One of the most surprising towns you’ll ever visit in the United States is Solvang, California, especially if you don’t know what to expect.
It almost seems like this beautiful, picturesque town was ripped apart from Denmark by a giant and gently dropped in the middle-of-nowhere California.
It’s like visiting a Danish showcase in EPCOT Center, but this town is real.
Solvang was founded in 1911 by Danish-American educators who traveled west in search of land to build a Danish colony (and also to escape the cold winters in the Midwest).
They bought 9,000 acres in the Santa Ynez Valley, just northwest of Santa Barbara, and built the town in traditional Danish style.
Some famous Danish icons you can find in Solvang are a replica of the Rundetårn observatory tower, windmills, and even a reproduction of the “Little Mermaid”, which welcomes visitors at the intersection of Mission Drive and Alisal Road, just across the Hans Christian Andersen Museum.
If you are planning to visit Solvang in 2011, plan ahead because they will be celebrating their Centennial and the year will be filled with events and activities.
Check the Solvang Centennial calendar here.
Since its architecture is so unique and European, Solvang is a great town to walk around.
You’ll find many shops and art galleries, as well as coffee shops, world-class restaurants, and authentic bakeries (yep, they’ve got Danish pastries).
For wine lovers, Solvang is a great destination. Located in the Santa Ynez Valley, there are over 70 wineries and tasting rooms you can visit.
But if you are only in Solvang for a short trip, the town offers over a dozen of wine tasting rooms. There are two we recommend you shouldn’t miss:
Located on First Street across from Solvang Park, they have one white (Sauvignon Blanc) and 4 red wines which are of exceptional quality.
I particularly loved their 2006 Syrah/Tempranillo, their 2006 Malbec, and their 2007 Zinfandel. All with great character and elegant flavor.
What’s also admirable about Carivintas Winery is that they blend wines with philanthropy.
You’ll notice their artistic wine labels include colorful scenes of wildlife and animals. These beautifully designed illustrations represent rescued animals or endangered habitats.
For them, giving something back to the community is important, so they have affiliated with non-profit groups and a portion of their profits are donated to these groups.
Sort This Out Cellars
Right on Copenhagen Drive, Sort This Out Cellars is a boutique winery offering limited production wines inspired by vintage Vegas.
The decoration of the place takes you back in time and the wine labels will definitely catch your eye.
But don’t be fooled by the playful and sexy women on their labels, their wines are truly spectacular.
I loved the wines from their “Black Label” and “Legacy” collections.
The Cardiff Giant (Legacy Collection) is a remarkable Super Tuscan blend of Sangiovese, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon.
The Oh My Gosh Grenache is silky smooth and fruity with nice notes of strawberry and cherry flavors. The ending is quite unique with hints of cotton candy and caramel.
It’s great when a friend gives you a bottle of wine. But it’s even better when that gift comes from a friend who is passionate about and knows their wines.
I had a chance to try the 2005 O’Syrah from O’Vineyards. O’boy!
O’Vineyards is located near Carcassone in the southern region of Languedoc-Roussillon, in France.
What I found very interesting about O’Vineyards was the story behind it: a family from Tampa, Florida had a dream of becoming vintners and decided to go to France in search of the perfect property.
Les Américains, as they are known in their French community, found their dream spot and started making wines in 2004.
And since I spent many years living in beautiful Tampa, FL I have to support my fellow Tampanians.
But let’s talk about the 2005 O’Syrah. This is a wine that imposes personality right from the start.
With shiny deep purple attire, its nose reveals an abundance of fruit uncovering a well-built but elegant character.
The O’Syrah is round, earthy, and peppery on the palate, balancing well with notes of black berries and dark chocolate.
It is important to mention this is a great food wine so make sure to pair it well. Beef stews, barbeque ribs, and lamb chops are just some sample pairings. If you are vegetarian, grilled Portobello mushrooms are a great choice.
