PREMIUM

Top 10 winery restaurants to visit for foodies

Whether you’re looking for simple dishes prepared well, vegan tapas or a 21-course tasting menu, there’s a winery restaurant somewhere that will more than meet your needs. Chris Losh recommends 10 wineries from all corners of the wine world that will keep even the most demanding foodie happy

Bodega Garzón

Where is it Maldonado, Uruguay.

Why visit Okay, so maybe Bodega Garzón doesn’t have 400 years of history or a romantic rags-to-riches story behind it – it was established by a wealthy oil and gas tycoon in 2007 – but this is wine tourism turned up to 11, and a must-visit for any serious foodie.

For starters, the winery itself is gorgeous, and offers everything from tours to tastings, with picnics among the vines and even hot air balloon rides and helicopter tours.

But perhaps best of all, it has Francis Mallmann. Of course, as executive chef, the great man isn’t there very often. But having overseen the menu and trained the team, you get the next best thing, which is to sample the Argentine’s famous ‘fire cooking’ at the winery’s restaurant, which opens from Wednesday to Sunday.

And if you fancy yourself as a gastro/pyromaniac, there’s even a three-hour course where you’ll learn how to use the techniques for yourself. Just make sure you book in advance.

When to visit November/December or February/March. Avoid January – it’s the height of the tourist season.

How to get there Garzón is about 2.5 hours’ drive from Montevideo airport, 160km to the west.


Gutiérrez Colosía

Where is it El Puerto de Santa María, Jerez, Andalucia.

Why visit There’s no shortage of wine tours in Jerez, but if you want something that combines small and traditional with bags of atmosphere, this should be on your list.

Along with the high roofs, dark spaces and slumbering barrels of a nearly 200-year-old Sherry bodega, Gutiérrez Colosía is the closest of all the region’s bodegas to the sea. It also has a restaurant next door that is daringly different. Bespoke is the brainchild of the family’s daughter, Carmen, who has transformed an abandoned space into a stimulating modern ‘Sherry Bar’, with decorations and furnishings made out of repurposed barrels and pallets.

The menu features all the usual Andaluz tapas (lots of seafood) and there’s also a vegan section, which is far less usual for Spain. A Sherry match is suggested for each dish, while the wine list offers 100 or so table wines, including organic, biodynamic and natural.

When to visit Spring – Seville’s big Feria is in April, while the Jerez horse fair is in May.

How to get there You can fly to Jerez via Madrid. Alternatively, it’s a 1.5-hour drive from Seville (120km) or 2.5 hours from Malaga (230km).


Marqués de Riscal

Marqués de Riscal

Marqués de Riscal

Where is it Elciego, Rioja.

Why visit A major player in the Riojan wine landscape, key to Riscal’s success has been its ability to be both traditional and forward-thinking. So it’s not too surprising that, while its wines are respectful of the region’s history, the winery’s modernist hotel appears to have descended from Mars. Frank Gehry designed the famous Guggenheim museum in Bilbao, to the north, and continued here where he’d left off in the Basque capital. With its wavy roof patterns, the Riscal hotel made quite a splash when it opened in 2006.

Today its spa, wine bar and food offering are worth seeking out, with the latter ranging from casual to Michelin-starred.

The winery restaurant’s ‘21 ideas’ menu (€140 per person plus wine) should keep the most demanding foodie happy, and there’s also a 14-course version for €110.

When to visit Spring and summer are good, but try to hit Elciego’s festival in September. Avoid January and February when the hotel carries out its scheduled maintenance work.

How to get there The 140km drive south from Bilbao airport takes between 90 minutes and two hours.


Olivier Leflaive

Where is it Puligny-Montrachet, Burgundy

Why visit There have been Leflaives growing grapes and making wine in this neck of the woods for 17 generations. Olivier Leflaive initially pursued a career in TV and radio, before the pull of les vignes became too much and he re-entered the family business.

