By: JULIET IZON
FROM CHANGING FOLIAGE IN VERMONT TO TRUFFLE HUNTING IN ITALY TO WINE TASTING IN NAPA VALLEY, HERE ARE A FEW DESTINATIONS TO CONSIDER VISITING THIS SEASON.
There’s caviar, there’s uni, and then there’s white truffles. Once known as the “diamond of the kitchen,” this petite tuber packs a punch far larger than its physical size. Just a few shavings can instantly transform pasta from ordinary to resplendent. And, since they are sometimes known as Piedmont or Alba truffles, there’s only one place in the world to visit if you’ve become intoxicated by their heavenly aroma.
As any truffle lover knows, the season for the white varieties is exceedingly short. This year, the International Alba White Truffle Fair will be held from October 9 to December 5. The highlight of the fair is always the Alba White Truffle World Market, where visitors can purchase truffles from the celebrated hunters of the nearby Langhe, Roero, and Monferrato forests. Another popular attraction is The Alba Truffle Show, where chefs from around the world cook unique dishes using this “white gold” as their centerpiece.
After you’ve eaten your fair share of truffled pasta, pizza, and maybe even ice cream, take a few days to decompress in one of the stellar hotels located nearby. One of the best is Castello di Guarene, a historic, 18th-century palace that has been converted into an exclusive 15-room bolthole. Aside from lavish guest suites, it also has a grotto-style pool carved directly out of the rocks, a lush garden maze to wander, and a restaurant regarded as one of the best in the region. And, if you still haven’t satisfied your truffle craving, you’re in luck: the hotel can organize hunts for the elusive tuber with a guide and truffle-hunting dog. Those looking for the most authentic experience should ask for a nighttime search. While it’s certainly more challenging, it’s actually the ideal time to find these rare “diamonds.”
There’s never a bad time to visit this picturesque corner of northern California, but the region sparkles brightest during ha rvest season, from August to October. This is “crush” time, when the vineyards are alive with workers plucking fat grapes to be turned into a future bottle of cabernet sauvignon or pinot noir.
The region also hosts everything from music festivals to grape stomps to harvest parties during this celebratory season. One of the most anticipated events is BottleRock Napa Valley, a three-day extravaganza with live music, local food, craft brews, and plenty of wine that takes place from September 3 through 5 this year. If you’re looking for something lower key, however, Napa’s harvest parties and tastings are a more intimate way to learn about wines from a specific vineyard. One of our favorite producers, Robert Biale Vineyards, hosts monthly evening tastings during harvest season. Oenophiles will get to sample everything from zinfandels to petite sirahs while winemaker Tres Goetting describes the nuances of each wine.
When it’s time to bed down for the night, Napa Valley offers an embarrassment of riches when it comes to luxury properties. But two stand out from the pack: the recently reopened, food lover’s heaven of Meadowood and the refined and French-influenced Auberge du Soleil. Both properties belong to the Relais & Châteaux group, whose hotels are known not only for their high level of service, but top-flight food as well. And they’re both especially ideal for wine lovers: Meadowood boasts a bevy of wine classes at the hotel’s Learning Center and can even provide an expert to lead a guided winery tour. Auberge can curate a three-day tasting bonanza, which includes private tastings, tours, and VIP access to some of the area’s most notable winery estates.
New England may not have beaches like the Caribbean or towering mountains like the American West, but yo u would be hard-pressed to find anywhere on Earth more beautiful during the fall season. The region’s trees erupt in a rainbow of colors come autumn, and there is nowhere with a more beautiful selection than Vermont.
The Green Mountain State is actually composed of 75-percent forest and holds the honor of having the most maple trees in the country. You don’t even need to get out of your car; there are plenty of scenic byways to drink in the colorful surroundings, with town after charming town scattered along the route. But, of course, part of the magic of the changing leaves is to surround yourself in them. For that, we recommend heading to… a ski resort! An unconventional choice at first glance, but many of Vermont’s famed mountains, like Mount Mansfield in Stowe, offer gondola rides in the off-season for a spectacular view of the changing colors.
Vermont is also home to one of the most famed luxury resorts in the country, Twin Farms. The property, located on 300 serene acres, is known not only for its attentive staff, but a wide range of on-site activities, superb farm-to-table cuisine, and guest suites that are both luxurious and unique (there’s even a treehouse-themed room). Fall is high season here, with plenty of options for experiencing the splendor of the leaves. Guests can do everything from taking a guided walk through the property while making pit stops for lunch, to borrowing cruiser bikes for a scenic, 10-mile ride to the nearby town of Woodstock.