We were fortunate enough to get on Shannon’s 2018 Sicily tour, and it was a set of experiences we will always cherish. To start with, her tours are the perfect size – I came to feel like we were in a “traveling dinner party”. What this small group size enabled us to do was enjoy dinners and wines in intimate settings with restauranteurs, chefs, and vintners interacting with us personally. This made for truly memorable connections with Sicilians who are passionate about their crafts, as well as connections with each other.
In addition to the intimate group, the other thing that Shannon has perfected in her tour of Sicily is a perfect balance between relaxation time, amazing and unique cultural experiences, and of course incredible food and wine at the best vineyards in this amazing and beautiful land. We will never forget the venerable craft of the marionette show, and the witty and gregarious artisans who put this show on, as has been done for centuries. We ate fresh – as in made before our eyes – cheese with a saffron farmer, walked the Palermo and Catania markets with a couple native Sicilians, and learned new appreciation for the history and culture that have amassed in this crossroads of centuries of western civilization. Perhaps the most memorable was a private lesson and recital in the history of music in a 14th century home by a world renowned music historian, luthier, and musician who crafts ancient instruments and teaches their playing. These amazing experiences were always punctuated by great foods and sublime wines in beautiful settings.
While we anticipated great things in Sicily, our trip exceeded all of our expectations. We will definitely be making another trip with Shannon- and it will be hard to resist the temptation to repeat Sicily!
Bob & Margaret F. Washington D.C.
Our Sicily Tour with Shannon of Grapehops exceeded even our already high expectations. Meeting the winemakers, seeing the actual vines, drinking the wine, eating the food – all were generous and delicious.
The tour was varied, well-paced, smoothly run, and hospitably informed by our guide, Gianluca, and by the locals he introduced us to. Our eight fellow travelers made dinners and tastings convivial and interesting.
Alex & Ann C. Berkeley, California
As one who was on the maiden voyage of this fantastic tour, I urge you all to consider this trip. It was fantastic to meet winemakers, visit ancient towns, eat fabulous food, taste the local wines, explore the world of port, and interact with some of the warmest, kindest locals I’ve had the pleasure of meeting. Shannon has done it again–she attracts the best folks! Both locals and travelers.
Judy Roberts, Berkeley, California
Our trip to Portugal was phenomenal! This is not only a wine trip but also a trip of history & culture. The hotels are first rate and the food and wine just keep coming and coming! Shannon works very hard to make sure everything goes smoothly and it shows. Can’t wait for our next trip!
Rick & Nancy S, Walnut California
A Taste of Northern Portugal is our fourth wine tour with Shannon and each tour seems to get better. This one was a nice balance between the vinho verde, just south of Galicia in Spain, and the great Port district along the Douro River. We visited very historic sites, had many memorable, delicious meals and visited and tasted at a remarkable variety of wineries ranging from small producers of white wines to the noted, theatric presentation at Sandeman, one of the major Port producers. it would be difficult to imagine a better experience.
Don & Mary M. Marshfield, Wisconsin
As veterans of Shannon’s tours, Linda and I continue to praise her ability to generate experiences that are so genuine and so enjoyable. And she does this at a value point that is perfect: value lux. Thanks for all of the effort you put into these wonderful tours on our behalf, Shannon.
Paul & Linda H, Alamo, California
We had a fabulous time on this tour. Shannon had it so well thought out and planned. There was a huge amount of variety in activities with, of course, wine tasting being in the forefront. We are usually independent travelers, but after taking the Portugal Wine Tour, we wouldn’t hesitate going with Shannon again
BJ & Alan Firestone, Placitas, New Mexico
We had traveled with Shannon before so I knew we would have a good time in Venice but this exceeded my expectations. She used to live there so knows the city well and she knew just where to take us for the best sights and best food. There was no such thing as a bad day with her!
Fynne & Hal Fowler, Morganton, North Carolina
Shannon thought of every detail to make this trip remarkable! I knew my first ever visit to Venice would be memorable because that’s just the way I choose to see things. But doing it with GrapeHops and with Shannon at the helm was an experience beyond my expectations.
If ever one feels she or he deserves to treat him or herself to an awesome vacation, go with the Taste of Venice Tour by GrapeHops! You’ll be wanting for more.
