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September 6, 2013

Travel: A look at Finland's design riches

McALESTER, Okla. — On the way for a look at Anttolananhovi Wellness Village in Southeastern Finland, I passed by the Ollinmaki Wine Farm. What? “Wine in Finland!” I gasped. I just had to see for myself.

I remember reading that all 50 American states now had at least one winery, but it never dawned on me that far north-lying Finland could even think such a thing. Pulling into the winery parking lot, I found a stone turreted building that once served as a cow barn. Now a cozy wine cellar and 100-seat restaurant, the refitted building is stocked with bottles made from, what else, Finnish berries like crowberries and red, black and white currants and fruits like apple.

I was pleasantly surprised at how sophisticated the wines were, especially a blend of red and black currant, a dry wine that would be perfect with chicken and pork. New at the farm is a red currant sparkler which could easily serve as a celebratory cork popper.

"Finland is a relative newcomer to wine making," said Jukka Villanen, owner of the winery that opened in 1995. "We started with nine wineries in our country and have now grown to around 25."

Off to a good start, I headed to Anttolahovi, a wellness village with a unique spin that started construction in 1978. While guests might opt to spend the night in the 54-room modernist hotel along the shore of Lake Saimaa, the over-the-top experience takes place in the 13 art and design villas.

"We held an architecture competition and picked the two best," said Cecilia Mattila, sales spokesperson. "One was for our lakeside locations, the other for the hillside sites."

Each villa was assigned its own artist who integrated their work into each villa’s unique design. Each also has its own color scheme, but shares ecologically friendly features like walls built from Finnish oak, floors of natural stone and interior textiles made mostly of natural fibers like wool, cotton and linen.

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