Give these world-class experiences as gifts this holiday Season

From luxurious wine tastings to a classic car club membership, give gifts that veer off the well-worn path.
November 4, 2019, 11:30 AM UTC
A Soviet-era Mi-8 helicopter drops off adventurous anglers on Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula. BRYAN GREGSON
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Quickly, try to think of the last three things you were gifted. Not easy, is it? Now think of the last trip you took, the last sports event, concert, or theater show you attended. Much easier, right?

While we all have special objects in our lives—whether they be a wedding ring, an inherited watch, or just a really great kitchen knife—the truth is most stuff in our life is just stuff.

A shift in consumer spending habits—mostly closely associated with millennials but not exclusive to them—has led to a boom in the giving of experiences, rather than physical items, as gifts. (Three-quarters of Gen Y respondents said they would rather spend money on an experience than on a desirable object, according to a 2016 survey by Harris Group.)

This nonexhaustive guide is intended to inspire your next adventure—and perhaps the next adventure of someone you care about.

The best way to catch Kamchatka’s big fish: skimming lures that look like mice across the top of the water.

1. Hunting trophy trout

The Kamchatka Peninsula is remote, even by Russian standards. Located on the country’s easternmost tip with the Sea of Okhotsk on one coast and the Pacific Ocean on the other, it’s 100,000 square miles (about the same size as Colorado) of nearly total wilderness. Snowcapped volcanoes offer world-class heli-skiing, while its more than 12,000 rivers and spring creeks are home to rainbow trout, char, and salmon of prehistoric proportions.

“The story of any trip to Kamchatka can’t be told without the travel involved getting there,” says James Caroll, owner of Old Souls, a fly-fishing and outdoor goods shop in New York’s Hudson Valley. “Traveling on the peninsula is almost entirely by Soviet-era Mi-8 helicopter. The best rivers can be a two- to four-hour flight from Petropavlovsk-­Kamchatsky, the region’s only major city.” 

In Kamchatka, trophy-size rainbow trout measuring 30 inches or more can be caught all day.

Any angler who has been to the famous trout rivers of the U.S.—whether New York’s tricky Beaverkill or the expanse of Montana’s Madison River—knows that in prime season the streams can get crowded. The same stretch of water can see dozens if not hundreds of waders a day. The trout, a picky and easy-to-spook fish, turn their noses up at all but the best-presented flies.

Not so in Kamchatka, where the trophy-size rainbow trout—often measuring over 30 inches—can be snagged all day with fly lures designed to resemble mice. “The mousing action is the real draw of Kamchatka,” says Caroll. “It’s hard to have a bad day fishing out there.”

In Kamchatka, trophy-size rainbow trout measuring 30 inches or more can be caught all day.

A specialist tour operator is essential for maximizing a trip to Kamchatka, and Yellow Dog Flyfishing Adventures, based in Bozeman, Mont., is among the most respected in the industry. It has booked Kamchatka trips for more than 15 years and work closely with local outfitters. 

It’s not easy to get to, or particularly comfortable once you’re there. But for those willing to make the journey, it offers one of the world’s finest fly-fishing experiences.

Yellow Dog FlyFishing

Old Souls 

Vintage Porsche 911s at a special event held at Classic Car Club Manhattan.

2. Classic cars without the hassle

Classic cars are wonderful machines. Sure, modern supercars can accelerate at breakneck speeds and take corners completely flat, all while having the latest in driving assistance and safety technology. But hustling a 1971 Alfa Romeo GTV or a 1989 BMW M3 around some twisty back roads will teach you more about your skills as a driver in 10 minutes than a year in a new McLaren. They’re called classic for a reason.

They can also be a nightmare to own and maintain—subjecting even the most well-heeled drivers to financial heartbreak every time their hand-built V12 or air-cooled flat-six engine needs major servicing. Then for city dwellers there’s the issue of storage—street parking a classic is not advisable. 

Solving that problem is Classic Car Club Manhattan—a private members’ club located in an old NYPD horse stable on the island’s west side. There, members can pick up a 1963 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray or 1996 Porsche 911 for a weekend blast through the Hudson Valley or beyond. (The club also owns a small fleet of modern supercars because, yes, sometimes fast is fun.)