Eden B. from Fremont, California
This was our second trip with Shannon and as with our first trip, everything was done to ensure that it was a total success and a great experience. We and our friends had a thoroughly enjoyable time. I attribute this largely to Shannon’s flexibility in meeting individual needs, her hard work and conscientious approach and her knowledge of the areas visited.
While we had been to Venice before, Shannon took us to places and venues that normal tourists would not know about or visit. It was a totally different experience of Venice. In addition, visiting with Shannon who has lived in the city and also previously led visitor groups, meant that the insights and comments that she was able to provide added greatly to our experience. Totally different to our previous visits! All in all, a great trip and most enjoyable.
Tony & Sue N. from Australia
This was my first “vacation” trip, and I sort of fell into it because someone else had to cancel – thank you so very much to that person!
I had such a wonderful time. I’m not a “foodie” but never once went wanting, I totally enjoyed everything. Shannon is a perfect host/leader, she showed us – not only food & wines, but interesting sights too. She cares so much that everyone has a good time and attends to your individual needs and likes too. I would highly recommend this trip and hopefully more!
Patti Smith, Orcutt, California
Our tour was a fabulous experience, which felt more like a group of friends traveling together in a fun and adventurous way. The itinerary was a great mix of activities and there was a sense of spontaneity which pervaded the whole experience. Shannon made the whole trip look like it was effortless, but it was abundantly clear that a huge amount of hard work went into it seeming that way!
Jay and I would without hesitation do another trip with GrapeHops in the future.
Randi Schneider, Sag Harbor, New York
The trip Slovenia was wonderful beyond expectation! Shannon orchestrated a seamless adventure that was creative, energetic, varied, and fun. The venues and the foods and wine served were always amazing. The mix of activity and eating/drinking kept us feeling balanced. I would love to do one of Shannon’s tours again.
Janet Teodori, Tucson, Arizona
My husband and I went on the Piedmont, Italy tour with Grapehops and had an incredible week. We’ve always traveled on our own, but traveling with Shannon took all the stress out of the planning and arranging. We had so many memorable experiences because she knew all the special places and people. She really knew the area intimately. Because we did not have the worry of transportation and timing, we were able to enjoy so many more activities every day. We ate the best food at lovely restaurants and explored many wineries along the way. And the scenery was spectacular. We even had a charming, opera singing bus driver.
Because Shannon keeps the group small, it only added to the instant camaraderie we all experienced and enjoyed. You’ll be very impressed with Shannon’s organization, friendliness and ability to ensure you have a trip of a lifetime. We will definitely be traveling again with GrapeHops and Shannon.
Mary H. San Diego, California
How lucky we are to have had our first trip to Europe be with Shannon and GrapeHops Tours. Our trip to Catalonia, Spain was a perfect mix of wine, food, sights and culture. Our travel mates were so fun and interesting and we consider them friends forever. We had no idea what to expect and we were absolutely in awe of Shannon’s organization, choice of tours and guides, and selection of activities. She does countless hours of research to find special and unique places and every day was better than the last. If you want to travel and truly get to know a specific region, then GrapeHops is the only way to go.
Erin & Darin, Simi Valley, California
Traveling with Shannon in Spain was like traveling with a like-minded close friend who had done all of the hard work research for you before the trip. Everything felt so considerate of our personal interests. And with the smaller group, it is not so much like a tour as like a fun outing with friends. Shannon knows not only the best places to visit, but when and how to visit them. When the trip is done, you smile and anticipate the next trip. Our small group of new friends from the Catalonia tour now feels we are likely to see each other again and again on Shannon trips for many years to come.
Paul & Linda H, Alamo, California
The May 2015 Catalonia tour was our third GrapeHops tour with Shannon, who has a remarkable ability to select places which are not on usual tour circuits, and incorporate locations of exceptionally unique interest. She also finds guides who know the areas very well. This tour began in the beautiful, historic city of Tarragona and concluded in Girona, equally historic and fascinating, with an overnight in the serene, craggy monastic location of Montserrat and a couple of nights in quaint El Bosc near the Penedes vineyards. From the steep natural vineyards in the Priorat and the well-groomed Llopart Winery (with an elegant picnic, a first time for them) to Augustus Forum on the ancient Roman road which had a delightful wine vinegar tasting, and Sicus with its unique in-ground fermentation and delicious picnic and wine tasting in the rustic vineyard highlights only a few of of our experiences. We absorbed a magical combination of fascinating historical and viticultural information, savored remarkable wines and food, not to mention the conviviality of a group who had a wonderful time together. This tour could easily qualify for “a trip of a lifetime”, but for Shannon another of her ever-improving GrapeHops tours.
