If your appreciation of wine and spirits is rivaled only by your appetite for adventure, these five rugged trips will go down smooth.By Kate Siber
NAPA OF THE NORTHWEST
Rogue River Valley, OR
Surrounded by one of the country's wildest national forests, Oregon's Rogue River Valley offers high-quality wine sampling without a snobby aftertaste. Think tiny vineyards pouring award-winning syrahs and red Bordeaux varietals among thick stands of old-growth firs. But go now. Connoisseurs are starting to turn their attention here from the pinot-heavy Willamette Valley. Head to the manageable Applegate Valley, which lies within the Rogue and has about 12 wineries that do tastings. Must-tries are the syrah at Valley View (800-781-9463, valleyviewwinery.com), the zinfandel at Troon (541-846-9900, troonvineyard.com), and the red blends at Wooldridge Creek (541-846-6364, wcwinery.com). From Wooldridge you can ask to hike the Felton Trail past more vineyards. For a truly remote experience, hike or bike past old-growth Douglas firs along Briggs Creek, part of a 500-mile trail network in the Siskiyou forest. Get bikes and maps at the Siskiyou Cyclery (bike rentals $35; 541-482-1997). PICK UP Troon's lauded and spicy 2004 zinfandel reserve ($55). DO IT Fly into Medford and drive to Weasku Inn, in Grants Pass (from $195; 541-471-8000, weaskuinn.com).
The spiky blue fields of agave surrounding the towns of Tequila, Amatitán, and El Arenal tip you off right away: This is purebred tequila country. Peppered with 200-year-old brick-and-adobe haciendas and nearly 2,000-year-old native archaological sites, this region of western Mexico, which was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in July, has some 80 distilleries. Here you can learn about—and taste—the difference between silver, gold, reposado, and añejo. The best way to see the distilleries is on your own. Make day trips from Guadalajara, about 35 miles southeast, and check out three major bouldering areas along the way: El Diente, La Hidro, and El Cuajo. Watch the entire production process at Casa Herradura, in Amatitán (52-374-742-2442, herradura.com) and take the $25 tasting tour at José Cuervo, in Tequila, to sample seven varieties (52-374-742-2442, josecuervo.com). PICK UP Cuervo's Reserva de la Familia, a buttery extra-añejo, costs about $125 north of the border, but goes for about $90 here. Bring back up to two liters duty-free. DO IT Fly to Guadalajara and rent a car at the airport. Stay south of downtown at Casa de las Flores (from $85; 52-33-3659-3186, casadelasflores.com).
Seven distilleries within a 75-mile radius dot north-central Kentucky's billowing cornfields and horse-specked meadows, which gave rise to bourbon more than two centuries ago. Essential stops: the graddaddy of it all, the Makers Mark compound, a national historic landmark, where the nectar is bottled to taste, not age (270-865-2099, makersmark.com), and boutique distiller Woodford Reserve, where aficionados can take a two-hour "Corn to Cork" tour with tasting (859-879-1812, woodfordreserve.com). Take a break from the bottle with a half-day paddle on the Class II-III Elkhorn Creek (rentals from $28 at Canoe Kentucky; 888-226-6359, canoeky.com). PICK UP Woodford Reserve's ultra-smooth Four Grain bourbon ($80). DO IT Fly into Louisville and stay at Bardstown's Old Talbott Tavern (from $90; 502-348-3494, talbotts.com).
MARITIME WINE TRAIL
Long Island, NY
Although they have a modest 30-year history, the wineries on Long Island's North Fork are gaining an international reputation for lush merlots and fruity chardonnays. Nearly 40 vineyards crisscross the landscape, which is also ideal for cycling. Rent rigs at Bike Stop ($22; 631-477-2432, bike-stop.com), in Greenport, and pedal to Bedell Cellars to taste chardonnays and Rieslings ($5 per person; 631-734-7537, bedellcellars.com). Then pop next door to the Lenz Winery to sample the merlots ($2 per taste; 800-974-9899, lenzwine.com). For a break from the waves of vines, spin northeast from Greenport on Route 25, and follow the waterfront to Orient Point. PICK UP Lenz's 2000 Old Vines Merlot scored within a point of the Chateau Pétrus at a professional blind tasting—but costs $2,600 less ($50). DO IT Fly into Long Island's Islip Airport or New York City and stay in Greenport's Greenporter Hotel (from $89; 631-477-0066, thegreenporter.com).
SINGLE MALT HEAVEN
Of Scotland's 100-plus distilleries, Speyside claims the most; it's also home to salmon-saturated rivers and storied golf courses. Start at the big-name houses, such as Glenfiddich (44-1340-820-373, glenfiddich.co.uk) and Cardhu (44-1340-872-555), which offer public tasting tours. Then seek out some of the region's numerous tiny, under-the-radar spots, whose laid-back distillers might let you take a peek inside if you call in advance. Mortlach, in Dufftown, is one such distillery (44-1340-820-318). It's signature spirit is a cognaclike sherry-cask-aged whiskey that's crafted in an odd little still called the "wee witchy." Be sure to pace yourself so you don't miss out on Speyside's wild side. Rise early to grab one of six day licenses at J.A.J. Munro, in Aberlour, for access to a three-quarter-mile salmon-infested stretch of the Spey ($26; 44-1340-871-4289) or play a round at the Nairn Golf Club, which was established in 1887 ($75; nairngolfclub.co.uk). PICK UP Islay's Port Ellen distillery is now extinct, but its namesake single malt can still be purchased at Cardhu's store and will knock out even the amateur nose with its barrage of aromas—cherry, chocolate, vanilla, and smoke ($200). Bring up to a liter back duty free. DO IT Fly into Glasgow and rent a car at the airport for the 180-mile drive north to Speyside. Stay minutes from Glenfiddich at the Craigellachie Hotel (from $293; 44-1340-881-204).
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