Best Wine Tours of 2011

The best thing about a wine tour is that you get to taste some of the finest “grape juice” in the world, straight from where it is made. You could be a novice in wine tasting or an oenophile, a wine tour can be stimulating and instructive besides being a joyous journey.  Here are some of the best wine tours around the world.Vineyard in Argentina


Nashik has the highest grape productivity in the world. This grape growing town is close to Mumbai in the Western India. A company called Groove Temple Entertainment conducts a two day tour to some six wineries in the region. The Bespoke Nashik Wine Trail Experience takes you to some wineries with astounding sceneries of the rolling grape fields and the hills as a background. One of the wineries also holds a festival called Sula Fest in the month of January every year where wine, dance and food rule the roost. Wine makers from Australia, France and South Africa come and live in this Indian town for months for the grapes.

New Zealand

Villa Maria Estate is the largest privately owned company in Auckland, New Zealand. The trip to this historic winery is known as Maungakiekie / Villa Marie Estate Winemakers Picnic, which takes place between 9 a.m. to 12 noon. Previously known as the Cornwall Park owned by the late Sir John Logan Campbell, this estate was an ancient Maori Pa site for more than 500 years. The private guided tour actually takes you through the wine making process in the winery and you get to taste 8 award winning wines with some antipasto and breads. This winery and vineyard is located in the rim of an ancient volcano.


Wine Tours Thailand conducts tours to wineries near Bangkok city. These are either one-day or two-day tours and include visits to the vineyards, wine restaurants, lunch with a glass of wine, visit to national parks, Buddha temples, night safari and elephant rides through the jungles and river.IMGP3004

Europe & North America

Arblaster & Clarke Wine Tours are gentle and classic tours of  major vineyards in Europe and other wine countries. Lynette Arblaster and Tim Clarke are passionate about wine and have been specializing in wine tours for the past 25 years. They have a few surprises planned for this year’s tour plus their usual Champagne weekends are on the cards. They have 18 wine countries on their 2011 list including some wine regions of the New World.

Their April Bordeaux Wine & City Weekend coincides with “En Primeur” trade tasting. Top London wine buyers and some famous wine journalists will taste for the first time vintage 2010 clarets, and you could be a part of this premium tour.

Their Great Chateaux & Winery visits ensure private wine tastings and invitations to some wine cellars and visits to chateaux including the famous Bordeaux chateau. All their tours are led by famous names in the wine industry – either wine writers or connoisseurs and friends of the wine makers. Arblaster & Clarke wine tours are truly a rich and heady experience.

The Napa Valley Wine Train is a tour through the wineries in Napa Valley. Their wine education dinners inform you about the pairing of food and wine – which wine goes best with which food. You get to learn about the history of the wine in hand, its characteristics, the individual flavor, where and how it is made.

Traveler’s Tip: You can buy the wines straight from the wineries without paying extra taxes; a unique facility among wineries all over the world.

Author: Elias Cortez is a freelance writer and the editor of Top Net Book Picks, a website which provides detailed reviews and information for net books. You can learn more about him and the best net book to own at his website.

Thanks to Elias for today’s guest post. If you are interested in guest posting with IShouldLogOff, email us at info [at] Thanks!

Good Beer, Bad Beer & Ugly Beer

Some beer is great, actually a lot of it is. So good in fact that we dedicated a Foodie Friday to all the different beers we tried while we were in Europe. Beer helped us to become friends with a few Iranians and we became enthralled in Tanzania where our beer options were Safari, Kilimanjaro, Uhuru and Serengeti. We tried a huge variety of beer on our trip, mostly because we wanted to collect a variety of labels, and here’s our good, bad and ugly.

The Good

This one is really difficult to put our finger on. While we were in Cologne, Germany our friends there introduced us to Kölsch and explained to us that by law it has to come from that very region. We were there during the world cup, while Germany was making a run for the championship, and on game day we went to buy some and found the warehouse of a beer aisle at the local supermarket completely cleaned out. The beer is refreshing but really, is every bit as good as those wonderful pilsners we tried while we were in Prague….namely the original Budweiser. We didn’t have any trouble finding that in a local Prague bar and the local version of the familiar ‘black and tan’ was quite frankly amazing. Given that we have friends in both cities, I think we’re going to have to call it a tie. (I’m willing to take my chances that our friend in Munich isn’t reading….she might have a slightly different opinion.)

