through verdant wine regions, because that is one way to slow down your pace, your thoughts and soak-it-all-in! Here’s cycling through some of the most iconic landmarks of the Loire valley.

Chateâu Chambord, Loire valley, France

Lavaux, Montreux, Switzerland (2015)

Why Turquoise Blue for the Title? You may or may-not wonder but it’s my job to give you all unnecessary trivia.

Close your eyes and imagine vibrant green hills bedecked with grape-laden vines, rolling down to a turquoise-blue Lake-Geneva. The vista around Lavaux region of Switzerland is jaw-dropping in beauty and so exceptional that one has to go there to believe the stunning beauty.

Switzerland is not primarily known as a wine-growing country, because the world is not used to seeing Swiss wines on the aisles of their generic wine-shops. This is because the product is lesser in quantity, but great in quality, and is produced mainly for local consumption within the country, rather than for export. In fact, the Swiss drink a lot of wine per capita, import 2/3rd of the consumed quantity, and for a fun-fact, import more Beaujolais than the whole of the USA.

Spain (2009)

Spain as a wine-growing country is as complex or even more so than France!

Haven’t we all enjoyed a fruity red Tempranillo, one of the most famous red wine varietals, from the famous Rioja region of northern Spain? Cava, the sparkling wine, grown in the regions along the Mediterranean coast, which includes a blend of Garnacha (or Grenache in neighboring France) or the exquisite oaky Dry-Sherry (not the sweet sherry sipped by elderly English ladies) from Jerez de la Frontera, in Andalucia!

Spain is ideally located in terms of latitudes, with its warm to hot climate aptly suited for viniculture and the various influences on the wine-growing process from the neighboring regions.

Sant Sadurní d’Anoia

Though Rioja in the Basque region is still on the travel bucket list, we visited Sant Sadurní d’Anoia near Barcelona to sample their famous Cava and instead of cycling or driving, ended up on a long walking-trip in the country. Not definitely by design, was too hot to handle but makes for one hell of a reflection!

We drove through the spectacular Andalucian region of southern Spain, bedecked with charming Pueblo Blancos or white villages, stunning countryside dotted with wine and olive groves, ancient Moorish, or Romanesque architecture, and turquoise lakes.

Montefrío, Andalucia, Spain

Andalucia epitomizes the charms of slow-travel, driving through awe-inspiring landscapes and breaking for wine/sherry tasting in tradicional bodegas, during the day.

Checking into a new town every-other-day, exploring street-foods or go on a Tapas-bar hop, in the evening, pairing food with Cerveza or Sangria according to your whim! Later, head out for some foot-tapping flamenco experience or just stroll to a local popular Plaza and soak-in, life-as-a-local!

Setenil de las Bodegas, Spain

If you ever felt like “there’s so much to see, so little time”, you will feel it a 100 times more in Andalucia. Needless to say, pre-planning is your best bet!

Moselle River Valley- Germany (2013)

The Moselle (or Mosel) valley is a region around the river Mosel, meandering through parts of western Germany, eastern France and Luxembourg and is known for its White wines, especially the famous Rieslings from Germany.

What makes this region spectacular and on this list, is the landscape, as distinctive and charming as it gets!

Close those eyes again, and now imagine… hiking through terraced vineyards on hill slopes while the placid river Mosel, calmly meanders below, and a medieval, almost fairytale-like castle sits atop a neighboring hilltop.

Alternatively, imagine cycling along a beautiful track right along the river bed, with bird-song in your ear, dense foliage along the banks, intermittently opening its curtains to panoramic vistas of hillsides adorned with palisading vines.

Pacific Northwest wine regions (Washington and Oregon states)

If you’re wondering what or where’s that…nobody will blame you. The lesser-known of the New World wine regions, over-shadowed by neighboring Californian wines, but holding the fort, are the wines produced in Oregon and Washington states of north-west USA. While Oregon produces Pinot Noir in the majority, inland of Washington, along the Columbia River valley which is warmer in climate, produces a mix of great whites (including Chardonnay) and Reds.

Columbia River Gorge

Having driven along the scenic Pacific Highway 101 in California earlier, we wanted to explore the more rugged northern Pacific coasts and the Olympic peninsula.

Thus, originated the mammoth trip to the North-west pacific (including British Columbia in Canada), including their famous wine regions!

While boarding a flight from Seattle airport, the immigration officer seemed dumb-founded when we said we were visiting Walla-Walla, and he went, “Who the hell visits Walla-Walla”…and hubby goes, “we crazy, wine-loving Indian nomads”. Another, absolutely true story!

One of the kid-friendly wineries

If you consider yourself a traveler and scoff at touristy attractions, you just might understand the charm of visiting places that are off-the-beaten-path! The novelty of visiting unheard-of places, being greeted with warmth, enjoying uncrowded vistas, and never having to come across the terms “booked-out or sold-out” are all, “simple joys of life”. Sampling delectable wines amidst splendid country setting is a top endorphin-releasing experience too!

Willamette Valley, Oregon

Though, “there is so much wine and so little time” …the quest is on, albeit on a corona-break, and hopefully, we’ll be on a road-trip soon, on another continent, driving or cycling through sun-soaked, verdant countryside, sampling wines, cheese, and chocolates, keeping ourselves hydrated, sipping and spitting (part of the 4s’s…sniff, sip, swirl and spit) and minding speed limits.

