Master sommeliers Matt Stamp and his compatriot Ryan Stetins have travelled the world in search of the best wines. When they’re not on the road, they’re teaching eager enthusiasts at their Napa, California wine bar and restaurant, Compline. And there, I caught up with the globe-trotting wine experts to grab a short list of their very best experiences.
Here are six cities they recommend all wine lovers visit.
Santorini, Greece is a surprisingly great destination for wine lovers.
Stamp pinned the Greek island of Santorini as more than an Instagram-famous hotspot.
“It’s a beach vacation spot and a great wine region,” he said. “They specialize in an indigenous grape that doesn’t grow anywhere else in the world. The wines are bright, citrusy, stoney, and delicious. The style there is fairly uniform – it’s bold, fiercely aggressive, and crisp. The wine is like the island itself, which has an extreme environment, is beautiful, and has a lot of hard edges.”
Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany has a great riesling.
“In Germany, you get an interesting mix of medieval towns versus high-tech, new technology. You’ll see a beautiful Audi in front of an ancient cave kind of thing, wherever you go. It really expresses that traditional culture while recognising that we are in the modern age. When you get to Bernkastel, you are immediately immersed in a village where very few people live, and the times I have been it hasn’t been immersed in tourism,” said Stetins.
He called the rieslings “mind-bendingly delicious,” adding that they’re less sweet than the rieslings that most Americans are used to.
Margaret River, Australia is a trek for some to get to but worth it.
Perched on the brink of Australia’s western coast, the Margaret River is one of the world’s remote wine regions. “It’s a four or five-hour flight from Sydney,” Stamps said. He also said it’s totally worth it.
“I describe it as the lost California surf town on the edge of nowhere. Margaret River is a town of like 3,000 people, and everybody there is a little crazy in the right way. The food and wine scene is amazing. They grow sauvignon blanc, cabernet, and chardonnay: all of these flavours that people recognise, but they do it with a really legit approach.”
Willamette Valley, Oregon is the “new kid on the block” when it comes to wine.
Oregon’s Willamette Valley is home to more than 500 varieties of pinot noir. It’s within driving distance of the duo’s restaurant in Napa, and Stetins said the place has a special feel.
“Oregon is the new kid on the block with an old soul,” he said. “Their strength is teamwork. They have an all ships rise with the tide approach. A long time ago, they started a festival called IPNC – the International Pinot Noir Celebration – inviting growers from around the world to meet each other and see how they can do it better. No, it’s one of the most sought-after festivals to attend for wine growers.”
“My favourite place is McMinnville. You feel like you’re at home there. One night, I was at a bar called Lumpy’s towards the end of the night, and I asked the bartender for a cab. He told me I wouldn’t find one there, but offered to give me a ride home. On the way, I asked him how long he’d been working at Lumpy’s, and he said, ‘I’m Lumpy.’ The fact that the owner was there, he was working late, and he was closing up kind of explains what McMinnville is.”
Burgundy, France boasts an incredible landscape and great wine.
“The Côte-d’Or,” Stamp said, “is the holy grail for a lot of sommeliers, and most people into wine. You can talk about it and drink as much as you want, but once you get there and see these vines that have been growing for 1,500 or 1,800 years, you see an incredible landscape that really makes you think about permanence in a way that most wine regions don’t.”
Stamp’s best advice for visiting Burgundy? Fly into Paris, spend a weekend in the city, then take a short train to the town of Beaune. Better yet, rent a car and visit sprawling Dijon on the way.
Basque, Spain is known for Txakoli.
About 600 miles southwest of Beaune, Basque’s capital of Vitoria-Gasteiz serves as the hub of Spain’s most prolific wine region.
“The diversity of wines in such a small area of the world is astounding,” said Stetins. “And the food scene there is amazing. My favourite way to eat is to pick it out of the ocean and eat it-and that’s definitely what goes on in Basque. They say if it grows together it goes together, and chefs there have taken a cue from that to create what is a truly unique feel.”
Basque is known for Txakoli, a signature blend of young grapes that produces an acidic, sparkling, very dry white wine; the kind that serves as the perfect aperitif for fresh seafood, plucked right from the waters soaking the best views in the region.
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