Stumped for how to wow the wine lover on your holiday shopping list? Consider tickets to a four-day cruise on the Crown Princess, with winemaker, Fred Brander, aka “The King of Sauvignon Blanc”.
Departing January 18 from Los Angeles, the ship wends its way along the coast, anchoring in Santa Barbara and Baja California. Since every oenophile itches to explore unknown regions, your gift is guaranteed to score big points. Despite proximity, Baja’s wines rarely make it to L.A.
Once aboard, guests will enjoy private tastings with Mr. Brander, joined by Lee Abbott, host of the informative YouTub series, TASTING TALK.
From the first port of call in Santa Barbara, Mr. Brander will lead an excursion to Brander Vineyard in the Santa Ynez Valley. After a tour and sampling of his acclaimed Bordeaux-inspired wines, the group continues on to Happy Canyon Vineyard. Set in the rolling hills of Piocho Ranch, Happy Canyon is one of the only producers with its own polo field. The property is owned by the Barrack family, who with talented, young winemaker, Sean Pitts, are also recognized for exceptional work with Bordeaux grapes.
Next stop: Ensenada, for visits to Lechuza Vineyard, Vinos Tres Valles and Clos de Tres Cantos. These wineries lie along the burgeoning Valle de Guadalupe wine trail, often dubbed, “The Napa Valley of Mexico”. Both areas share a leaning toward big, bold, blended reds. Upscale boutique hotels and stylish restaurants complete the comparison.
Speaking of blending, you’ll find quirky combinations are the norm in Baja. Since Mexico lacks indigenous wine grapes, it relies on vines imported from the Old World, rarely seen together in their native countries. For example, Lechuza Vineyard’s, “Amantes”, is a cocktail of nebbiolo, cabernet sauvignon, grenache, petite sirah and tempranillo–grapes native to Italy, France and Spain in one gulp. “Nada”, from Clos de Tres Cantos, mixes tempranillo and petite sirah, another unusual Spanish-French marriage.
Lunch is at the local favorite, Finca Altozano, overlooking acres of vineyard. Executive chef, Javier Plascencia, sources menu ingredients from surrounding farms and ranches. He is known for modern twists on Baja cuisine, and succulent mesquite-grilled meats. The wine list has mostly Mexican selections, including several from growing regions outside of Baja.
Between ports, the luxurious Crown Princess offers every amenity. See a preview in the cruise line’s promo video.
Find more details and make reservations here. Happy Holidays!