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Water and Wine

Two Honeymoons for the Romantic Couple

Discover Yourself in Puerto Rico
History, culture, great cuisine and beautiful beaches: that’s only the beginning of a long list of charms awaiting honeymooners in Puerto Rico.

Part of Christopher Columbus’ second voyage to the New World, Puerto Rico boasts some of the most unique travel spots for the honeymooner. As a United States commonwealth, the island offers the additional conveniences of utilizing U.S. currency and passports are not required for American citizens. Locals speak English and Spanish, and while there is definitely a cultured, local flavor, mainlanders feel very much at home here.

Capital city San Juan includes five centuries of history, including homages to both Columbus and explorer Juan Ponce de Leon, narrow blue-cobblestone streets lined with colorful residences, and beautiful beaches situated in the shadow of weathered forts. More than just a cultural visit, the capital city is home to luxury resorts, fine dining, impressive churches, and a lively nightlife. The weather is a dream for Arizonans: average temps remain in the 70s and 80s year-round.

As the name suggests, El Convento is a former Carmelite convent, sited across the street from the beautiful San Juan Cathedral in Old San Juan. The property was repurposed as a boutique hotel in 1962, and boasts Spanish colonial charm as well as modern elegance. Of particular note is the rooftop garden, where chef Luis Castillo grows fresh fruits and herbs that are included in his brilliant cuisine. Couples celebrating a destination wedding here are in for a particular treat when Castillo prepares a multi-course feast for them in the Salon Martorell. Frescoes from Puerto Rican artist Antonio Martorell are featured throughout the space, which stands as a tribute to the convent’s nuns.

The luxury traveler will be delighted with the Condado Vanderbilt Hotel, which recently opened for special events after extensive, top-to-bottom renovations. Romantic archways, sweeping staircases, vaulted ceilings, opulent furnishings and breathtaking ocean views mark the property’s grand style. Established in 1919, the grand Condado Vanderbilt will reopen its sleeping rooms, including many spectacular suites, this winter.

Of course, beautiful resorts and charming hotels abound throughout this island commonwealth. Located on the west end of the island, Rincon is home to the exclusive Horned Dorset Primavera hotel. About eight miles from the mainland stands micro island Vieques, home to a world-renowned bioluminescent bay.

Photography courtesy of: M.C. Wickham

Grape Escapes
If it’s viniculture you’re after, honeymooning in Northern California is where it’s at. Hands down the top two wine destinations in the West, the Napa Valley and Sacramento region are home to hundreds of wineries, world-class restaurants, and luxurious hotels that amount to the trifecta of pleasure for honeymooners.

A short flight from Phoenix to Sacramento International Airport brings newlyweds within a stone’s throw of literally hundreds of wineries the minute you touch down. Sacramento’s dry soil and Mediterranean climate make the environment ideal for bold zinfandels, petite sirahs and chardonnays to thrive. Winemakers in Clarksburg, Lodi, and Amador have been producing wines of note for decades, and the area is poised to compete with northern neighbor Napa for wine tasting experiences. What you will find here are quaint tasting rooms, lovely picnic spots, and oftentimes free wine tasting experiences that are unheard of in the popular Napa Valley. If you choose to stay in the Lodi area, home to renowned zinfandels, check into the romantic Wine and Roses Hotel. Lush gardens surround the property, which was once a working farm. The on-site Towne House Restaurant features innovative seasonal menus as well as cooking classes and demonstrations, wine education, and live music every evening. The spa on site will complete the relaxing experience. ( www.winerose.com and www.lodiwine.com for more information)

Take the scenic route through Clarksburg’s wine country, where more than 7,000 acres are planted in some of California’s premier wine grapes. This area is a slower-paced wine country where honeymooners can meander beautiful river valley roads in pursuit of a great wine experience. A must-visit is the Old Sugar Mill, where ten vintners operate tasting rooms and offer personalized wine education, often times with the vintners themselves. Be sure to stop in and say hello to Todd Taylor, a former brewer who has brought his talents to the art of winemaking, producing some of the best Tempranillos, Zinfandels and Primitivos in the state. ( www.clarksburgwinecountry.com , www.oldsugarmill.com )

About an hour from Sacramento, travelers enter the Napa Valley wine region, featuring top wineries in Yountville, Rutherford, St. Helena, Calistoga and Napa. Here, you’ll find so many tasting rooms that you’ll need to plan ahead and pace yourself. By all means, hire a driver.

Photography courtesy of: Mitch Rice

Of particular note is HALL St. Helena, where small, premier lots of fine wine and an impressive art collection are co-mingled for a complete sensory experience. Private dining, a demonstration kitchen and wine education center, and a wonderful garden are spread out before you. The ultra modern tasting room offers virtually 360 degree views of the vineyards below, a perfect complement to the rich reds produced by the Hall family. Several spectacular private rooms stand poised for a destination wedding dinner or family celebration, each bearing unique art installations. HALL’s sister winery in Rutherford is equally stunning, featuring a series of caves, award-winning wines, and a truly memorable wine experience. This fall, HALL welcomes boutique hotel Senza into the family, featuring 41 luxurious rooms including 20 suites that will certainly appeal to the honeymooner. ( www.hallwines.com )

River Terrace Inn, just steps from downtown Napa, is a great home base for your Napa honeymoon. A lovely morning breakfast, location alongside bucolic Napa River, and an afternoon wine tasting with delicious appetizers awaits guests. ( www.riverterraceinn.com ) Don’t miss dining downtown at The Thomas, with a beautiful rooftop terrace, handcrafted cocktails, and impeccable service.)

Fine dining is never hard to find in the Napa Valley; the list of can’t-miss restaurants is unbelievably long. Just up the road from Hall St. Helena, we recommend Farmstead, where fresh, seasonal, and local products are artfully blended together to create a truly memorable experience. The barn inspired space at Long Meadow Ranch is decorated with fresh flowers and antique farm implements, and the chefs here make a point to delight the senses with unique combinations—think roasted cauliflower with dried cherries, delicious grilled Castroville artichokes and rich, fresh cheeses.

In downtown Napa, you’ll be delighted with the offerings at TORC, as well as the newly reopened City Winery, on the site of the historic Napa Valley Opera House. Here, you can indulge in a vast selection of wines straight from the barrel, enjoy plays and musical acts on the Opera House stage, and savor a delicious meal, all in one venue. Don’t forget to allow time to wander through the Oxbow Public Market to explore a broad range of food, wine, and art produced in this unique area. ( www.longmeadowranch.com ; www.torcnapa.com ; www.citywinery.com )

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