For wine lovers there is no better journey than to the Mother Lode: traipsing through sun-dappled vineyards or sipping wine a few steps from the barrel room. During harvest season (early autumn in North America and Europe; spring in New Zealand, Australia, or South America) tractors zip up and down roadways and workers pick grapes at a rapid pace, intent on bottling the best vintage yet.
From up-and-coming regions—like Southern Illinois and Montecello, Virginia—to laid-back Okanagan in Canada, North America alone is packed with options. Further abroad, spots like Porto, Portugal; Beaune, France; and Marlborough, New Zealand craft perfect wine-harvest itineraries.
Central Coast, California: Paso Robles
Consider traveling to Paso Robles—midway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, a 45-minute drive from the Pacific Ocean coastline—during the annual Harvest Wine Weekend (October 18-20), which folds in barrel tastings, winemaker dinners, blending seminars, and grape stomps.
Where to Stay and Dine: With just three rooms, Sundance Bed and Breakfast opened in July on an estate vineyard. Then, clustered around Paso Robles' town square are several eateries, including newcomers Estrella (Latin-inspired tapas plus Caribbean-infused entrees) and La Cosecha Bar & Restaurant (celebrating foods from Spain and South America).
Northwest: Okanagan Valley, British Columbia
Eclectic and artsy, Canada's second-largest wine region has yarn bombing (Vernon), Aboriginal culture (Kamloops Art Gallery in Kamloops), and agri-tourism (Tranquille Farms, in Kamloops). In the wine hub of Oliver, which is within the Great Basin Desert, are just over 100 vineyards.
Where to Stay and Dine: Spirit Ridge Vineyard Resort & Spa—the valley's Southern-most town (and 20 minutes from Oliver)—boasts Solterra Desert Spa and Mica Restaurant (overlooking vineyards). Open since 2011, Terrafina at Hester Creek Winery in Oliver serves dishes with local foods (like Dungeness crab and corn pizza) paired with the winery's vintages.
Southeast: Monticello, Virginia
Although it's one of the country's oldest grape-growing regions (Thomas Jefferson managed two vineyards at Monticello), the Monticello AVA is now attracting celebrity winery owners like Dave Matthews (Blenheim Vineyards) and Donald Trump (Trump Winery).
Where to Stay and Dine: Charlottesville (home to the University of Virginia) is just minutes from Keswick Hall at Monticello, a 48-room hotel on 600 acres. This fall Charlottesville welcomes Parallel 38 Restaurant and Wine Bar, named for the 38th Parallel, with 38 wines by the glass and a 100-strong list of boutique wines.
New Zealand: Marlborough
For a laid-back, crowd-free ambiance, and easy access to surfing and fishing spots nearby, Marlborough on New Zealand's South Island is king.
Where to Stay and Dine: The newly renovated Scenic Hotel in Blenheim, just outside of Marlborough, features New Zealand wines in the year-old Mondrians Restaurant. At Cloudy Bay Vineyards during the summer months, pair its wines—including the brand-new Te Wahi Pinot Noir from the Otago region—with lunch. Or sip a glass from a hanging egg chair.
Chile: Maipo Valley
Named for the Maipo River that runs through it, Maipo Valley is convenient to Santiago (25 miles southeast) and home to 30,000 acres of vineyards.
Where to Stay and Dine: Bunk in Santiago's bohemian Bellavista neighborhood at the three-year-old, 15-room The Aubrey and admire the owner's antiques collection, a swimming pool, and artfully arranged dishes in its restaurant. Then, at Santa Rita Winery's Restaurant Doña Paula, find wine-friendly eats like pâte, steaks, pastas, and 14 desserts.
Beaune—home to the Hospices de Beaune wine auction each November—is a pedestrian-friendly hub in Burgundy for restaurants, wine schools, farmers markets, and boutiques.
Where to Stay and Dine: The 20-room Hotel Chateau de Challanges on 17 forested acres is just a few miles outside of Beaune. Wine tastings are paired with a meal made from ingredients scored at that day's farmers market. Le Jardin des Remparts, next to Hospices de Beaune, boasts a chef garden and serves diners in a lush garden setting. Wines are mostly from Burgundy plus stellar picks from Alsace, the Languedoc, and Corsica.
South Africa: Stellenbosch
In South Africa's Western Cape, Stellenbosch is just 30 miles from Cape Town. Along the stunning Stellenbosch Wine Route are 130 wineries.
Where to Stay and Dine: Fresh off a 2010 renovation, Coopmanhuijs Boutique Hotel & Spa added Helena's Restaurant earlier this year, split between a conservatory and a dining room, pouring local wines nightly. Dine outside, country-style at The Table at De Meye on award-winning and garden-grown bites paired with local wines.
Tuscany—with its 42 DOC and 11 DOCG designations, making it Italy's fifth-largest region—is loaded with iconic wineries that date back several centuries, perfect for history and architecture buffs, as well as wine and food lovers.
Where to Stay and Dine: Castello di Casole opened on 4,200 acres (including 100 organic vineyards) during the summer of 2012. A member of the Ferragamo family curated its extensive wine list. Trek to a wine bar in Tuscany, such as Osteria Enoteca Il Colonnino in Pisa, which is inside a former stable built in 1400, for a sampling of the region's best wines.
Portugal: Douro Valley
From Porto (known for its Port wines), the trip to the Douro Valley in Northern Portugal by either train or car is less than two hours. While fairly new to wine tourism, the region's grape-growing roots date back to the mid-1700s.
Where to Stay and Dine: An eight-year-old boutique hotel, Quinta Nova de Nossa is owned by cork producer Amorim, and is home to winery Quinta Nova. It exudes luxury with an infinity-edge swimming pool built into the hillside overlooking vineyards. DOC Restaurant opened in 2007 along the Douro River next to a boat dock. Six hundred wines, many of them from the surrounding region, are on the list.