Love Wine, Will Travel — Wineries Lead European Wine Trips

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St. Julian Winery
Photos courtesy of St. Julian Winery

St. Julian Winery was founded by an Italian immigrant.

So why not lead a group of St. Julian wine enthusiasts on a trip to Italy to explore the influences behind the wines that launched the Paw Paw winery some eight decades ago?

That’s what St. Julian wine club director Cassandra Pone and vice president of winemaking Nancie Oxley were thinking when they planned an inaugural wine club trip to Europe this past spring.

“It made perfect sense for us to take a group of individuals over to the countryside to see where our founder was from,” Oxley says.

International Adventures

The St. Julian group dining al fresco in Pisa with the Leaning Tower behind.

On April 27, St. Julian’s Winery Club members headed to Italy for nine days, their sights set on experiencing Tuscan culture and wine.

It was an adventure that provided participants with many options to explore — and to try new and exciting wines. A particularly memorable moment for Oxley came on the night the group went to a local farm for a cooking class.

“It was just a really neat experience. We got to go out to their vineyard and look at their vines and it kind of brought it all back together,” Oxley says. “We were learning so much about Italian culture, but still bringing so much of Michigan and our comparisons into it.”

St. Julian’s Wine Club was so impressed with the success of the first trip that a second one is already planned. Come March, members will take flight to the Portuguese Riviera for a 10-day wine down and travel to Lisbon, Lagos and Algarve, with one stay at a 3,000-acre spread with farmland, vineyards and cork trees.

Destinations Tuscany and France 

Flying Otter Vineyard in Adrian also has the travel bug, planning a trip to Tuscany in November. Visiting locations similar to those the St. Julian group visited, Flying Otter will focus on Tuscany and the wine region of Chianti. Guests will also have the opportunity to extend their trip for a day or two and stay in Rome.

Cassandra Pone and Nancie Oxley enjoy a vineyard moment.

Guests will visit four wineries, an olive farm, have dinner in Vinci (where Leonardo da Vinci was from) and tour one of the biggest wineries in Tuscany, Badia a Coltibuono.

Michael Fletcher, Flying Otter travel coordinator, says the excursion is open to anyone who is interested in wine and wants to travel to Europe. Vineyard owners Bob and Linda Utter will go along as well.

“Everyone has an opportunity to get to know each other, eat dinner around the same table, make new friends and drink wine,” Fletcher says.

Flying Otter has a second trip planned for November 2020. An eight-day cruise with Viking River Cruises to France will put the accent on big red and white wines out of Bordeaux.

“Experiences like our travel opportunities serve to facilitate long-lasting bonds, not only with St. Julian, but with other members,” Pone says. “It’s truly special to be a part of it.”

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