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The small Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region deserves more attention. Once a region many wars were fought over, then home to Muslim travelers from the Silk Road, it now offers a diversity almost unmatched by any other region. Here, the old meets the new, the East meets the West, and lush wetlands along the Yellow River meet the vast Gobi Desert.
We embark on a journey to the capital Yinchuan, to explore the exciting wine industry that has blossomed in Ningxia. The first winery in Ningxia opened in 1985, but its dry climate, high-altitudes and substantial irrigation from the Yellow River quickly turned it into one of the foremost wine producing areas in China.
Yinchuan, meaning “silver river”, is the capital city of Ningxia. The Yellow River running through the center of the city and the Helan mountains to the West provide a much needed respite from the arid climate which creeps over from the nearby Gobi Desert. This unique combination also make Yinchuan’s surrounding countryside a perfect spot for vineyards – grape vines wind up rows of trellises extending endlessly into the backdrop of the Helan mountains in the distance. In the city itself, you’ll find a modern Chinese city at work with students and locals buzzing amidst towering mosques, ancient pagodas, and towering skyscrapers alike.
Arrive at the airport arrivals hall where you’ll meet your local WildChina guide who will take you to the private vehicle that is waiting on standby to whisk you away to your hotel.
The Western Xia Imperial Tombs, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, include 9 mausoleums and 250 tombs from the Western Xia dynasty (1038-1227), which was founded by the Tangut ethnic group. Today, of the numerous towering earth mounds that make up this site, only a fraction have been fully excavated, leaving mountains of mystery yet to be unearthed.
Enjoy a private wine tasting at the Kanaan Winery, with the owner Wang Fang if available, known locally as “Crazy Fang” for her daring ventures in winemaking. Wang Fang has always seen wine as her destiny, and her winery’s numerous awards seem to agree. At one point, producing a Riesling in Ningxia was widely considered impossible, until Wang Fang made it a reality, listing it as “full-bodied and refreshing with juicy lemon flavors, floral notes of white flowers and a hint of petrol” this is a one-of-a-kind wine you’ll definitely want to try.
Silver Heights is a family-owned winery with female founder Emma Gao standing at the helm. Silver Heights focuses on embracing organic farming and has followed the ancient Chinese principles of Jieqi. Emma started the conversion to biodynamic practices and minimal intervention in winemaking; allowing her wines to better express the purity of her terroir and the passion of her family. Enjoy a glass of wine and a local barbeque dinner with Emma as she tells you more about her organic wine-making practices and family story.
Meals included: breakfast, lunch, and dinner
Spend the morning at Chateau Yuanshi Winery, a recipient of the Decanter Asia Wine Awards, for a tasting and a tour of the vineyard and the winery, which was designed after the region’s Chinese old fortresses.
Run by a husband and wife team, Domaine Pushang is renowned for their Marselan grape wine, which is becoming one of Ningxia’s leading varietals. Despite its small size, Pushang is considered a “fourth growth” vineyard by the Ningxia wine bureau.
The Yellow River Grand Canyon is shaped by the wide stream of the Yellow River flanked on either side by limestone and sand-shale mountains. Experience the influence of modern China at the soviet-style hydropower dam, before carrying on to an ode to traditional China, a 108-pagoda temple built in to the side of one of the mountainous riverbanks.
Get an up-close view of the Yellow River and surrounding canyon walls as you embark on a boat ride on the river. Enjoy the scenery and the cool waters below as your guide talks about the geographic history that formed this stunning landscape.
Settle in for the evening at the dramatic Xige Estate, home to one of the most modern wine producing facilities in Ningxia. Appreciate the entirety of the estates unique design during a guided tour of the winery before sitting down for dinner with local wine at its on-site organic restaurant.
Stay overnight at the vineyard hotel at Xige Estate.
Meals included: breakfast, lunch, and dinner
Kempinski Hotel, Yinchuan
Kempinski Yinchuan offers modern European-style luxury with commanding views over the city. Enjoy a wide selection of Asian and European cuisine in its six unique bars and restaurants.
Jade Dove Vineyard Hotel, Yinchuan
Located in the eastern foothills of the Helan Mountains, Xige Estate’s distinctive egg-shaped design aims to blend into the environment and co-exist with nature. Aside from the hotel and the winery, the estate houses tasting rooms, a library, and an organic restaurant.