A wine colored lolly is always a good-idea!
A can, really?

And now it’s time for a workout!


Galway Girl, all the way!

The Truth comes out when the Spirit goes in

Irish Proverb

Truthfully speaking ;), all I knew of Galway was what Ed Sheeran told me. It wasn’t much till I heard the Johnny Logan version of “Galway Girl”, the peppy number crooned by Gerard Butler in “P.S. I Love You”, to serenade the American, in an Irish pub.

To be honest, that song takes me back to Kenmare or Killorglin or maybe Dingle… basically to all those smaller Irish towns and pubs on our way up to Galway, but not Galway itself.

Galway is a harbor city on the west coast of Ireland, much bigger, vibrant to the senses, musical & whimsical to note. It has everything that a tourist visiting Ireland can ask for. And not in a bad way.

Days can be spent dawdling along the tributaries of river Corrib, taking pictures, picnicking, or simply walking the Long walk, shopping around the Latin Quarters, lauding the buskers on the High Street or at Eyre square, breaking for a meal accompanied by that perfect roast Guinness, buying doodads at the farmers market or just shooing-off seagulls.

Galway is optimally positioned, roughly midway between the towering cliffs of the northern Island and the southern peninsulas along the Wild Atlantic Way. A hurried tourist could get her effort’s worth here, dipping into and sampling the Irish life, whereas, for the leisurely traveler, it is a perfect pit-stop on their long coastal drive.

One can drive straight from Dublin on the East coast to Galway on the west, in about 2hrs. Galway can be added with day trips to the nearby highlights like Connemara & Kylemore Abbey, Achill Island to the north, and Cliffs of Moher to the South.

Since we were driving south to north, we visited Cliffs of Moher in the day and reached Galway by 9 pm, just after most restaurants close for families and open up for the pub hours. Having a little one in tow, we had exactly two options in the vicinity of our Air B&B, an Italian place and a French restaurant. We chose the latter, called the Rouge, which served decent French cuisine and splendid wine.

Walking to our Air B&B, we chanced upon our very first Silent-Disco street party in Galway. It looked spooky as if the crowd was under some magical spell, gyrating to an unheard beat, transfixed & bewitched.

Our apartment was downtown so we could explore without having to venture far. Though we could barely keep our eyes open, the hub-hub from the Irish bar next door was serenading and after putting the little one to bed we sauntered down for some Irish beer and Irish music. This happened to be one of those best impromptu decisions which remain etched on memory.

This Irish Bar was none other than the famous “Crane Bar” and gifted musicians were playing traditional Irish or Irish trad music, a kind of Irish folk music. One has to experience this to believe it. It was transcendental, an experience that was beyond human emotional or spiritual understanding (so the definition goes) or simply other-worldly. Beautiful beyond words. Attaching a small sample below. Do listen. As a culmination to this already magical experience, an Irish lass stepped on the floor with her step-dance moves, rocking the floor with the tap-tap of her block heels.

The next morning, still under the Galway spell, we walked towards the market square, chancing upon a farmers market, my all-time “favorite experience”, eating and shopping our way through the lanes.

We ended up spending more time here than planned. Which was the reason that the rest of the day did not pan out as planned. Kylemore Abbey was something we had put on our agenda, it being a breathtakingly beautiful castle next to a picture-perfect lake, and on top of all tourist agendas. Though us being “us” we had planned to see this from outside, panoramic vistas if you must, and then head to another great adventure which was cycling in Achill island. We love cycling on our trips since we cannot do much of that in our country and were greatly looking forward to this, Achill Island Greenway being one of the most spectacular and scenic cycling routes on this coastal segment (check it out).

Added the abbey on the Google map which was about an hour and a half away from Galway, and set off on a very cloudy evening. Maybe it was the clouds and hence poor connectivity but that afternoon, we lost our way not once but a few times, accidentally taking some long detours that ended up taking us away from Kylemore Abbey. It was already 5 something by now, and we knew that last-cycle rentals would be closing by 6 p.m. Took a tragic decision to skip the Abbey and head straight towards Achill.

Though all was not lost since the drive through Connemara was breath-taking. Had to resist stopping at every bend to take pictures!

Hubby having researched ahead, drove straight to Mulranny Park Hotel for Greenway Bike hire (we did call them in advance, which is a useful habit anywhere abroad) and managed to secure some cycles, just before closing time! This cycling bit was also very important to us as our little one had just learned to cycle a month back and was excited to test his skill in a foreign land on a picturesque track.

Cycling @ Achill Island

Did part of the loop, as an entire day is ideally needed to do any of the loops and should be accompanied by a picnic on the island itself. We needed to head back to Galway, and on the way back, had a quick meal at Nevin’s Newfield Inn.

The next morning we explored the Latin quarters in Galway, the perfect place to get the vibe of the city. Chanced upon the fairly famous Emma O’Sullivan, tap dancing at the square, got serenaded by some more traditional music at Tig Choílí, and had brunch at The King’head Bistro, before saying bye to Galway. Slán!

Emma O sullivan @The Latin Quarters, Galway
Tig Choílí