The grapes of Napa often grab the headlines coming out of California wine country but the discerning vino cognoscenti knows that the Golden State harbors some of the best wineries in the world along its central coast. In the thick of it is Paso Robles, a vast countryside of rolling vineyards where vintners sport rustic spurs on their cowboy boots and the pace of life is calm. The annual Harvest Wine Weekend kicks off today, Friday, and promises to be the most robust yet. Over 150 wineries will host grape stomps, tours, tastings, dinners, and pairings (wine and bacon anyone?). One oenophile who will be traipsing around Harvest is Paso Wine Man (above)—the unabashed, vivacious Paso wine country cheerleader whose verve for the region’s splendors knows no bounds.
T+L caught up with the wine man before the big weekend to uncover his wines of choice; find out what makes “Tuscany with cowboys” so special; and why Paso Robles's brand of reds can’t be made anywhere else.
The Catskills Mountains are a perfect getaway from the hustle and bustle of New York City, and a great place to soak in the best of fall, with picturesque hiking and horseback riding trails, quirky antique shops to explore, and gourmet restaurants and markets. But if bucolic tranquility isn’t enough to get you pumped for fall, I’ve got a suggestion for all you thrill-seekers out there.
Hunter Mountain is a popular spot in the winter with skiers and snowboarders in the northeast, but it's also home to the largest Zipline course in North America, with 4.6 miles of runs at higher than 600 feet in the air. I sought out the ultimate thrill not too long ago, with New York Zipline Adventure Tours’s Skyrider course, which includes five dual runs (so you can challenge the person opposite you to a race), a 500-foot jungle bridge, and a self-powered Zipline, where "take off" means taking a running jump into thin air on a downhill slope.
Pack your scarves and a great digital camera: this fall, head west, to two of North America’s best wine regions. Outdoorsy types will want to unpack at Sonoma’s six-suite Chauvet, for easy access to the walking trails in Jack London State Park, while spa-goers will love the lavender-accented treatments at the rustic Farmhouse Inn, just 25 miles east in Glen Ellen. Or try something entirely unexpected with a stay at Sparkling Hill, a Swarovski-crystal-filled property in the northern corner of British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley. What do the hotels have in common, you ask? Unexpected amenities and bottles of standout Pinot Noir—best enjoyed in the fall, against a bright landscape swathed in fire red and tangerine.
Small-batch breweries are mixing in inventive autumnal ingredients. Here, a taste of the season’s best.
Autumn Maple Where to Try It:The Bruery, Placentia, Calif. Tasting Notes: This Orange County brewery, in a former warehouse, has made headlines for its creative brews—including this sweet and spicy one made with 17 pounds of yams (yes, yams)—plus cinnamon, nutmeg, molasses, and maple syrup. 715 Dunn Way; 714/996-6258.
Fuego del Otoño Where to Try It:Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales Café & Brewery, Ann Arbor, Mich. Tasting Notes: Head to the brewery’s laid-back restaurant for a sample of its annual fall release, a blend of anise, cinnamon, and Michigan-grown chestnuts that’s aged in oak barrels. The deep flavor also features the brand’s calling card—a smooth sourness, thanks to a special yeast. 311 S. Main St.; 734/913-2730.
Punkin Ale Where to Try It:Dogfish Head Brewings & Eats, Rehoboth Beach, Del. Tasting Notes: Pumpkin beer should complement pie, not taste like it. Luckily, founder Sam Calagione has mastered restraint: the taste of the fresh fall squash and hints of cinnamon and allspice are noticeable yet subtle—and are best enjoyed at the cozy brewpub. 320 Rehoboth Ave.; 302/226-2739.
Golden Delicious Where to Try It:Captain Lawrence Brewing Co., Pleasantville, N.Y. Tasting Notes: This gold-toned beer isn’t technically made with fruit—but a stint maturing in apple-brandy barrels at a cozy brewery lends it cider-like sweetness and a tart bite. 99 Castleton St.; 914/741-2337.
Babayaga Where to Try It: At events throughout the Northeast. Tasting Notes: Some of the barley malt in this stout—from the roaming brewery Pretty Things Beer & Ale Project—is smoked over rosemary. Who says the herb is just for hearty fall fare? 617/682-6419.
Okay okay, I ate at the Black Pearl Restaurant...again. You can stamp “tourist” onto my forehead, but their New England clam chowder is too amazing to pass up. I stumbled out satisfied and wandered into the colorful gallery/art studio, Art on the Wharf. Perhaps it was this tourist-guilt that compelled me to ask artist-owner, Tony Gill (pictured below), for some locals’ suggestions, but it was well worth the inquiry. He had heard the question before and quickly handed me a sheet of paper titled “Tony’s Best Bets.” I now had my work cut out for me.
You've carved the pumpkins and stocked up on candy. Now, hit the liquor store. Hotels across the U.S. are preparing for Halloween with signature cocktails that are the perfect adult treat. We've rounded up the best from bar-epicenter, New York City. Make the trip or concoct your own for a party at home.
Looking for a fall nature adventure that lands somewhere between "glamping" and actual camping? Look no further than Douthat State Park. Nestled in the Allegheny mountains of central Virginia, a four-and-a-half hour drive from Washington, DC, the 4,490-acre pet-friendly park offers charming cabins and plentiful hikes for the beginner leaf-peeper.
I cannot stress the "beginner" part enough. When we went last weekend, our party consisted of four couples, each lodging in a cabin outfitted with a full kitchen, working fireplaces, central heat and a/c, and clean simple bathrooms (with phenomenal hot water and pressure). The majority of our pre-hike-planning included a map-scan for the dirtiest sounding trail (our choice, Blue Suck Falls) and a very detailed après-walk drinking plan.
Must-pack necessities for the weekend: boardgames, whiskey, family dog, s'mores ingredients, food for the grill, hiking shoes (maybe).
Cabins range from $75 to $102 per night during this fall season, and include parking and park fees. Our cheapest cabin (#6) featured a queen bed and small communal space, while the more palatial options (#9 and #11) have capacious living rooms to enjoy the hearth. Larger groups should consider renting one of the property's three lodges (where, unfortunately, dogs are not allowed).
Charlotte Savino is Travel + Leisure's Listings Editor.