A Passion for Food,Wine, the Good Life
By Maria Lisella
According to a study released by the Travel Industry Association of America, one-quarter of all leisure travelers say food is a vital factor when choosing their destination. Defined as travel to “learn about or enjoy unique and memorable eating-and-drinking experiences,” culinary tourism is entering into the mainstream of the American travel vocabulary. Below are a few samples of programs that have been developed to many “expected” places such as Italy and France, but also some surprise places, such as Michigan, England and California, and some new to Americans, Argentina, for instance.
Widely known for its flavorful wines and traditional cuisine, Argentina is the focus of Adventure Life’s nine-day Taste of Argentina priced from $1,495 per person double. The program includes visits to culture-rich villages and some of northern Argentina's most spectacular landscapes where colorful rock formations leave a lasting impression. The journey begins in the colonial town of Salta known for its distinctive architecture and local markets. Next, visit the Los Conchas Gorge to meet local artisans. Along the way, participants taste wine in the vineyards in Cayafate Valley and hike through the famous Humahuaca Gorge. The trip concludes with an Andean cooking class to learn the secret of a Tamale. Call 800-344-6118; www.adventure-life.com
This year, Avanti Destinations is introducing the Mendoza Wine Route to its American clients. Known as “The land of sun and the good wine,” Mendoza is located in the largest wine-producing region of Argentina, with almost 70 % of the country’s production. The dry climate and pure water from the Andes combine to provide an ecosystem that produces exceptional wine. Argentina is known for its fine red wines, especially those made from the Cabernet Sauvignon grape, but Malbec has become one of the country’s signature wines.
The Mendoza Wine Route package, priced from $1,065 per person includes transfers, three nights in Mendoza; half-day city tour of Mendoza; two days of wine-tastings and winery tours to Cavas de Weinert, Fabre Mont, Mayou, Lopez, La Rural, Familia Zuccardi, La Agricola, Falentein, Norton, Luigi Bosca, and Vina del Cuerdo.
Avanti’s Europe selection includes the following: a five-day Norway culture and cooking program priced from $1,199 per person; two four-day packages—one to Tuscany villa and cooking program from $1,099 per person and the other to Provence for a cooking program in a chateau, priced from $1,595 per person; a three-day cooking program in Kinsale, Ireland starts at $439 per person. For participants interested in a culinary experience but wanting to spend more time sightseeing, Avanti offers several one-day packages for a taste of the local cuisine to Ravello on the Amalfi Coast priced from $369 per person; in Crete from $179 per person; and in Barcelona from $125 per person, double. Call 800-422-5053; www.avantidestinations.com
Visit Italy Tours, a well-known specialist in custom-designed FIT packages to Italy, has developed its gourmet tour programs to include several regions of Italy from North to South. Says Barbara Crawford, executive vice president, “While there is a strong general interest among people to enjoy good food and wine, they also seem to want to how to prepare it, which is why we developed a series of ‘Gourmet Food and Wine Tours’ that offer hands-on cooking experiences in some of Italy's most desirable destinations such as Tuscany, Sorrento, Veneto and Umbria where you learn the making of some local popular dishes, sample some good wine along with visits to cheese olive oil producing facilities.”
The packages range from five to eight nights and all include hands-on demonstrations, food and wine pairing tips. However, clients will be doing more than wining and dining as in Sicily where they are free to test out the hot springs, visit mountains, volcanoes and archeological sites. In Veneto, guests stay in a monastery that has been re-outfitted with the latest amenities well suited for modern travelers. Call 800-255-3537; www.visititalytours.com
In Cotswolds, England, The Three Ways Hotel, which is close to the picture perfect Cotswold villages of Chipping Campden and Broadway, the celebrated National Trust Garden at Hidcote Manor and Shakespeare's Stratford Upon Avon has created a package called Three Ways Hotel “Pudding Club Break.” Guests experience both a serious culinary exploration of seven traditional English puddings and the experience of joining an informal and friendly gathering of a group of enthusiasts for a great British tradition. Priced at about $836 for two people sharing a room for two nights, other inclusions are two nights’ accommodation at the Three Ways Hotel at Mickleton (Home of the Pudding Club), dinner, bed and breakfast in one of the hotel's superior or pudding theme rooms.The package can be adapted to include a second day of food exploration with local food expert Rob Rees, including a visit to a Farmer's Market and a demonstration lunch. E-mail email@example.com; www.puddingclub.com
At International Kitchens, Karen Herbst, president noted, "I think that Sicily is likely to become the next hot destination for culinary travelers. It combines millennia of history with a multi-cultural cuisine unmatched in Italy, everything from Greek, Roman, Arab and Norman influence, to French, Spanish and Italian.
