Each person places importance on different things when selecting a retirement location.
For some it’s weather, or saving money. Maybe it’s being closer to family and friends or a place where you can play golf all year. For us, it’s finding just the right town for fabulous, locally produced wines at reasonable prices. Yeah, we’re in it for the wine country. Sure, weather is huge – for the grapes – and making sure you can afford to live is essential, but what’s the point of retiring if you can’t sit in a cafe and sip incredible wines all day?
If you’re like us, and food and wine are the key to a long and happy life, then here are some options for you to check out when researching your own retirement location.
Most Americans would list Arizona as a retirement option, but not many people think about it when they think wine. With the growth of the Willcox and Sonoita wine regions just south and east of Tucson starting to produce some quite excellent Mourvedre and Petite Sirah, Arizona wine country is starting to get harder to ignore. With a lower cost of living, higher elevation, and ever so slightly cooler temperatures (it actually snows there every once in awhile), Tucson is moving up the charts of the more affordable wine region cities.
Santa Rosa, California
Let’s not forget California, right? Yes, Napa can be a tad on the pricey side for those on a fixed income, but nestled right in the heart of Sonoma County is a little gem of a town that still has opportunity, affordability, and proximity to arguably the best wine in the world. Santa Rosa offers the true food and wine-lover great weather and a chance to experience real farm-to-table life and drink small-batch wines that never see life outside the valley.
Grand Junction, Colorado
Colorado wine country? Yeah! Colorado wine country. The western slope of the Rocky Mountains, and Palisades in particular, is a surprisingly good climate for growing grapes and making wine, mostly Riesling, Viognier, Cab Franc and Syrah, not to mention some amazing fruit. It’s no wonder why it’s called the banana belt. And if you’re looking for adventure in your post-retirement spare time, Grand Junction is close to some of the best mountain biking, hiking, skiing, and fly fishing in the world.
Ithaca, New York
The Finger Lakes area is really proud of its wine culture and is a surprisingly wonderful place to retire. There are dozens of cute towns throughout this surprisingly rural and peaceful area in which to put down roots, over a hundred vineyards producing some amazing Rieslings, and Cornell University helps keep the college-town vibe and culture while keeping the costs relatively low.
If you’re looking for European history and romance, at a surprisingly affordable cost, there isn’t any better than Évora. Right in the heart of the Alentejo wine region, Évora is a surprisingly hip little 14th century university town surrounded by cork forests, rolling hills, vineyards, and some of Portugal’s most famous wineries. If you’re looking to protect your nest egg, and get a glass of wine for less than the cost of a liter of gasoline, this is your place.
Guadalupe, Baja California, Mexico
Just an hour from the California border and right by the coastal city of Ensenada, Baja California’s Valle de Guadalupe is totally a place to consider when researching retirement destination that have a flair for wine and food. Life is affordable, the weather is perfect, wineries are popping up everywhere, and winemakers are coming from all over for their chance to start something special. Mexico also has a pretty easy to manage (relatively) immigration and visa process for American expats and retirees.
Retirement doesn’t have to mean moving to a small town. If you are a food and wine lover, then consider Logrono. The capital of the Rioja wine region, Logrono is packed full of trendy tapas bars, great shopping, and is surrounded by hundreds of wineries that make incredibly delicious wines that you can’t get anywhere else. And, since Spain’s economy hasn’t been exactly setting the world on fire, your retirement dollar can really be stretched to the max.
Tuscany gets all the love, but for true wine lovers, there might not be a better retirement destination than Puglia – the heel of the boot in southern Italy. As a region, Puglia is home to no less than 10 distinct DOCs (certified Italian wine regions) and fruits and vegetables are so abundant that your neighbors and even some farmers and shops give away the overstock because there is just too much of it. Check out Manduria, spend your later years drinking Primitivo, and live quite comfortably for less than $1500 per month.
Everyone thinks France is so expensive. Paris, Bordeaux, and Provence can set you back, but outside of those regions, France offers some incredibly good values for your retirement dollar. For mountain lovers (like me) Pau is the perfect example. Sitting at the base of the Pyrenees, lacking name recognition allowing it to stay quiet and less expensive, and nestled between Rioja to the west, Loire and Languedoc-Roussillon to the east, and Bordeaux to the north, there might not be a better epicenter for wine discovery and French cafe culture.