Just downriver from Washington on the western bank of the Potomac, Alexandria has that perfect mix of historic charm—and easy access to the nation’s capital. WHERE TO STAY The 45-room Morrison House is a great choice because it’s small—just 45 rooms—plus there are so many extras, from complimentary wine from 5-6 p.m. to free morning coffee and newspaper. PRICE $165 a night.
LUXE GETAWAY: Baltimore, Maryland
For those who love a good Four Seasons hotel—and really, who doesn’t?—the new Four Seasons in Baltimore is one more reason to visit the city. Plus, the Baltimore Museum of Art just reopened its Contemporary Wing, with works by Olafur Eliasson, Jasper Johns, and Andy Warhol. WHERE TO STAY The 256-room Four Seasons opened in 2011 in Harbor East, with a terrace, heated whirlpool, and a spa. PRICE $339 a night.
WINE TOURS: Barboursville, Virginia
Two hours southwest of D.C., Barboursville, Virginia, is a serene wine country getaway. WHERE TO STAY The lakeside 1804 Inn is a romantic escape: you’ll sleep in a four-poster bed in this historic inn set between Madison's Montpelier and Jefferson's Monticello. PRICE $240 a night.
Earlier this year, I took a weeklong anniversary trip to San Francisco, Napa, and Sonoma with my husband, Lee, an academic who gets hives at the thought of anything luxurious. Keeping him comfortable meant mixing extraordinary meals with unexpected finds and cheap local favorites. Here’s the best of our high-low itinerary that kept both of us satisfied.
Touring wine country with a hired driver was hot, but now it just means you can't control your drinking. Today, real oenophiles rent classic cars and self-drive their vineyard peregrinations. Wine industry veteran Ramiro Marquesini's new Slowkar in the Argentine winemaking capital of Mendoza rents lovingly restored Citroën 3CVs from the 1970s and 1980s. In Italy's Tuscan wine country, the father-son duo of Danilo and Federico Dini's five-year-old Chianti Classic Car outfits wine lovers with 1970s AlfaRomeos and Fiats for their tasting room tours. Both provide guides for the map-disabled.
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.
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.
Wente Vineyards, the oldest family-owned winery in the country, is at it again. Travel + Leisure has long celebrated Wente for its picturesque golf course, a world-class destination uniquely situated amongst the vines. What many people do not know, however, is that they also have a gorgeous concert area, where one might hear anything from jazz to hip-hop, classical to electronica. This Saturday, check out their latest event: BottleRockIt. Originally called Discover the Wine Discover the Music, this 5th annual music festival pulls in heavy hitters like Dirty Vegas and GIVERS, while also providing exposure to the emerging artists of the San Francisco Bay Area. Twenty bands will amplify three different stages on this stunning estate. Concert-goers are given the opportunity to do some world-class wine tasting while they bop their heads to the delicious tunes. For $20, you can't beat that for a weekend getaway!
WHAT: BottleRockIt WHEN: Saturday, September 10, 2011. Doors open at 10:30 AM and performances begin at 11 AM. WHERE: The lawn at the Wente Vineyards Estate Tasting Room; 5565 Tesla Road, Livermore, CA 94550
Joe Harper is a research assistant at Travel + Leisure.
Waiting for a flight home for Christmas once, I ran into a blowhard I knew from college who announced that the only present he was bringing his parents was a bottle of extraordinarily good wine. He dropped and broke the bottle of red on the linoleum at LaGuardia before we’d boarded the plane. Blowhard frat boy or not, I felt bad for the guy.
I was reminded of this tragic holiday vignette when I heard about VinniBag, an inflatable bag that cushions your wine bottle (or bottle of olive oil or Vermont maple syrup or vintage McCoy vase) from the sharp, hard, pointy things of the world. The smart bags are reusable, deflate easily to slip in your luggage, and make an unbreakable and practical gift for Mummy and Pater.
Director and vintner Francis Ford Coppola gives T+L the scoop on his Francis Ford Coppola Winery, in Sonoma, California, and his soon-to-open Palazzo Margherita, in Basilicata, Italy (coppolaresorts.com).
What’s on the menu at the winery? It’s a family resort, but with no hotel. You can swim, play bocce, see movie memorabilia, and eat at Rustic. The menu has all my favorite things: for meat, we have an Argentine parrilla grill. For dessert, there’s a cream puff with a cannoli filling my mother used to make. And to drink, our Archimedes Cabernet or caipirinhas.
With the release of the iPad nearly one year ago, the device is changing the way we do business. And while it might seem an unlikely combination, even restaurants have hopped on the bandwagon. Yes, a handful are loading their menus onto iPads for customers to peruse—a costly and wasteful business practice, all in the name of flashiness, as far as I'm concerned. But that’s not exactly what I’m talking about; there are more and more turning iPads into useful (and yes, flashy) tools that actually improve the dining experience.
Truth be told, we’ve been obsessing over the Farmhouse Inn—in Sonoma, California’s Russian River Valley—since the property’s renovation in 2009. And now that Vacationist is offering rates of almost 30% off at the 18-room hotel, you may find us at tasting local wines with the property’s master sommelier, or perhaps unwinding after a treatment at the hotel’s rustic spa. Prefer exclusive beach villas to country charm? This week Vacationist brings you Cabo San Lucas and Phuket, as well.