Don & Mary M. Marshfield, Wisconsin
I have always been a DIY vacationer…the idea of a “group tour” was my idea of a nightmare….having to wait on a bunch of people, and have a middle of the road experience because the tour director is trying to keep 50 people happy. However, I discovered the joys of small group tours, and Shannon does a FANTASTIC job of personalizing the experience for the folks in her group. A perfect mix of planned activities and “on your own” time, with the flexibility to make the trip what you want, made for a great vacation. As much as I have always enjoyed the planning for a trip almost as much as the trip, there was great freedom in having someone else worry about getting from point A to point B, and worrying about where to eat and which local tour guide to use, and which apartments really are nice (instead of just looking that way in the photos!). This trip to Croatia was never one I would have managed on my own, and I can’t wait for the next opportunity to go on a Grapehops tour!
Anne O. Elmer, Louisiana
Just when you think you know yourself, someone comes along to prove you wrong! We had always traveled solo, as a couple, until a friend steered us to Shannon’s GrapeHops tour of Croatia. Before the trip, internal doubts abounded: “Would we like the others in the group? Would we have enough free time? Would we enjoy the guides and activities and other choices made for us?” Not long into our glorious two-week adventure, each of our questions was answered with a resounding “YES!” Fellow travelers were interesting, low-key, and fun; guides were personable, entertaining, and informative, and Shannon’s choices of restaurants, vineyards, and off-the-beaten-track explorations afforded us the time and opportunity to do what we like most – to interact with the people, enjoy authentic meals, sample (many, many!) local wines, and become immersed in the culture of the country. On top of all this, there was Shannon – our navigator, cheerleader, problem-solver, drinking buddy, and, most importantly, delightful friend. We can’t wait to explore another country with her.
Gene and Jan S. Arlington, Massachusetts
Yet again Shannon and GrapeHops exceeded our expectations. Oviedo and Cacabelos, and their hotels, were great bases with the Oviedo meals and the quaintness / friendliness of Cacabelos and it’s people being memorable. The number, variety and impressiveness of the wineries and Day Trips (from bakeries to Roman gold mines ) was fascinating.
John & Moyra L. Houston, Texas
It’s hard to relay just how much fun Shannon’s Croatia tour was without gushing. Shannon does a superlative job of finding the best accommodations, restaurants, wines, guides, local color and not to be missed sights. The people she has befriended across Croatia go out of their way to provide unforgettable experiences. I was blown away by the beauty (especially Plitvice National Park) of the country, the friendliness of its people (who all seem to speak English) and how eager they are to please tourists and share their culture. The balance between seeing well known sights and unique, places you would never find on your own was perfect as was the amount of planned tours and free time. Simply an amazing trip, would love to do it all over again.
Colleen K. Cambridge, Massachusetts
Traveling with Shannon is more like traveling with good friends than a tour. Shannon is tuned in to what her travelers want to do and she finds amazing venues and people to meet and help along the way. Bierzo with Shannon: Wine Spectator cover wine maker, Raul Perez, shares library wines because he grew up with our bus driver; sharing home made “hooch” with a retired gentleman in the mountains; 1000 year old monastery with vintners who are preserving nearly extinct grape varietals; Roman gold mines; amazing mencia wine (mucho); pouring hard cider with the mayor of Longoria at the old Longoria home, awesome food at restaurants that treated us like long-time friends; suggestions and assistance for post-tour plans. Traveling with Shannon is terrific.
Paul & Linda H, Alamo, California
This was our third GrapeHops tour with Shannon Essa. We did not think that the GrapeHops experience could get any better, but Shannon really outdid herself this time! Croatia is a truly beautiful country and Shannon really showed us it’s magic, from the beautiful island ports of Rovinj and Hvar, to the walled city on the sea, Dubrovnik, and many notable stops in between. Plitvice National Park was a highlight – a magical land of waterfalls. The accommodations and local guides were excellent and the food was truly fantastic. We felt that we were able to see the “real Croatia” and interact with the lovely people who live there. Our third Grapehops tour, but it won’t be our last!
