Monday, October 21, 2013
Great Wine-Region Getaways for Fall
Autumn is prime time to tour the vineyards that dot the nation's every corner, when temperatures are cool and foliage is at its most flamboyant. From the rocky coast of New England to the lush valleys of Washington State, find grape-stomping events, harvest festivals, cook-offs, and more. Thanks to the folks at Smarter Travel for these top wine destinations to get your (grape) juices flowing.
Popular year-round because of its moderate climate, the Russian River Valley is best visited during Russian River Valley Winegrowers website. Besides wine, autumn travelers can find fine dining and luxe accommodations, especially in Healdsburg, an epicenter where three of California's major wine regions (the Russian River Valley, Dry Creek Valley, and Alexander Valley) meet. Active visitors can take leisurely bicycle rides alongside vividly colored vineyards on Westside and Eastside roads or kayak in the Russian River, lined by crimson and gold leaves.
October brings explosions of color to the Finger Lakes' forested shores and scenic roads, making this
Stretching from Cape Cod through coastal Connecticut, this wine trail comprises a tight collection of nine wineries known for their European-style whites (the result of the trail's seaside location and cool climate). During fall, the scenic two- or three-day journey alternates between coastal vistas and serene country landscapes and takes you through miles of New England's signature fall foliage. In Massachusetts, sip Westport Rivers' Westport Brut RJR, a tart, many-medaled sparkling wine, which has been served in three White House administrations. Or take a spin southward to sample Newport Vineyards' slate of reds, whites, ports, and rich harvest ice wines before touring Newport's famed mansions just minutes away. Usually overrun by tourists in summer, the historic port and its thrilling cliff walk are ideal to visit in fall.
Dotted by small towns, rich farmland, and forests of golden aspen and scarlet huckleberry shrubs, Oregon's Willamette Valley is equally well traveled by adrenaline junkies, who seek out the area's adventure activities, and gourmands, who nosh their way through numerous restaurants and wineries. Already a top wine-producing region and a glorious visit in fall, the valley was dubbed "the Burgundy of the states" by Wine Enthusiast for its highly rated Pinot Noir varietal. The region is known for its many sustainable, biodynamic labels as well as its independent, unpretentious vibe. Explore the main wine trails on the Willamette Valley Visitors Association website or order the travel guide to help you navigate the vineyards, shops, and more. And, with a characteristic nip in the air, the Willamette Valley is a place to be outdoors during fall: Hike the McKenzie National Recreation Trail, picnic along the McKenzie River Highway, or drive along I-5 with its covered bridges, wooden barns, and signature red-and-gold foliage.
With a palette of red sassafras and deep-purple sweet gum, the Monticello Wine Trail, dating back to the dawn of the Revolution, welcomes visitors seeking cooler weather and peaceful tasting rooms along snaking Virginia roads. When famous first settler Thomas Jefferson settled Monticello estate, he envisioned the area as thriving wine country to compete with Old World vines. Now, the region is considered the birthplace of American wines, and boutique wineries sprinkle the countryside along with AAA Four Diamond B&Bs and restaurants, moderate hiking trails, and fruit orchards. The Monticello appellation is broken up into four major loops—Northern, Eastern, Western, and Southern—that wend through the Blue Ridge Mountains and surrounding historical towns. The Southern loop contains some of the region's oldest vines, including Jefferson Vineyards, established in 1774 (try its consistently popular Viognier and Rose, both of which feature only fruit grown in Virginia). But be sure to begin with a visit to remarkable Monticello before hitting the road (tickets start at $24 for adults and $8 for children).