You can find this and other wines from O’Vineyards in the US. Or even better, you can visit them in person and they can also recommend places to visit while in Languedoc.
Congratulations to O’Vineyards and Les Américains for their success! A votre santé!
Are you in Washington State and looking for a winery that is the quintessence of Pacific Northwest?
Look no further than Camaraderie Cellars in Port Angeles, Washington. With gorgeous gardens, a cozy fire pit, and some of Washington’s best wine (seriously!)… you have to make Camaraderie Cellars the PlusWine on your TravelPlusWine itinerary.
Stop by for a tasting, but be sure to take time to relax, enjoy the atmosphere, and savor every sip.
Don Corson, winemaker and owner, chats about his winery and the Washington wine industry:
If I asked the wine-loving twitterverse to mention the first winery that comes to mind in Napa Valley, many would probably say St. Supéry.
The reason for this is because Rick Bakas, Social Media Director for St. Supéry, has done a tremendous job not only in managing their brand throughout social media, but in truly engaging wine lovers to talk and share their passion for wine.
I don’t know about you, but I tend to better appreciate wine when I hear people’s experiences, when winemakers tell me their stories, when I learn something new about a particular wine, when I am among friends simply enjoying life with a good glass of wine…
Well, I had a similar feeling when I visited St. Supéry in Napa Valley; their staff was so welcoming, friendly, and knowledgeable about the wine that I couldn’t wait to taste it.
To start, you don’t go directly to the tasting room. Well, you can… but I highly recommend first taking a self-guided tour of their exhibits where you can learn the process of wine making.
One of the coolest displays in the exhibit is their SmellaVision (see photo), where you can sniff and learn to distinguish the aromas from the different varietals. There’s a display for Cabernet Sauvignon and one for Sauvignon Blanc.
After this, visit the tasting room and test your nose on real wine.
St. Supéry Tasting Room
St. Supéry’s tasting room is elegant, comfortable, and their staff is great. Joe is one of the most experienced staff at St. Supéry and I must say I learned a lot about wines during our tasting.
The selection of both white and red wines in St. Supéry is extensive and you can see all the descriptions on their website. But I want to point out two wines that I loved and which I think are of great value.
I simply love this 100% Semillon wine. It is unique, rich, and elegant. The oaky aromas blend well with the nice notes of citrus and peaches. The finish is pleasant with balanced acidity and a velvety texture.
Ah, the Semillon is so refreshing that it makes for a perfect summer wine.
An interesting thing Joe noted is that it’s a white wine that drinks like a red wine. I know, it got you thinking.
2005 Petit Verdot
St. Supéry’s Petit Verdot is an outstanding wine. With a deep purple color and round tannins, the wine is powerful without being overpowering.
The hints of blackberry and cedar on the nose actually reminded me of the SmellaVision exhibit. It has fine notes of toasty oak and plum on the palate with a nice long finish.
Petit Verdot is best paired with red meats and aged cheeses.
So there you have it! If you are visiting Napa make sure you stop by St. Supéry. Not only will you have the opportunity to taste great wines, but you’ll have a memorable experience.
And if you are looking for a great place to stay, check the Napa Marriott.
Home sweet home.
I love that I can live in a place I enjoy returning to after my travels around the world.
The familiar smell of hardwood floors greet my nose and I always sleep so well in my own bed. Don’t even get me started on how much I enjoy my couch, desk, or kitchen.
But, there is one thing I really dislike coming home to… an empty refrigerator.
Inevitably, I wake up the next morning starving and there’s nothing to eat! The last thing I want to do is spend my first day at home grocery shopping.
So, I’m going to share my dirty little travel secret:
Before I leave on a trip, I always make sure I have some frozen food in the freezer. Bread for morning toast is a must as well as another frozen entrée to hold me over before I get to the supermarket.
I just got back from a trip late last night and believe me… the frozen lasagna I had for lunch today has never tasted so good!
Photo Via PhotoBucket.