The Bad

TIMGP5001his one goes to Egypt. Many of us have been toasting the changes occurring there recently but the unfortunate truth is that Islamic countries, even secular ones, just don’t understand the concept very well. The local brew was actually OK but it was only memorable in that it was almost impossible to find outside of a tourist restaurant. Wanting to celebrate our completion of the overland Cape Town to Cairo route we struck out again and again. Finally we found a liquor store (we’d been told that the handful in existence were all run by Christians rather than Muslims….I’m not so sure of that) and, giving up on beer, made the switch to liquor. Have you ever heard of Jani Walker Red Lion? I imagine it is pretty similar to motor oil. Runner Up: Every time I go home and visit my parents I’m confronted with a refrigerator filled with Michelob Ultra. How Lance Armstrong, the world’s premier endurance athlete, became associated with a low-carbohydrate beverage is one mystery….how they get away with calling that yellow water beer is another.

The UglyIMGP2775

The recent purchase of Anheuser Busch by InBev has had many Americans upset that our American beer is being stolen by Europeans. Company number two, behind InBev is South African Brewing Co, based in Johannesburg. (In case your curious, familiar names like Miller and Peroni are SAB labels.) While in Jo’Burg we toured the International Beer Museum (which is a wonderful way to spend an afternoon) and were surprised to learn that our tour entitled us to a taste of traditional African beer. Thankfully it was just a taste and we were later given two pints of real beer, plus a small souvenir glass filled with some more.

This column of aims to answer those questions that we always get asked. What was your favorite this, or your worst that. Every week we aim to highlight a new topic and will do so until we run out of ideas. If you have an idea for a Good-Bad-Ugly post, feel free to tell us in the comment section below or send us an email. To read all of them, click here.

Toasts around the world

As most travelers know, many friendships are forged over a drink. Here’s a few toasts that will keep you covered no matter where you go.

  • Skål – This word comes from the old Norse word for ‘bowl’ and is now used across all Scandinavian countries to toast. Contrary to some beliefs, there is no relation to the word ‘skull’ but rather to the word ‘scale’.Prost – This German toast comes from the Latin word ‘prosit’ which wishes “that it be good!” As always a good focus on the drink at hand just be certain your beer selection is worthy of German culture. Maintain eye-contact from the toast’s start to its finish.
  • Salud – To your health everywhere that Spanish is spoken. To make things nice and easy French, Portuguese and Italian speakers say Santé, Saúde and Salute respectively. All come from the Latin ‘sal?s’ meaning ‘health’.
  • Gan bei – The Chinese will command you to ‘dry the cup’ or ‘drink it all.’ Etiquette is important in China though so expect the host to be the first to toast. (Gan Bei is Mandarin and not all of China uses Mandarin. The Cantonese equivalent, another dialect westerners are likely to encounter, is Gom Bui!).
  • Nostrovia – This Russian toast, also ‘to health’ is actually a misspelling of Na zdorovje. The best part about this toast is that it works not only in Russian but across most of the Slavic world and even in Polish. Wait for the host to offer the first toast before even touching your food!
  • L’chaim – L’chaim, l’chaim, to LIFE. Everything in Judaism is done to life and drinking is no exception. While you’re at it, a big ‘Mazel Tov’ or congratulations may be in order as well!
  • Kampai – Like the Chinese version of cheers, this Japanese version also refers to an empty cup. Rather than a command though think of it as a noun – empty cup. To some this might still be a command but to some ‘zen-like’ individuals it is a toast to all that you have to learn in order to fill your cup of life. Whatever you do, make sure the ‘Kampai’ has finished before you take your first sip!
  • Did you know that we’re Glenfiddich Explorers? You can catch this and many of our other lists on their website!

    Foodie Friday: Beer

    Yes, that’s right. This week we dedicate our food post to what Benjamin Franklin called: “Proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy!”

    Franklin himself spent two months in Germany, and although his love of beer is legendary, I’m curious what kind of beer he actually had on his trip to the country. I say that because everywhere we go, each of the 16 states, (Länder in German) each city, each town, and seemingly each house, has its own kind of beer. In some places it is a re-bottling of a familiar taste under a new label and in others the choice of beer is as important as the language you speak.

    We started our time in Berlin drinking Berliner amongst other things. Generally a pilsner like beer but not from the Czech region by that very name…it gets a pass in my book on enjoyment factor….especially given that as we drank them at room temperature no one (including your two favorite bloggers) realized that they hadn’t been refrigerated.

