Wine Wanderlust Guide: December 2017

Plan your travels with wine in mind: This holiday season, look for festivals, Champagne dinners and more; plus, a special look into FICO Eataly World, Italy’s new food and wine destination
Wine Wanderlust Guide: December 2017
Pizza bakers prepare traditional margherita pizza at FICO Eataly World in Bologna. (Vincenzo Pinto/AFP/Getty Images)
Dec 1, 2017

Want to explore wine around the world? Wine Spectator's new monthly guide opens the door with insider tips, upcoming events and seasonal packages, and once-in-a-lifetime cultural experiences.

Travel Intel

What’s the big news in the world of wine, travel and food? Check our Travel Intel section to stay in the know.

Bologna's FICO Eataly World is Open at Last

Fans of the Eataly marketplaces around the world can now immerse themselves even more fully in the company's take on Italian food, cooking, agriculture and wholesome living. On Nov. 15, FICO Eataly World in Bologna opened as the world’s largest agri-park—a 25-acre sprawl of restaurants, shops, farming and food-making demonstrations, even a vineyard.

The project began in 2012 as Bologna mayor Virginio Merola and a team worked to repurpose an old produce market to build, as he says, “a little town devoted to food culture and eco-sustainable food.”

Today, the little town is all grown up. Forty “farming factories” teach visitors about how Italian products like pasta, prosciutto and Parmigiano are made. Learning centers offer 20 classes (1 hour each, $25 per person) on topics such as “The Life of Bees,” “His Majesty the Black Pig” and “Truffle Hunting.” There are some 45 restaurants, street-food kiosks, cafes and bars for meals and sampling. Admittance is free, but the cost of indulging in the various events, experiences and, of course, the food, can quickly add up.

You can explore cereals, herbs and produce in the 5 acres of open-air fields, including a biodynamic garden and an orchard that grows 15 species of rare or endangered native fruits. Stables house hundreds of farm animals.

“Every morning, when I step inside the park, FICO’s crops and stables bring me back to my childhood in the Marche countryside,” says Eataly World executive chief officer Tiziana Primori. “You know, on the opening day my mother went straight to check out the vegetable garden … she wanted to make sure we got it right!”

FICO Eataly World FICO Eataly World FICO Eataly World FICO Eataly World FICO Eataly World FICO Eataly World

Wine lovers can check out the plantings of 60-odd Italian wine grape varieties and a handful of Georgian varieties, enjoy a bottle of wine at the Fontanafredda wine cellar, or head to La Bottega del Vino, a retail-lounge-education area dedicated to wine that includes a tasting and teaching amphitheater (Battaia 52), a restaurant (100 Vini e Spuntini) and a large wine bar.

What is Eataly founder Oscar Farinetti’s favorite part? He tells Wine Spectator you might find him at the exit of the park’s six “carousels,” the multimedia experiences that lead guests through interactive explorations of themes like “Man and Fire” and “Man: From Soil to Bottle.” “I love staying at the exit of the carousels because I go crazy when I see the expressions on the faces of people leaving the turnstiles. I try to read their emotions.”

As Christmastime approaches, the park’s restaurants and producers are bringing in typical traditions, recipes and celebrations. “And the best part of it will be the sharing!” says Primori. “Imagine celebrating Christmas in Piedmont and, right after, enjoy some Sicilian Christmas traditions.” Holiday events will be posted soon on the park’s website,, so keep a look out.

If you’re traveling through Italy and have limited time, consider this: “Bologna is an important high-speed train hub,” Merola says, “connecting to Florence in less than 40 minutes, to Milan in one hour, to Venice in less than 90 minutes, to Rome in a little more than two hours.”

UNESCO Names San Antonio a Creative City of Gastronomy

CIA/Phil Mansfield
The Culinary Institute of America established a campus in the burgeoning Pearl district of San Antonio in 2008.

San Antonio has become the second city in the United States to be designated a Creative City of Gastronomy by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Drawing upon the city’s early Native American, Mexican and European culinary influences, from foraging to beer making, the city’s dining scene has expanded its horizons to compete with Austin, Dallas and Houston. Accomplished chefs embrace a wider diversity of traditional Mexican cuisines, among others, while the Texas Department of Agriculture encourages increased attention to organic farming and local food use. It's a melting pot of cultures and innovation that goes well beyond Tex-Mex.

“This is an exciting time for the culinary arts in San Antonio—the designation reinforces the creativity and hard work of every individual who participates in and supports the local culinary community and the philanthropy of so many groups, like the chef cooperatives and our chapter of Les Dames d’Escoffier,” chef Johnny Hernandez of Grupo La Gloria said in a statement.