Staying at the winery’s hotel in Place du Monument, in the heart of Puligny-Montrachet, is the best way to experience what Leflaive wines are about. Walking tours of the vineyards and cellar visits all leave from here, with tastings every day except Sunday. Food-and wine-matching lunches and dinners cost €65 or €95, depending on the number of courses, with the option of paying a ‘grand cru supplement’ to upgrade your wine matches.

When to visit Autumn is a wonderful time, when the vineyards turn golden. The hotel is shut in January.

How to get there Burgundy isn’t the easiest wine region to access, but the hotel/winery is about 170km and less than two hours’ drive from Lyon-St Exupéry airport.


Castello di Volpaia

The village overlooking the vineyards of Castello di Volpaia

Castello di Volpaia

Where is it Radda in Chianti, Chianti Classico, Tuscany.

Why visit Castello di Volpaia is not really a winery at all – it’s an old medieval ‘borgo’ (village) that was abandoned and has since been repurposed. The result is winery equipment shoe-horned into old halls, churches and buildings, scattered around the hilltop hamlet.

Yes, it’s beautiful; yes, it’s great for Instagram; and yes, the wine is good. But it’s also something of a food hub, too. The bakery knocks out bread, cakes and – of course – pizza on a daily basis, while the Osteria is run by Colombian Juan Camilo Quintero, winner of the Emerging Chef of the Year title in last year’s Gambero Rosso.

If you want to take him on at his own game, the cooking school runs half-day courses that show you how to prepare a typical four-course Tuscan meal.

When to visit Try to coincide your visit with the Radda nel Bicchiere wine festival in June. Avoid winter, as many restaurants and hotels are closed for the season from November until the end of March.

How to get there Volpaia is more or less equidistant from Florence (60km) and Siena (50km) airports, about an hour’s drive from either.


Jordan

Where is it Stellenbosch, South Africa.

Why visit Husband-and-wife grape-growing and winemaking team Gary and Kathy Jordan are the Cape’s celebrity wine couple, responsible for several decades for some of Stellenbosch’s most reliably good wines. They’ve built up the offerings at their estate to include numerous tour and tasting options, two quality restaurants and, most recently, high-class accommodation.

An open-top Land Rover tour is a great way to take in the beauty of the estate, but the view from the restaurant’s terrace out towards the Stellenbosch Mountains is a good substitute – and gives you more money to spend on chef George Jardine’s food. A former South African Chef of the Year who’s worked under Jean-Christophe Novelli, his food is as effortlessly beautiful as the scenery. Courses in food and wine pairing, cookery and breadmaking are also available.

When to visit Any time from September to April, although spring (October/November) is particularly lovely.

How to get there It’s a 30km drive from Cape Town airport, and just 12km from Stellenbosch.


Viu Manent

Relax while exploring the vineyards at Viu Manent. Credit: enco

Viu Manent

Where is it Colchagua, Chile.

Why visit Still family owned (Miguel Viu-García emigrated from Catalonia in 1935), this is one of the most visitor-friendly wineries in Chile. You can explore the vineyards on mountain bikes, e-bikes and horse-drawn buggies, while the sunset tour allows you to savour the softening of the light with wines and a picnic.

If you’re more in the mood for a bit of independent vineyard exploration, the ‘picnic’ option is available at any time – though don’t do it at the expense of visiting their eateries. The café is good for light bites, while the Wine & Grill restaurant does simple things well.

Serious foodies should time their visit to coincide with one of the classes run by Chilean chef Pilar Rodriguez, in her food and wine studio. They run all weekend from October to May and include everything from short food- and wine-matching sessions to all-day cookery workshops.

When to visit The climate is fabulous in Chile from October to May. In March, Santa Cruz is home to the Fiesta de la Vendimia (harvest festival).

How to get there It takes about two hours to drive the 180km from Santiago airport.


Fontanafredda

Where is it Serralunga d’Alba, Barolo, Piedmont.

