The 45th parallel: It's close to where Custer met his maker and Mary Tyler Moore flipped her hat high for TV cameras. It links thirsty Russian czars with Madonna's winemaking dad in Michigan and connects the Shroud of Turin with a new Japanese museum devoted to Daisuke Matsuzaka of the Boston Red Sox.
Let's go take a look. Imagine we're aboard a jet flying on an inexhaustible supply of fuel. We're going first class, drinking plenty of free wine, and there's no charge for checked baggage. Look, we can always dream.
First flyover: Bordeaux, France's legendary wine country. Here storied chateaux with names like Petrus, Lafitte Rothschild and Margaux produce wines that are extraordinarily flavored—and priced.
OK, onward. Our jet skirts south of the fabled region of Burgundy through the Cotes du Rhone and crosses the Alps into Piedmont, one of the foremost producers of Italian red wine, but a region that has only gotten the word of its wine out to the world in recent decades. The grape to go for? Nebbiolo.
Across the Balkans we go from Croatia, whose often overlooked wines can be excellent, to Bosnia-Herzegovina to Serbia. Then, into Romania and across the Black Sea to the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea, where the Light Brigade of the British cavalry was trounced in 1854 during the Crimean War. Off next to Russia's Black Sea province of Krasnodar, where Czar Alexander III's winemaker toiled over a century ago. Now the Kuban wine region is enjoying the attentions of Russian investors looking to cash in on the region's wine potential.
Farther to the east in Central Asia are the former Soviet republics of Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan and then the Chinese province of Xinjiang, now home to a flurry of winemaking initiatives. Then it's Mongolia before flying over China's northeastern provinces. A little bit of Siberia comes before flying over the northern tip of Hokkaido, Japan's northern island. Here is the Daisuke Matsuzaka baseball museum, located in his father's hometown.
After traveling the vast Pacific, we cross over the United States and head eastward over Oregon's Willamette Valley, one of the Pacific Northwest's hottest wine regions. Following the state line between Montana and Wyoming, with Custer's final battle at Little Big Horn just to the north of us, our imaginary aircraft roars across the Plains. Up ahead: Minneapolis, whose streetscape made up the memorable opening to "The Mary Tyler Moore Show."
Then on to Wisconsin's Door County and Michigan's Leelanau Peninsula, where Silvio Ciccone is just one of the region's ambitious winemakers. Ever eastward we go, crossing southern sections of Canada's Ontario province (look south about 70 or so miles for the Niagara wine region, famed for its ice wine), the northern border of Vermont and the midsection of Maine before ending in Nova Scotia.