The tasting may be great year-round, but it’s the comfortable weather that makes September and October the perfect time to visit the places where beer, wine, or distilled spirits are integral to the local culture. Whether it’s a day trip to the eastern tip of New York’s Long Island or a week in the Scottish Highlands, these palate-pleasing locales make for an awesome autumn escape.
For couples or friends who can’t agree -- one loves wine, the other beer -- this craft-brew capital and the nearby vineyards of the Willamette Valley offer a meeting of the minds. There’s even a chance to sample any of 1,200 international whiskeys at Portland’s Multnomah Whiskey Library. Stay at RiverPlace, A Kimpton Hotel (from $203 per night) with its craft beer and wine tastings, and at The Allison Inn & Spa in the Willamette (from $399 per night), which offers excellent wine-country cuisine and easy access to vineyards such as Ponzi, Sokol Blosser, and Archery Summit.
The newly revitalized city of Bordeaux is the gateway to sought-after vintages from Haut-Medoc, Pauillac, Saint-Emilion, and other appellations, and is just 80 minutes from the distilleries of Cognac. Stay in town at La Maison Bord’eaux (from $169 per night) and book day tours to wine chateaux (most are appointment only). Enjoy a tasting class at Saint-Emilion’s Maison du Vin, and sample cognac at Martell, Remy Martin, and Hennessy. Alternatively, spend two nights in Bordeaux, three nights in Saint-Emilion (at Chateau Grand Barrail, from $219 per night), and two nights in Cognac (at Hotel Francois Premier, from $149 per night).
Single-malt lovers should spend a few nights in Edinburgh, where there are whiskey bars and tasting menus galore -- don’t miss old-school favorite The Bow Bar, modern rustic The Devil’s Advocate, or posh SCOTCH at The Balmoral -- and pair the visit with tours of top whisky producers in the Highlands. Distilleries to visit include Chivas’ Strathisla (which dates to 1786), The Glenlivet, and Glenfiddich. Stay at The Glasshouse in Edinburgh (from $207 per night) and at Fonab Castle in Pitlochry (from $230 per night).
Historic warehouses full of aging port wine make this scenic city on the Douro River a magnet for oenophiles. See how port is blended and aged during a tour of Vila Nova de Gaia, the maze of lodges and cellars -- Taylor Fladgate is a must visit -- located directly across the Douro from the old city center. The serene Douro River Valley, where the grapes for port and other Portuguese wines are grown, makes a lovely day trip. Stay at The Yeatman (from $335 per night), a wine-centric hotel in Gaia that offers excellent dining and stunning views.
In addition to more than 40 vineyards, the charming hamlets on Long Island’s east end are home to a few local breweries (two, Moustache and Crooked Ladder, are in Riverhead) and farm-to-table dining. Book a chauffeured day trip (opt for a weekday) from Manhattan, about two hours away, with visits to wineries such as Raphael, Lieb, and Bedell, or spend a few nights amid the vineyards at a historic B&B (there are more than 30 in the area, including ones in Cutchogue, Southold, and Mattituck) or The Harborfront Inn in Greenport (from $249 per night), which is within walking distance of bars and restaurants.