    Next up, in Cologne, the kingdom of Kölsch we learned that the local brew—Kölsch—is not only the local brew but also the name of the original dialect of German spoken in the region…making it the only language in the world that you can both speak….and drink! Any beer not produced within Cologne city limits cannot, by definition, be considered Kölsch. On that note of classification, all you porter fans should know that if a beer has sugar…it’s not a beer… :(

    Munich would be the place to put our beer drinking skills to the test. After being in town only a few hours we found ourselves seated inside the infamous Hofbrau Haus with one of our hiking mates from Mt. Kilimanjaro. She and I each had a liter of the local Augustiner while Jill went for a smaller and more refined hefeweizen, later deciding to go for a second half liter in order to catch up. She somehow combined the German word for one (Ein) with the Spanish word for more (mas) but quickly learnt that ‘masse’ in German is the word for ‘liter’ instead of ‘more’….needless to say she needed a little bit of support to finish her ein masse (one liter) which was not hard to come-by.

    The beer doesn’t end with Germany though, in fact it merely just continues everywhere we go. In Prague, passing through the town of Plzen we caught a quick glimpse of the Pilsner Urquell brewery on our way to Prauge. We later learnt that Pilzner Urquell literally means “original source of pilsner“ in German…not even Czech.

    The most important brewery in the Czech Republic—to an American—is not its biggest exporter; in fact this brewery is able to export to a mere handful of countries. This is because the of a pioneering American by the name of Adolphus Busch, who visited the city of Budweis in the Kingdom of Bohemia, in 1876 and came home and set to work using the name and the style of beer in his home country. Budweiser is known to all of us in the States but tasting the true namesake was a special treat. The best part was the style in which it was served to us; a light pilsner styled beer mixed (as if they’d stirred a black & tan) with a darker lager. In Czech this is known as a ‘rezane’ and by all accounts was absolutely fantastic…certainly having nothing to do with the word Budweiser on the glass….

    Berlin: Something’s different here.

    We landed in Berlin bleary eyed after getting up at 2 o’clock in the morning for our flight. (Danny never went to sleep) and immediately something was different. No less than 10 minutes after getting off the plane, we stood in line to buy train tickets, customs and immigration completed, luggage in hand. Right on schedule the train appeared, opened it’s doors and we were whisked away to the center of Berlin. It worked like clockwork. “German efficiency, welcome to Europe,” I thought.

    There’s a lot to see and do in Berlin, but first on our list was actually the Egyptian museum. Crazy, I know, considering it has been two weeks since we stood in the Egypt Museum in Cairo. Of course we wanted to see Nefertiti’s head after reading the rather belligerent request for it to be returned on a billboard in the museum in Cairo. For the record, her head was very nice, but not nearly as incredible as we had hoped. In the Sudan we slept under the stars next to the pyramids of Meroe, almost all of which have been destroyed by an Itialian fortune hunter in the 19th Century. Taking the gold jewelry and treasure back to Europe, we assumed while at the pyramids that it had been sold and lost to history. You can imagine my surprise and frankly excitement when I stumbled upon her treasures in this museum. Like a kid in a candy shop I examined every piece with such excitement that I think I scared the guy next to me.

    Honestly we spent most our time in Berlin at the museums, given that there are more than 70 of them and both of us are history buffs isn’t too hard to understand. We saw Checkpoint Charlie, remaining sections of the Berlin Wall, road our bikes around the Bradenburg Gate, the German History museum, the site where the Nazi’s famously burned books, and spent nearly three hours exploring the Isalmic Art museum in the Pergamon. By the time we left we were museum-ed out.

    Besides the more traditional museums, we also spent a lot of time at museums and sites dedicated to World War II. As Americans it was interesting to see the scholarship and academic work on World War II from a German perspective.

    Having hosted, traveled and met several German’s along the way, we were not surprised at the frank and sometimes painful displays related to World War II and the Holocaust. We found the Topography of Terror Museum, on the site of the old SS headquarters in Berlin to be particularly interesting for the displays told a complete history of the SS’s actions during the era with facts and images that we had never seen. We appreciated that the Jewish Museum didn’t focus only on the Holocaust when telling the story of Jew’s in Germany, instead providing a chronological history since the medieval period. We ended our visit to Berlin at the Holocaust memorial located symbolically near the Bradenburg Gate.

    Somewhere in there we had time to grab a pretzel, a few beers and cycle all over Berlin. In fact the couchsurfers we stayed with kept us out late each night, not that we’re complaining, beer tasting in the park, barbecuing with friends, playing cards and having some rather deep political conversations. We thought Europe would be a relaxing break for us, but if Berlin is any indication we’re going to be exhausted by the time we leave this continent.