Among the highlights of the city's culinary scene is the San Antonio campus of the Culinary Institute of America, which places a focus on Latin American cooking in its educational offerings. The CIA and its student-run restaurant, Nao, are located inside the historic Pearl complex—once a German brewery, which was founded in the late 1800s—that has grown into a hip destination, boasting a popular weekend farmers market and food hall.

Archer Hotel Opens in Napa

Damion Hamilton
The Archer Hotel Napa lobby features an atrium that casts dappled skylight over warm natural tones.

The boutique Archer Hotel Napa opens its doors today, Dec. 1, in downtown Napa, as the cornerstone for the three-block-long, mixed-use development known as First Street Napa. The $70 million, five-story hotel, which will be followed by 16,500 square feet of retail space, offers 183 rooms, including 39 balcony suites, decked out in a modern, urban feel, plus a rooftop pool and bar. Rates range from $239 to $439.

Also open within the hotel is Charlie Palmer Steak, the fifth in chef Charlie Palmer’s collection of modern American steak houses, with 120 seats, a lobby bar and lounge, and an alfresco dining patio. The 400-bottle wine list is weighted heavily to Napa wines, and the bar and lounge menus feature 20 wines by the glass.—Aaron Romano

Journeys in Wine and Food

Ready for the next adventure? Look for these wine travel experiences this December.


Napa Valley

Alanna Hale
The Restaurant at Meadowood earned a Grand Award last year for its robust cellar offering more than 2,000 wine selections.

The 12 Days of Christmas dinner series at the Grand Award–winning Restaurant at Meadowood was put on hold last year as the resort team focused on opening the Charter Oak restaurant. Now, the celebrated wine dinners return with vigor for their ninth year.

Restaurant at Meadowood chef Christopher Kostow and wine director Micah Clark have teamed up with chefs from around the world—Australia, Denmark, France, India, Japan and Mexico—as well as familiar faces closer to home like Thomas Keller (the French Laundry), Sean Brock (Husk) and Eric Werner (Hartwood).

“We are always excited to welcome these different voices into our kitchen,” says Kostow. “It is great for the men and women in our kitchen to witness new techniques, products and styles.”

The dinners begin Friday, Dec. 8, with Mark Lundgaard of the Copenhagen-based Kong Hans Kaelder and run until Saturday, Dec. 23, when Kostow takes center stage. Get the full schedule.

Dinner tickets are $275 per person, available via the Tock reservation system (a ticketing process favored by some of the country's most exclusive restaurants), plus supplements. For wine, guests may choose between the Wine Experience ($225) or the Curated Wine Experience ($350), which focuses on older vintages, smaller producers and coveted wines, with the guest chef in mind.

“We have the luxury of being able to serve wines with age in a beautiful setting, and we will definitely be doing that throughout the 12 Days of Christmas with older Napa Chardonnay and Cabernet, German Riesling, and several fun older Italian wines,” Clark told Wine Spectator via email.

The Restaurant at Meadowood will donate $2,000 in honor of each participating chef, plus 10 percent of every dinner ticket sold, to the St. Helena Preschool for All, Inc., a local non-profit organization providing scholarships to 3- and 4-year-olds. Guests are also encouraged to bring unwrapped toys to the event for distribution by fire department stations throughout Napa Valley.

New Jersey

Crystal Springs Resort
The Grand Cascades Lodge at Crystal Springs Resort is home to the Grand Award–winning Restaurant Latour.

Garden State gourmands will find a decadent Champagne dinner at the Crystal Springs Resort on Dec. 14. The Grand Award–winning Restaurant Latour is celebrating Krug Champagne’s release of the 2004 vintage with a six-course tasting menu. What to expect? Oysters with uni and caviar, foie gras with sweet potato and quince, and pheasant with black truffle—all with Krug Grand Cuvée Brut NV, and later, the 2004. Tickets are $165.


LILA Photo
A view of the Chef's Welcome Party at the Palm Beach Food and Wine Festival in 2016.

From Dec. 14–17, the Palm Beach Food and Wine Festival is hosting a mix of stylish lunches, dinners, tastings and parties at its 11th annual event. While there, you can celebrate sustainable seafood in a five-course dinner with chefs including Michelle Bernstein ($185 per person) at PB Catch Seafood & Raw Bar, or enjoy alfresco walk-around dining at Best of Award of Excellence–winning Café Boulud, where Boulud himself, flanked by executive chef Rick Mace and executive pastry chef Julie Franceschini, creates the fare for the evening ($140). Wine expert and Master Sommelier at the Breakers resort Virginia Philip is selecting the wine for much of the program. Tickets are going quickly; on Friday night, what promises to be a blockbuster party at the Breakers—home to the Grand Award winner HMF at the Breakers—is already sold out. Visit

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