SINGAPORE (Reuters Life!) - Whether you're an old-world aficionado or new-world evangelist, there's a vineyard hotel out there for you.
Boutique hotel website Mr & Mrs Smith (www.mrandmrssmith.com) lists the world's best hotels for wine lovers. This list is not endorsed by Reuters.
1. Calistoga Ranch, Napa Valley, United States
California's Napa Valley is the heartland of U.S. winemaking: an easygoing, river-run pocket of rolling greenery that revels in a sun-kissed climate. Calistoga Ranch, a collection of 48 wooden lodges woven into a forest of pines and oaks, is a supremely romantic embodiment of the valley's welcoming, informal atmosphere. The ranch has its own vineyard, label and tasting cave. Visiting vintners from all around pop in with their wares throughout the year, and the wine list in the restaurant could take a week to read, let alone sample. Furthermore, guests who want to get their hands juicy can join in harvesting, pruning and crushing. The hotel's Bathhouse spa uses Calistoga's mineral waters, offering numerous soaking treatments, scrubs and massages, and the exclusive Lakehouse restaurant is one of Napa's most celebrated.
2. Hawksmoor House, Cape Winelands, South Africa
A one-of-a-kind guesthouse on the Matjieskuil wine farm half an hour outside Cape Town, Hawksmoor House allows you a nostalgic glimpse into South Africa's vintage Winelands world: lingering breakfasts on the veranda, vineyard walks, sundowners on the stoop and indulgent dinners in an 18th-century dining room. Don't expect five-star flourishes - this is about unpolished home-grown perfection washed down with a spectacular sunset. The estate grows its own grapes, and provides its own label wines to help stock its cavernous cellar, but there are that many vineyards nearby (Stellenbosch, for starters) that you can take a tasting tour of the Winelands without leaving your armchair.
3. Villa Bordoni, Tuscany, Italy
This 10-roomed restored villa may well be the best spot in the world to secret yourself if you've a taste for Chianti. Set amid the inimitable Tuscan countryside of cypress trees, olive groves and, of course, rolling vineyards, the rustic-luxe hideaway is perfectly positioned for strolling among the vines or exploring the wine towns of the region, such as Montepulciano and Montalcino, or gastronomic, cultural hotspots such as Siena and Florence. The restaurant is the jewel in Bordoni's crown, and there's an excellent selection of Chianti Classico from local winemakers -- the Montrachet-alike 2001 vintage from Querciabella is liquid heaven.
4. Le Relais du Franc Mayne, Bordeaux, France
Surrounded by seven acres of lush St-Emilion vineyard, this 16th-century chateau is at the heart of southern France's wine country. This is a hip hybrid of working winery and boutique hotel, with barrel-loads of charm and style. Outside is classic 16th-century Girondine style; inside, the hotel's nine bedrooms share space with the trappings of viticulture, the eye-catching renovated vat room where guests can learn about wine-making from experts, and the underground caverns where barrel upon barrel of the lush liquid is stored. The hotel offers free wine-tasting sessions and, for the more determined, the nearby Vignobles & Chateaux runs a daily wine school.
5. The Louise, Barossa Valley, Australia
Rivalling Hunter Valley for the title of Australia's wine capital, Barossa is a place of pilgrimage for wine-lovers and foodies alike. The Louise is where the really discerning ones end up, a bastion of urban slickness in a profoundly rustic region, with 15 marvellous modern suites and an almost monastic sense of reverence when conversation moves wine-wards. With more than 100 wine-makers within spitting (and swilling) distance, you could easily spend your entire stay careening around the countryside sampling Barossa's bolshy reds. Where there's wonderful wine, fabulous food is never far behind: the hotel restaurant is a booking-essential destination in itself, with a 'locavorous' seasonal menu that sources 90 percent of its produce from within 30 km of the hotel. As you'd expect from the restaurant's name - Appellation - the wine list is one to remember.
Editing by Miral Fahmy