It has also become a producer of first-class wines that have recently gained international recognition.” Here are details on couple of tours Herbst offers in Sicily : Gourmet Sicily, a seven-night program, priced from $2,700 per person double is available for a minimum of two people through Dec.
Amore Siciliano is a six-night program priced at $2,000 per person double in April, May, June and Sept. Call 800-945-8606; www.theinternationalkitchen.com
Austin-Lehman Adventures have four palate teasers for 2007 that include wine country adventures to southeastern Arizona, northern California and British Columbia, all featuring private afternoon vineyard and winery tours culminating with product sampling after mornings of hiking, biking and paddling. Accommodations are in distinctive, locally run properties.
The nearly all-inclusive, per person, double occupancy rate, exclusive of roundtrip air to Kelowna, BC, is $2,698 per person double ($575 single supplement). Other departures for the six-day adventure are July 8-13, Aug. 5-10 and Sept. 23-28. Call 800-575-1540; www.austinlehman.com
This summer, from July 26 to August 1, Canadian Mountain Holidays is offering an Epicurean Adventure with Chef John Ash, one of California’s foremost chefs and the renowned author of From the Earth to the Table: John Ash’s Wine Country Cuisine.
During this trip, participants will have the opportunity to explore spectacular terrain in the Cariboo Mountains, hands-on cooking demonstrations, and one-on-one conversations with Chef John Ash.
CMH’s Epicurean Adventure Package includes: ground transportation starting and ending in Calgary; six nights accommodations; all meals; three and a half days of CMH-guided Heli-Hiking; use of CMH hiking gear including boots, rain gear, wind pants, jacket, backpack, and water bottle; and the culinary program with Chef John Ash, including a food and wine pairing workshop for $3,475 per person. Call 800-661-0252; E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org; www.canadianmountainholidays.com
Grand Traverse Resort & Spa near Traverse City, Mich., sells Culinary Escape Vacation Packages: Cooking with Morels & Michigan Produce, May 11-13, 2007; Master Grilling Techniques, July 13-15, 2007; and a third on Delicious Desserts & Pastries, Sept. 7-9. Ideal for food lovers of all levels of experience, the packages feature hands-on cooking classes that highlight the Michigan tradition of cooking with the region’s Morel Mushrooms.
The Culinary Escape starts at $299 per person, double for two nights, cooking instructions, a Culinary Escapes chef’s apron, and recipes from the weekend. Call 800-748-0303; www.grandtraverseresort.com
In Lake Placid, NY, the Mirror Lake Inn Resort and Spa is hosting tasting menu and wine pairing dinners, each led by a different chef: May 3: Chef de Tournant Tim McQuinn, Grillade Clark Soulia and Grillade Thomas Burns host an Australian/New Zealand Wine Dinner;June 14: Executive Chef Paul Sorgule host a “Great Inns Wine Dinner” with a six-course menu includes dishes from The White Barn Inn, The Inn at Little Washington and The Greenbrier Resort. All dinners cost $75 per person. Call 518-523-7834 ext. 140; www.mirrorlakeinn.com
The Lodge at Sonoma in California is offering "Sip, Cycle and Savor,” a two-night package that includes accommodations in a deluxe Cottage guestroom, a bottle of Sonoma county wine, dinner for two at the Carneros Bistro & Wine Bar, two 50-minute massages or body exfoliations; bike rentals; and shuttle service to Sonoma plaza for shopping. Priced from $869 per person through May; $979 from June 1 to Nov.15. Call 707-935-6600 or visit www.thelodgeatsonoma.com