Why visit Fontanafredda is set up brilliantly for visitors. The winery is lovely, and open for guided tours, though if you just want to taste you can do that too. There’s also a signposted walk through an ancient forest (the ‘Wood of Thoughts’) where you can let your mind wander as you build up an appetite for the serious business of eating.

The Osteria restaurant/wine bar offers hearty local fare, but for a special occasion Michelin-starred Ristorante Guido is a high-class alternative. Expect the likes of rabbit, kid, calves’ tongue and plenty of truffles. There’s a guesthouse here too, so you can make the most of the wine pairings without worrying about driving.

When to visit During truffle season from October to mid-November. Alba’s truffle fair is one of the best in Italy.

How to get there It’s less than two hours’ drive from either Turin or Genoa airports.


Elephant Hill restaurant deck

Dining with a view at Elephant Hill

Elephant Hill

Where is it Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand.

Why visit You don’t need a great view to make great wine, but there’s no harm in having one. Elephant Hill winery is on the bottom edge of the crescent-shaped curve of Hawke’s Bay; its vineyards are just a few minutes as the kiwi scutters from the Pacific.

The winery’s restaurant makes the most of this unforgettable vista with big windows and airy decoration. Fortunately, the food and wine aren’t too shabby either. The eatery won Best Winery Restaurant and two hats from the Cuisine Good Food Guide last year, while Elephant Hill wines are in the premier league of Hawke’s Bay.

This is red wine country, so give yourself a break from Sauvignon Blanc. Drinking the (excellent) Reserve Syrah with wagyu beef while gazing out over the rolling breakers is nourishment for the soul as well as the stomach.

When to visit February and March are best, when the weather is reliable but it’s out of the busiest part of tourist season.

How to get there The 25km drive from Hawke’s Bay airport, just north of the art deco town of Napier, takes about 30 minutes, but make sure Napier is part of any tour.


Château Smith Haut Lafitte

Where is it Graves, Bordeaux.

Why visit The estate dates back to the 14th century and is farmed organically – so if you visit in spring you might see horses plodding down the vine rows. But there’s no shortage of stimulating modernity. The spa (Les Sources de Caudalie) has justifiably won dozens of awards for its vine-based treatments and you’ll find plenty of interesting art around the grounds, too.

The winery offers myriad themed tastings and matchings, and La Grand’Vigne restaurant is two Michelin stars-worth of excellence, where Nicolas Masse’s modern, elegant dishes are designed to match the château’s wines. Learn from the man himself at one of the three-hour Saturday morning cookery classes, followed by lunch. The bistro, Table du Lavoir, offers a more affordable dining option.

When to visit Avoid en primeur at the start of April: Bordeaux will be packed. Similarly, check it’s not a Vinexpo wine trade expo year. Otherwise, late spring or early summer is a good time to visit. How to get there Just 20km from Bordeaux airport, the château is about 10 minutes’ drive from the southernmost edges of the Rocade ring road.


The best of the rest: hotspots for wine-loving foodies

Château L’Hospitalet

Languedoc, France Stimulating food and wine matchings, good hotel and a summer jazz festival.

Castello di Brolio

Chianti Classico, Italy Enjoy a sunset guided tour before dinner around the grounds of this 12th-century castle in the heart of Tuscany.

Cullen

Margaret River, Australia Wine and garden tours and biodynamic food and wine-matching from one of the region’s best producers.

Bodegas Monje

Tenerife, Spain Quirky winery that provides great hog roasts and the chance to learn how to make the ubiquitous local ‘monje’ sauce.

Hess Collection

Napa, US Classy lunch and dinner ‘experiences’ featuring art and winery tours, plus dinner in a private dining room.


Chris Losh is editor of Imbibe magazine and has been writing about wine for more than 20 years. In that time he’s travelled widely, eaten plenty and tasted with abandon. He is author of Where to Drink Wine: the essential guide to the world’s must-visit wineries (£22, Quadrille, September 2018)