Take wine tasting to the next level by throwing in a llama or three.
Sun-dappled terraces, hillsides combed with vines, and the chance to taste world-class vintages … It’s hard to imagine how the typical wine-tasting experience could be improved. Yet, some vineyards are managing to do just that, by introducing a little llama drama. Often used as guard animals–keeping potential predators at bay–and to graze between the vines, llamas are also natural charmers. Whether for practical reasons, to attract visitors, or both, many wineries, farms, and outdoor adventure companies are falling for the wonderfully weird creatures.
There’s something soothing about hanging out with llamas and alpacas (their smaller, furrier cousins). Perhaps it’s their thick, shaggy wool, fluttery eyelashes, and intriguing, pebble-like teeth. In the case of these camelid hotspots, it could also be the wine…
Divine Llama Vineyards
What started with their teen daughter’s pet llama became an obsession for the owners of this Yadkin Valley winery, which lounges in the shadow of misty Pilot Mountain in North Carolina. One llama led to another, and now there are around 60 of the delightfully odd animals grazing alongside rows of cabernet and merlot.
Forget what you may have heard about spitting. Unless you threaten them, these llamas are more likely to trot right up to you with round, curious eyes. There are often a few adorable babies in the mix, too.
There’s more llama action in the tasting room, from the cute wine labels to scarves knitted with llama wool.
Lodging and Llamas
WHERE: Fort Bragg, California
Picnicking on the beach with llamas feels like stepping into a Jack Vettriano painting, albeit with humming camelids instead of singing waiters. Lodging and Llamas organizes leisurely strolls from its base near Fort Bragg in Northern California. The route weaves through redwood forests to reach Ten Mile Beach, creamy and golden as honey.
Llamas named Cody and Titi carry a fold-up table, wine, and local cheeses for a unique experience on the Pacific coast.
WHERE: Northamptonshire, England
Named for a Saxon word meaning “where wild cats roam,” Catanger Llamas in Northamptonshire is surrounded by idyllic English countryside and farmland. Treks follow paths through thick woodland and past rolling green fields–and everyone gets their own llama friend for the walk.
Almost as enchanting as the woolly mammals, a gypsy caravan and shepherd’s hut provide onsite accommodation. Those who spend the night can sit outside by the fire pit, drinking wine, watching the sunset, and hanging out with llamas right on their doorstep.
INSIDER TIPThe treks take place all year round, even when the fields are carpeted with snow–but for maximum cuteness, go in summer when you can visit llama moms and their newborn babies.
Swan Mountain Llama Trekking
WHERE: Swan Valley, Montana
Surrounded by the alpine beauty of the Swan Valley, these trekking specialists know that llamas and wine are a match made in heaven. Their three-hour wine and cheese llama treks travel through the Flathead National Forest and finishes with a creekside picnic at sundown.
The Montana company also organizes overnight and longer treks with camping, so you can hang out with your new pals a little longer.
Wild Horse Winery
WHERE: Paso Robles, California
Tasting room hosts at this bucolic Paso Robles winery encourage visitors to take their glasses for a wander around the grounds. In a field flanked by rows of pinot noir and viognier grapes, llamas Dolly and Salvador adore company. Offer them a carrot and they’ll love you forever–and probably pose for a selfie.
You can even take a little llama love home with a bottle of Pink Floyd, a zingy rosé named after the winery’s first ever camelid.
WHERE: Vale of Glamorgan, Wales
Chickens scratch around the hedgerows, wild pheasants roam around plantings of seyval blanc grapes, and the orchard overflows with apples used to make cider.
Best of all, three tame llamas stroll the grounds and you can join them for a walk around the area. A three-hour trek is rounded off with a buffet-style spread and a bottle of wine in the vineyard barn.
WHERE: Paso Robles, California
Llamas and alpacas aren’t just fascinating company. They are also excellent and fearsome (when they need to be) guard animals. At Tablas Creek in Paso Robles, a herd of sheep grazes between the vines, reducing the need for pesticides and fertilizer. In turn, a crack team of alpacas–including one named Freddie Mercury–watches over them and keeps potential predators, like coyotes and cougars, at bay.
INSIDER TIPReserve a spot on a vineyard tour, between 10:30 a.m. and 2 p.m., to go behind-the-scenes of the winemaking process and meet the resident animals.
Emiliana Organic Vineyards
WHERE: Casablanca Valley, Chile
Alongside horses, cows, peacocks, and chickens, the alpacas at Emiliana in Chile’s Casablanca Valley are a key part of its biodynamic practices–a form of organic farming focused on the natural biological balance of the land. The animals naturally weed, fertilize, and till the land.
With beehives, olive trees, and biological corridors planted with native trees and shrubs, it would be easy to spend a full day here. Especially with world-class wine on offer, such as the velvety, peppery carmenere.
The Alpaca B&B
WHERE: The Dordogne, France
The owners of this glorious bed and breakfast in the heart of the Dordogne believe spending time with alpacas can soothe the soul. That’s especially true in a setting surrounded by national parkland, vineyards, lakes, and picture-perfect villages.
The plush rooms are in a 200-year-old farmhouse, with 14 fleecy alpacas grazing the grounds. Guests can join the owners at feeding time, buy wool in the onsite boutique, or just sit and watch the captivating creatures for a while.
Ottaba Llama Walks
WHERE: Ottaba, Australia
If walking with llamas through the vast, verdant landscape of the Brisbane Valley doesn’t make you happy, perhaps nothing will. The animals accompanying visitors on Ottaba Llama Walks in Queensland are gentle, social souls–the hardest part is saying goodbye, knowing you can’t even be Facebook friends.
There are various treks to choose from, including a stroll along an old rail trail. But for ultimate bliss, go for the Winery Walk, with a stroll through the vines followed by a wine tasting with cheese and nibbles.
Old Faithful Geyser
WHERE: Calistoga, California
This natural attraction in Calistoga offers something a little different from the usual Napa Valley experience. The six-acre grounds are home to a frequently-erupting geyser, Tennessee fainting goats (which topple over and play dead when alarmed), and guard llamas.
Picnics are encouraged. You bring wine and food, and they’ll provide glasses, crockery, blankets–and bizarre mammals. There’s also a bocce court, in case you need more entertainment.
Rain Dance Vineyards
The llamas came first and the wine followed at Rain Dance Vineyards in Oregon. The owners bred more than 125 llamas before planting pinot noir grapes. Two of the camelids–Bonzi and Oscar–are still a main attraction, grazing the hillsides of blackberries and other shrubs ready for new vines to be planted. Visitors can sip wines on the patio or stay for a picnic.
Black Pearl Winery
WHERE: Paarl, South Africa
On the slopes of Paarl Mountain, this family-owned winery is home to a herd of adorable alpacas. Small batches of shiraz, mourvedre, and chenin blanc grapes are grown, harvested, and bottled on site, and the surrounding farmland is also home to olive groves, Nguni cattle, and ponies.