The island of Curaçao is one of the Caribbean’s last great secrets—a delicious melding of Spanish, European, and tropical influences that boasts unparalleled natural and man-made beauty. Located 40 miles off the coast of Venezuela, it’s the C in the ABC islands, which also include Aruba and Bonaire, and until 2010 was part of the Netherlands Antilles. Curaçaohas a strong Dutch history, showcased through its colorful architecture and historic capital, Willemstad, which was designated a UNESCO world heritage city in 1997.
Since it exists outside the Hurricane Belt, Curaçao enjoys a relatively mild year-round climate that’s closer to Santa Fe than San Domingo; on a recent trip we saw more cactus than palm trees and, when it rained, lizards the size of small dinosaurs emerged from the roadside. It’s a tropical paradise, to be sure, but not the sort of place you would imagine ideal for a winery. However, four years ago Roelof Visscher, of award-winning Dutch vineyard Hof van Twente—the largest vineyard in the Netherlands—visited Curaçao and saw an opportunity. He, along with his sister Hermien and her partner Marc Oldeman, began turning one of the island’s oldest plantations, the Hato Landhuis, into its first vineyard.
Currently there is just a smattering of vineyards across the Caribbean, including Bodegas San Cristobal in Cuba and St. John Winery in the U.S. Virgin Islands. But a growing international tourism sector with cosmopolitan tastes, coupled with the introduction of a popular yearly food and wine festival, have created a demand for the development of a homegrown wine trade. Luckily the mild climate, perennial sunshine, and rich volcanic soil make it plausible, if not ideal, for grape growth.
Read the full story, originally published on November 13, 2015, on Travel+Leisure.