I’m in the wine business—not the travel industry—but perhaps there’s time for a third-stanza segue because I can’t remember having a more rewarding experience than leading a group of thirsty, mostly Carpe Vino Wine Club members on a trip to Spain’s vast wine country last fall. It was such a freakin’ blast that much of the flight home from Madrid I passed the time by brain-storming where to go in 2014.
Please consider joining me on my next adventure: a two-week tour of New World wineries in Chile and Argentina, starting in Santiago, summiting the Andes, hunkering down in Mendoza and finally cruising into Buenos Aries for a finale of tango, exploration and, of course, enjoying great restaurants and wine.
With discounted airfares in hand (purchased at extra cost; otherwise meet up in Santiago) we depart on September 25 and return from Buenos Aries on October 7, with a killer, post-tour option to see the Iguazu Falls (returning October 9).
Spain Was My Learning Curve
I’m prepared to reveal for the first time that last year when I was planning our trip to Spain, I was absolutely clueless about what I was doing. I had never been on a group wine tour before, much less any kind of group tour. And I certainly had no experience in organizing such a trek.
Having the right partners, as I so quickly learned, was the solution for overcoming my personal lack of experience in such matters. My good fortune was to hook up with Matthew Brumley and his company, Earthbound Expeditions, based in Bainbridge, Washington. Matthew and his team are true professionals, and they lead me out of darkness on multiple itinerary planning quagmires, escorting me to the bright light of reality.
Spain, as it revealed itself day after day, was a singular place, dense in history, culture and all things edible or quaffable. Our trip was a deft blend of visiting important sites along side hitting an amazing array of regional wineries—small, family-owned to large corporate to co-ops that served as custom crush facilities for dozens of vineyard operators.
As I learned repeatedly, traveling as a group was the way to go. We saved an immense amount of time—no getting lost; dropped at the front door instead of distant parking lots—and the journey in custom coaches was reliably pleasant and relaxing. As a person who values his independence, I quickly learned to embrace the impressive value and Zen of traveling with a group of like-minded adventurers.
The Plan for South America
I am on a personal quest to visit the important wine regions of planet earth, and the focus of this year’s trip has been high on my list, despite the “bottom of the world” mentality associated with Argentina and Chile—these places seem so far away that an intrinsic mystery shrouds the region. Add in the fervent political and economic turmoil and intrigue that characterize both countries, and it makes some people a bit squeamish.
For me, it makes getting on a plane even more compelling.
For this trip, we’re taking a page from the Spain playbook (with a little bit of knowledge, now I’m dangerous): the central objective is to visit wineries, and as we learned in Rioja, Navarra, Ribera del Duero and Pirorat, there are vast differences in the great estates and people who operate them. If you don’t get juiced each time you turn up the driveway of a winery you’ve never visited, perhaps you should go to Epcot this year instead of joining us.
As Spain travelers will attest (see testimonials below), we also made a beeline for must-see cultural attractions. We’ll do the same in Argentina and Chile, though admittedly there are few places with the overwhelming number of choices that Spain offered (especially cathedrals).
And then there is the food. We will nosh our way clear across the continent and wash down everything from Gaucho fare to fine cuisine with the finest Malbecs and very friendly Torrontes. This is a place for those who live to eat and eat to live.
For a day-by-day itinerary including details about where we will be going and staying, click here to be transported to the Earthbound Expeditions web site. Keep in mind, however, that because our departure will not be for more than six months, some details of the trip may change. . .but the quality of every element will be maintained. . .I guarantee!
All of the costs and options associated with the trip are clearly outlined in detail on the Earthbound Expeditions website. There are no surprises, so you can be certain of the amount you will spend…not counting, of course, the purchases you decide to make in-country.
My goal is for this this to be a compact group of travelers, so we’re shooting for 24 participants (single travelers are, of course, welcome. . .but there is a single supplement so try and find a buddy!). We had 20 people on our trip to Spain, and it turned out to be a very compatible group.
Once we hit our number, I’ll schedule a get-together in the Wine Mine at Carpe Vino for the group and we’ll sample a host of wines from the region as well as enjoy appetizers. If there is enough interest, I can also arrange for Tango lessons for the group so that we’re ready to rumble when we hit Buenos Aries.
My recommendation is that if you are interested, better not wait to make a decision because this trip will sell out. If you have any questions, I’m available any time. Call me at 530-308-2698.
Still Not Sure?
You have my personal guarantee that this is going to be a world-class adventure. Our visits to wineries will be greased so that when we arrive, our hosts will be expecting us. . .we won’t be just another tour bus. And after a dozen years in the wine and restaurant business, you can be certain of one thing: I know how to party!
It sounds like a cliché, and perhaps it is: “We departed as fellow travelers; we returned home as friends.” That was my experience after my trip to Spain. Here is how my new friends describe their experiences:
Homer and I want to say thanks to Gary and Earthbound Expeditions for putting together the trip to Spain. Lots of superlative adjective could be used to extol the trip but I’ll simply say the planning was perfect, food and wines were beyond our expectations. And then there were wineries, and museums and Picasso and the Guggenheim…. We’d go again in a heartbeat! Loretta & Homer Rector
The “Great Wine Estates of Spain” trip put together by Gary Moffat and Earthbound Expeditions far exceeded our expectations! It was a perfect blend of wine, culinary adventures, history, and local culture. Our guide, Cesar, was extremely knowledgeable, personable, and just plain fun – he showed and taught us so much more than we ever could have seen or learned on our own. And if all of that wasn’t enough, our fellow travelers were amazing. We’ve made new and lasting friendships. Thank you Gary, Cesar, and Earthbound!! Sherri & John Fernandez
Have been to most of the wine growing regions of the world including South America, South Africa, Australia, France, Portugal, Napa and surrounding counties etc., but never had been to Spain’s wine country. Went with Gary and Earthbound and had a fabulous time. Could not have asked for more. Cesar, our guide was excellent and Gary made all the difference in the world. He chose a variety of local wineries to visit that represented both large and small. Would highly recommend the South America trip. Will & Blanche Sutter
Last fall Kathy and I accompanied 20 members of the Carpe Vino Wine Club on a wine tour of Spain arranged by Gary. We want to let any and all know we considered it the trip of a lifetime. Gary did his homework on the wineries, and we had the opportunity to witness first hand, from vineyard to tasting room, Spain’s great wineries. But as good as the wine was the exploring of Spain’s ancient and modern architecture along with the fabulous cuisine proved to be even better. The entire adventure was a highlight reel thanks to Gary and our guide, Cesar, who was there every step of the way from Madrid to Barcelona. We’re awaiting for the next great wine adventure….we’ll be there. Ken Giebel and Kathleen Carpenter
Our recent trip to Spain, fall of 2014, with host Gary Moffat of Carpe Vino, was a truly memorable experience. The tour was well-planned with amazing food, wine and sight-seeing. Every day was a new adventure in wine and food tasting. The education we received on wine making and growing in all the different regions of Spain was invaluable. We have a new appreciation for the complexities involved in wine making. We would be remiss if we did not mention our 20 traveling companions. We came together as strangers, and left as friends. Thanks to Gary and Earthbound for a great time. Karen and Frank Rinella