Area Daily’s Top Wine Country Picks

Our in-the-know friends at Area Daily tell us their three top wine country picks right now

Take a peek at wine lists lately. Look closer than just finding your favorite varietal and you'll see that New World wines have made just as much of a name for themselves as the classic, Old World vintages. And while a wine tasting tour of Italy and France should still top travel fantasy lists of anyone that hasn't been, there are new wine countries that are well worth exlporing. Here, Area Daily guides us toward the best stops in three of them — Portugal, Oregon's Willamette Valley, and the winelands of South Africa.

Vinho Verde Wine Tasting in Portugal

Vinho Verde

, or green wine, is a region in northern Portugal whose name is not a reflection of the color of the wine, but of its tradition of drinking the wines while they are young. The light, crisp, and aromatic wines are still under the radar for most casual enthusiasts and the time to discover this lush region is now. (Photo courtesy of Flickr/epeigne37)

Stay in the restored 16th Century Monastery Quinta do Convento da Franqueira, a four room guesthouse and winery located near the town of Barcelos. In addition to the vines, the surrounding gardens and spring-fed pool will be a great launching point for exploring the regions wine trail.

The history, culture, and beauty of the region make a great diversion to wine tasting. In less than an hour you can be on the sandy beaches of Apulia, Esposende, Cabedelo, Afife, and Moledo. Or check out Viana do Castelo, a picturesque port at the mouth of the River Lima dotted with fine mansions and known for its famous blue and white pottery with a working factory open to visitors.

Pinot Noir in the Willamette Valley, Oregon

Pinot noir drinkers will attest that some of the finest vintages come from a region in Oregon known as the Willamette Valley. The region starts just outside of Portland and extends over 100 miles south to Eugene. With over 200 small wineries, many also producing Pinot Gris, Riesling, and Chardonnay, gourmet food, and stylish places to stay, it's an up-and-coming destination for wine and food enthusiasts.

There are six sub-regions that comprise the valley which lend to a variety of scenic and different wine routes so plan to spend a few days to explore. For outdoor enthusiasts, there are numerous hiking trails in the region to clear your head and work off the calories.

When it comes to dining, you won't be disappointed, including finding the freshest ingredients for a take along picnic. Tina's in Dundee is notorious for local vintners and makes a great lunch spot and for dinner, The Dundee Bistro and The Painted Lady are spot on.

The Black Walnut Inn is set among the vineyards and orchards of the Red Hills of Dundee. Styled in the manor of a Tuscan Villa, all nine suites offer scenic views of the countryside and Mt. Hood from their balcony or patio. The gourmet breakfast and afternoon refreshments included in your stay are a plus.

East in Newburg, let The Allison Inn & Spa pamper you after a day of tasting. Set on 35 acres of gardens and vineyards, the guest rooms are outfitted in muted neutrals that are fitting with the casual elegance of the resort.

Complex Wines Outside of Cape Town

With majestic mountain ranges and lush valleys, the regions of Franschhoek and Stellenbosch, outside

of Cape Town, are probably the most stunning vineyards you’ll ever travel through. Sipping, tasting, and spitting your way through the numerous vineyards is the best way to explore the region, which is home to some of the most complex and interesting wines of the world.

It’s also the best way to stumble upon Moreson Wine Farm in the Franschhoek region of the Cape Winelands, which is a working farm winery and restaurant, Bread and Wine, with fabulous wines along with amazing cheeses and charcuterie. (Photo courtesy of Flickr/Franschhoek Wine Valley)