Margo & Leon S, Laguna Beach, California
Going through the photos of our Croatia trip we can’t believe, what we saw, what we ate, and what we drank. It was truly amazing and of course it was all due to Shannon. All our GrapeHops Tours have been great with the latest one (our 4th) always seemingly even better than the last.
John & Moyra L, Houston, Texas
Thoughtful, generous, flexible and accommodating leaders! A real insider’s view of Venice!”
Palma H. from California
The tour was informative, fascinating, well organized and gave us a chance to experience three very different parts of Galicia – Santiago, the Ribeira Sacra and the Rias Baixas. I don’t think it could have been much better. In addition the food and wine tasting experiences were delightful.
Donald M. from Marshfield, Wisconsin
This was our first organized tour and it was so well organized! I saw so many more things than we would have done alone. I’m ready to go again!
Diana L. from Los Olivos, California
Interesting, Authentic, Exciting. My husband and I have traveled extensively and love to experience food, wine and different cultures. We felt that we had a true immersion experience, off the beaten path, where few tourists visit and traditional food and winemaking practices are still followed. We truly hope to be part of another Grapehops adventure in the near future!
Margo and Leon S. Laguna Beach, California
What a week — with two fantastic leaders our small group discovered the wonders of Galician cuisine in tapas bars, polperias, small city cafes and the dining room of our casa rural; we were wined and dined by wonderful winemakers; we learned about the red wines of the Ribiera Sacra and the albarinos of Rias Baixas; and we laughed together a lot. From a visit to the iconic Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela to a picnic lunch on a terrace in the middle of a vineyard, we experienced the heart and soul of Galicia.
Judy R. Berkeley, California
Overall, our GrapeHops week in Piedmont was totally satisfying, possibly our best trip ever. This was our third trip to the region but what made this trip special was the access we were given to small wineries and other artisanal producers – it was incredible to meet winemakers and their families, to meet the olive farmer, the brewers, the cheesemaker, the pasta maker etc and hear their stories. You guys are great.
Marcia & David B. Pasadena, California
“Our second GrapeHops tour to Piedmont could not have been better. Both Shannon and her co-host Paolo were astutely aware of everyone’s comfort and needs and made sure we were happy and comfortable. Both took it on a truly personal level. There was a very good mix of activities, winetasting and dining in both restaurant and rural/home settings. Also, great people on this trip!”
Margo & Leon S. Laguna Beach, California
Without doubt, our GrapeHops trips are the best of any we have taken. We are certain to take another GrapeHops tour because they are so good – the locations, the itineraries, the planning, and our leader Shannon.
John &Moyra L. Houston, Texas
What makes the GrapeHops experience special? After being part of two fabulous tours (to Galicia and to Croatia), I think it is in large part Shannon’s ability to build warm relationships with locals, and her passionate desire to share unique experiences with us. We are never just on a tour – we are part of a circle of friends: vintners, local guides, restaurant and apartment owners, coach drivers and more, who are all committed to sharing what is special about their world and welcoming us into their lives for a while.
Judy R. Berkeley, California
My trip to Croatia was the first time I had taken an organized group tour. I was prepared to have a good trip, but I wasn’t prepared to be blown away. I enjoyed the trip so much it was hard to pick a single ‘favorite experience.’ The Croatian tour has it all: wine tastings in a variety of venues and locations, excellent food ranging from fish to roasted meats to pasta to vegetables to great desserts, walking tours in each of our five locations (including the not-to-be-missed Plitvice National Park), and free time. I can’t find the words to express what a great job Shannon did on putting the tour in Croatia together. Her careful advance planning and continuing work during the tour resulted in a very enjoyable time for all. Bravo, Shannon! I can’t wait to join you on another trip!!
Jan M. Lutsen, MN
What an amazing introduction to Croatia! Some well known places, but other out-of-the-way places that you might never find on your own—towns, wineries, and restaurants that charmed and delighted. Accommodations perfect, guides excellent and knowledgeable, and of course a generous and excellent hostess. Couldn’t be better!
Bill R. Berkeley, California