The club’s social calendar is chock-full of track days, driving experiences, car launches, guest speakers, art exhibitions, and even stand-up comedy (coffee optional). 

CCCM’s pricing is tiered on how often you want to take cars out. And it even offers a $180 a month ­clubhouse-only membership for those who are satisfied to merely ogle its 42-car fleet while enjoying a cocktail and dishes from an impressive menu. 

Classic Car Club Manhattan
Pier 76, New York, N.Y. 10018

Left: The husband and wife team behind Nackymade, who make custom eyewear at their Kobe studio. Right: A bespoke suit by Yuhei Yamamoto of Tailor Caid.

3. Bespoke Japan

While London’s Savile Row or the tailors of Florence and Naples might come to mind when one thinks of bespoke clothing, consider Tokyo instead for a Japanese take on classic Western styles.

Working out of a shop in Tokyo’s Shibuya City ward is Yuhei Yamamoto, proprietor of Tailor Caid. “­Yamamoto-san is an exceptionally versatile tailor, and his speciality is classic American style,” says Mark Cho, cofounder of men’s clothing shop The Armoury (which regularly hosts Caid trunk shows at its New York City and Hong Kong locations). “Imagine the clothes of Miles Davis, Frank Sinatra, and New York’s Mad Men in the ’60s, made bespoke for you to the highest possible standard.”

“Imagine the clothes of Miles Davis, Frank Sinatra, and New York’s Mad Men in the ’60s, made bespoke for you to the highest possible standard.”

Spigola, the label of master bespoke shoemaker Koji Suzuki, is worth the trip to the city of Kobe for those seeking a classic cap-toe Oxford or penny loafer made to their exact specifications. Says Cho, “Koji’s shoes have a strong Italian flavor: sleek and low-slung, reminiscent of a roadster. He has an excellent sense for proportion, elevating even his simplest designs into something special.”

While in Kobe, the bespoke traveler should also make an appointment at Nackymade, the atelier of Naoki Nakagawa, who with his wife, Mocky, makes custom eyeglasses from start to finish.

Tailor CAID
41-31 Udagawacho, Shibuya City, Tokyo 150-0042

Koji Suzuki/Spigola
5-2-16 Hosoda-cho, Nagata-ku, Kobe City 653-0835

4-Chome-2-1 Isobedōri, Chūō-ku, Kobe 651-0084

The Armoury
168 Duane St., New York, N.Y. 
12 Pedder Street, Central, Hong Kong

A classic Land Rover Defender 110 from the fleet of Bohemian Highway Travel Co. in Sonoma, Calif.
Courtesy of Bohemian Highway Travel Co.

4. The back roads of wine country

You probably think you know Californian wines: big, brash Cabernet Sauvignons, Zinfandels, Merlots, and copiously oaked Chardonnays that were ubiquitous on steak-house menus in the 1990s. Delicious for sure, owing to the perfect growing conditions found in the Sonoma and Napa valleys, and the talent of the local winemakers. Nuanced, they are not. But there’s a quiet revolution going on in California wine country, one that local oenophiles are keeping mostly to themselves. 

While the aforementioned varietals still pay the bills for the big-name producers—you know the ones—a new ethos is taking hold that challenges the perception of what Californian wine can be. Take Scribe winery in Sonoma. Co-owned by brothers Andrew and Adam Mariani, and anchored by a stunning 1870s Mission-style hacienda, it’s producing varietals that make sense for the area’s land, microclimates, and a younger palate. Sonoma Riesling? It’s a thing at Scribe. Un­oaked Chardonnay too. Where oak is used, it’s neutral, softening the wine rather than taking center stage.

There’s a quiet revolution going on in California wine country, one that local oenophiles are keeping mostly to themselves.

To find these gems among the more than 800 wineries in Napa and Sonoma requires some local knowledge. Bohemian Highway Travel Co., a husband-and-wife-owned operation based in Sonoma, will put together a custom itinerary of the region’s best small producers based on your preference, pair it with incredible food, and ferry you from winery to vineyard on the road less traveled—all in the back of a classic Land Rover.  

Bohemian Highway Travel Co.

Scribe Winery
2100 Denmark St., Sonoma, Calif. 95476

A version of this article appears in the November 2019 issue of Fortune with the headline “Experiences Guide 2020.”

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