The Latest in Wine Tourism: Meditation and Getting Your Hands Dirty | Wine Enthusiast
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The Latest in Wine Tourism: Meditation and Getting Your Hands Dirty

Dr. Thomas Plante, a psychologist who also teaches at Santa Clara University and Stanford University, cautions that vineyard life can be easily romanticized. “Sometimes people forget that it is hard work, there are stressors and you can get dirty.”

Still, Plante notes that the cyclical nature of vineyard work focuses one’s attention in ways that can help them “think, meditate and solve difficult problems.”

Like sipping a glass of wine, learning the basics of vineyard life can be restorative or even meditative. That’s why wineries are offering immersive programming to help guests connect to the rhythmic nature of vineyard work, and why more wine lovers are getting their hands dirty to try to clear their minds.

Firepit at Vine at Middle Creek accommodations
A firepit at The Vine on Middle Creek / Photo courtesy of Courtesy AirBnB

Staying a few days at a working vineyard also offers an invaluable education that drives home, as Plante says, how complex it is to turn “grapes into quality wine.”

Travel and lifestyle writer Nicole Letts stayed at Jordan Vineyard & Winery’s chateau suites in 2020 and 2021. Letts feels a key benefit to extended time on vineyard property is that, without the time constraints of a typical tasting, observation and learning happens at a leisurely pace, as there is more time to talk in-depth with grape growers and hosts.

Craig Fovel, owner of The Vine on Middle Creek, a bed and breakfast and vineyard in Fredericksburg, Texas, grows Cabernet, Petit Verdot and Mourvèdre for William Chris Vineyards.

The estate offers immersive vineyard tours that are “educational at any time of year,” he says, but the meditative piece comes during harvest, when Fovel offers guests scissors or clippers to help snip clusters off the vine. After a few hours at work in the vineyard, his team prepares a big celebratory meal.

“People really relax here,” he says. “They read a book, play games and rejuvenate.”

The Gables Wine Country Inn is a bed and breakfast in Sonoma County with a guest-accessible Riesling vineyard. Like Fovel, owners Pam and Larry Willis invite guests to learn pruning techniques, assist during harvest and pour wine produced from their vineyard for guests.

“Detailing the processes of winter pruning, early spring training of the vines and de-leafing as clusters form leads to a different kind of appreciation as well as a sense of peace and calmness,” says Larry. “It brings you into the moment, and the world around you disappears into the background.”

Similarly, Lisa Sannino, owner and cofounder of Sannino Vineyard on Long Island’s North Fork, believes that people who lodge at the vineyard’s Tuscan-style suite or villa—inspired by Italy’s agriturismos, where guests stay on a working farm—become part of the family. Like Letts, she feels guests learn a great deal while on site by witnessing firsthand the day-to-day work of maintaining the vineyard. In the field, winemaker Anthony Sannino will talk guests through different pruning techniques, and how the weather impacts acidity levels, yields, and ultimately, the wines. “It’s more visual, compared to sitting in a tasting room,” says Lisa.

The Gables accommodation.
The Gables accommodation / Photo Courtesy of The Gables

Staying at working vineyards also gives guests an insider’s experience of a winery’s inner workings. For instance, Fovel often brings his guests to William Chris Vineyards for a question-and-answer session with Winemaker Tony Offill.

Andres Vizcarra, winemaker at Becker Farms and Vizcarra Vineyards in Niagara County, New York, feels that onsite education also urges guests to go beyond their comfort zones, compelling them to try wines they may not consider in a traditional tasting room. Guests at Becker Farms can stay in a 375-square-foot cabin between the vineyard and orchards, and while there, they can join guided hikes and vineyard tours.

Chris Bronke, an educator and wine connoisseur, recently stayed onsite at Moshin Vineyards’ private studio. He describes the evenings as further supporting a meditative experience. “My wife and I would sit outside, no light but the stars and the moon as we sipped wine and enjoyed the complete silence. It was magical.”

Sunset at Vine at Middle Creek accommodations
A Sunset at Middle Creek / Photo Courtesy of AirBnB

Tapping into a meditative workflow not only presents the opportunity to reflect and restore, it heightens one’s attention to tasting notes and secures a new point of connection with the time, attention and labor that goes into a bottle of wine.

Plante, who also grows grapes for La Honda Winery in San Mateo County, similarly notes that learning about soil, weather and environmental factors leads to enhanced appreciation for why wine tastes as it does.

“So much TLC goes into it,” says Fovel. “And it’s an opportunity for stillness and reflection. During even a short stay, the rest of the world goes on hold.”

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