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How to Plan the Perfect Vacation without Leaving Home

As overseas jaunts remain uncertain, many seek ways to escape their living room without buying a plane ticket.

For more ideas on the art of the stay-home wine vacation, we asked industry experts to weigh in.

In the kitchen

A celebrity chef, TV personality and author, Amanda Freitag is certainly no stranger to transporting diners, herself included. The vehicle? Memorable culinary experiences.

“As we are all contained in our safe bubbles, my way to travel is to cook, taking my senses on a trip,” she says. She loves to make fresh pasta. “I recently took myself to Italy without ever leaving my kitchen.”

She made a Bolognese sauce and prepared fresh tagliatelle, then popped open a Lambrusco from Modena.

“I ate slices of luscious mortadella from the package while enjoying the uncomplicated elegance of the Lambrusco,” she says. “I closed my eyes for a moment…and I was in Bologna.”

Scott Bull, co-owner and host of Sustainable Wine Tours in Santa Barbara, California, customizes private driving tours to area wineries and winemaker homes. For those who can’t make it to Santa Ynez, however, he recommends ordering bottles online.

“Drink the Estate Syrah from Larner Wines alongside a plate of Santa Maria tri-tip and pinquito beans for a full-bodied Santa Barbara experience,” he says.

A homemade pasta dish
Photo by Penny de los Santos

Through the speakers

While what’s on your plate and in your glass offer their own portals, the synergy created by the combination of food, wine and music is undeniable. Even if the “place” it takes you is just a state of joy.

Freitag loves to blast tunes while cooking and sipping pink bubbly.

“The genre depends on my mood,” she says. “I will go all-out rock ’n’ roll with Led Zeppelin, Foo Fighters and my fave, Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats,” she says. Though, any disco and R&B classics that inspire her to dance and sing will also do the trick.

While less likely to make you want to bust a move, podcasts offer another option. Bull listens to The Land of Desire, a history podcast that offers “tales of fun, adventure and absurdity,” he says. A recent overview of the madeleine, a small French cake, inspired him to bake a batch.

Bree M. Stock, a Master of Wine and the education manager of the Oregon Wine Board, keeps the focus on vino. She tunes in to Levi Dalton’s I’ll Drink to That! for frank conversations with the personalities behind bottles and deep dives into wine production.

On the page

To journey beyond her walls, Chevonne Ball, founder of Dirty Radish Travel Company, turns to books. A recent pick was Dirt by Bill Buford. “I’ve been to the bakery he speaks of several times, and I am enjoying the trip down memory lane,” she says.

Jeff Harding, wine director at New York City’s Waverly Inn, also looks to the page for a little escapism.

In the last year, he’s sought books on World War II-era France. He recommends The Flight Portfolio by Julie Orringer, set in the country’s south, as well as Champagne-based The Winemaker’s Wife by Kristin Harmel and Death in Bordeaux by Allan Massie. All have “made things in our time seem a lot more bearable,” he says.

On the screen

Hoping to help others get out mentally, Harding opens a portal into the vines via his Instagram series, Vineyard Chats.

“One of the coolest [Instagram Live] interviews I did was a virtual walking tour with Hela Mansour, the owner of Bordeaux Walking Tours,” he says.

Harding met her on a previous trip and thought it would be fun to take a virtual walk together. To search for specific paid virtual wine exploits, he suggests checking out Airbnb’s new online experiences.

Unsurprisingly, Zoom, the online conferencing platform that has become a household name during the novel coronavirus pandemic, can also help facilitate armchair travel. Sommelier and tastemaker André Hueston Mack uses it regularly for his own seminars as well as to join others. The salons held by Larkmead Vineyards are one of his favorites.

Many wineries also host guided virtual tastings or other interactive events. Oregon’s Brooks Winery, for instance, offers tastings that range from a focus on single-vineyard wines to a deep dive into the Willamette Valley.

With tasting times set at the participants’ request, managing director Janie Brooks Heuck makes it easier than ever to access Brooks’ wine.