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Vineyards: How, When and Where

By Elissa Leibowitz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 24, 2003; Page H06

Like the wines they produce, every wine region in the world has its own personality, especially in regard to tourists. In California's Santa Cruz Mountains, it might be as simple as showing up. In Champagne, France, a tourist might experience appointments, entrance fees and limited hours. No matter: all of these regions want you to visit. At most of the larger wineries in countries where English is not the native language, guides who speak English are available. At smaller wineries, it can be hit-or-miss.

CHAMPAGNE From Paris

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When to go: The 10-day fall harvest in September, which may coincide with the changing colors of the fall foliage.

Getting there: Champagne is a 11/2-hour drive northeast from Paris. The region is also reachable by hour-long trains departing from Paris's Gare de l'Est station.

Visiting the vines: The region has 285 Champagne houses. Cellars at 17 of the large ones are open to the public, according to the Union of the Champagne Houses (011-33-326-47-26-89, www.umc.fr), which maintains an up-to-date list and contact info on its Web site. Reservations generally are required -- sometimes two months in advance during the summer -- and entrance fees (usually $5 to $9) are charged. Most small operations are closed to the public; local tourism offices keep lists of the smaller vineyards that might be open.

Wine route: A tourism trail is marked throughout the southern part of the region. Look for signs indicating "La Route Touristique du Champagne."

More info: French Government Tourist Office, 410-286-8310, www.francetourism.com; Reims Tourist office, 011-33-326-77-45-25, www.reims.fr; Interprofessional Champagne Committee, 011-33-326-51-19-30, www.champagne.fr.

McLAREN VALE From Adelaide

When to go: McLaren Vale's climate is a lot like that of the Mediterranean, with warm summers and mild winters. The seasons are opposite of ours, so travelers could save money by traveling to Australia in its winter.

Getting there: Neighboring the Fleurieu Peninsula and Sellicks Hill Range, McLaren Vale is 45 minutes south of Adelaide by car.

Visiting the vines: About 70 wineries make up the region. This is a tourist-friendly wine region, with most wineries open every day. According to the McLaren Vale Winemakers and Grapegrowers Association (011-61-8-8323- 8999, www.mclarenvalewinemakers.com), none charges for wine tastings, and appointments generally are unnecessary. The Web site of the winemakers and grape growers association has an interactive map of the wineries.

Wine route: The McLaren Vale Tourist Drive is a 17.5-mile circular route cutting through the wine region. It starts and ends at the McLaren Vale and Fleurieu Visitor Centre.

More info: Australian Tourist Commission, 310-229-4870, www.australia.com; South Australian Tourism Commission, 888-768-8428,www.southoz.com; McLaren Vale and Fleurieu Visitor Centre, 011-61-8-8323-9944, www.visitorcentre.com.au

RHEINGAU From Frankfurt


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