Forget Napa. On your next business trip, make time for these bibulous detours
Starting point: London. The plan: With its crisp acidity, English sparkling wine is emerging as a viable option to Champagne and prosecco. Drive an hour southeast to posh Kent for the best wineries: Chapel Down (Tenterden Vineyard, Small Hythe Road, Tenterden), Lamberhurst (Lamberhurst Down, Lamberhurst), and Biddenden (Gribble Bridge Lane, Biddenden), have all produced award-winning sparkling varietals. Stay: Biddenden rents a handsome loft that sleeps two, comes with a kitchen, and has vineyard views (Gribble Bridge Lane; $210 to $350/2 nights). Eat: Devour classic pub fare plus 11 kinds of pudding (that's English for dessert, you philistines) at the White Lion, 10 minutes away on High Street in Tenterden.
THE NORTHERN ILLINOIS RED TRAIL
Starting point: Chicago. The plan: Head northwest to the 15 vineyards on the Northern Illinois Wine Trail. Tastings ($10 or less) improve with distance: Three hours away, Massbach Ridge Winery (8837 S. Massbach Rd., Elizabeth) and Galena Cellars Vineyard (515 S. Main St., Galena) have the best reds of the region. Stay: The Felt Manor Guest House in Galena has five rooms in an 1850s mansion (125 S. Prospect St.; from $125/night). Eat: Before leaving Chicago, hit venerable Charlie Trotter's (816 W. Armitage) for its massive wine list. An $85 bottle of cabernet from Roselle, Ill., shows what the state can do.
THE NEW ENGLAND BREWERY CRAWL
Starting point: Boston. The plan: Start at Harpoon Brewery (306 Northern Ave.), where you'll learn to make a bitter India Pale Ale. Don't sample too many—you're driving an hour to Portsmouth, N.H., and the Redhook Ale Brewery (35 Corporate Dr.). Continue another hour to Portland, Me., for dark ales at Allagash Brewing Company (50 Industrial Way) and Shipyard Brewery (86 Newbury St.). Stay: The stunning Chebeague Island Inn is a 25-minute ferry ride from Portland (61 South Rd.; from $160/night). Eat: At The Farmer's Table (205 Commercial St.), go for local seafood options, like the Casco Bay mussels ($9.95).
THE KENTUCKY BOURBON TRAIL
Starting point: Cincinnati. The plan: Kentucky's Bourbon Trail, a 70-mile route two hours south of Ohio, features six distilleries including Wild Turkey (1525 Tyrone Rd., Lawrenceburg) and Maker's Mark (3350 Burks Spring Rd., Loretto). Map your route on kybourbontrail.com (all tours are $5 or less). Stay: Anchor a two-day trip at the Old Bardstown Inn (510 E. Stephen Foster Ave., Bardstown; about $60/night). Eat: At Chapeze House (107 E. Stephen Foster Ave.), local couple The Colonel and Margaret Sue serve bourbon- marinated meat and lead their own tasting (dinner, about $30). Afterwards, top yourself off at The Old Talbott Tavern (107 W. Stephen Foster Ave.).
THE RUSSIAN VODKA TOUR
Starting point: Moscow. The plan: Take the metro to the Vodka Museum (ul. Izmailovskoye Shosse, 73G) and taste samples with caviar. After the primer, head to Moscow Distillery Cristall (ul. Samokatnaya, 4), where you'll drink 15 blends of unpronounceable delights. Stay: The 92-room Golden Apple (ul. M. Dmitrovka, 11), with Philippe Starck fixtures and a global menu, is a Muscovite steal at $400 per night. Eat: For authenticity, try newly opened Hachapuri (Bolshoi Gnezdnikovsky Pereulok, 10) for Georgian cheese-filled bread, spiced vegetables, and, of course, "bread wine." For Russian glitz and model watching, book a table at Galereya (ul. Petrovka, 27).
TEXAS VINEYARD HOPPING
Starting point: Dallas. The plan: Texas vineyards are winning national awards—seriously. Some of the best are in Grapevine, an hour from downtown Dallas. Don't miss Delaney (2000 Champagne Blvd.), and La Buena Vida (416 E. College St.) vineyards for tastings of chardonnay, voignier, or pinot blanc. For the wobbly-legged, Grapevine Tours shuttles you to three wineries and takes care of lunch ($54.50, grapevinewinetours.com). Stay: Return to Dallas for the Art Deco Stoneleigh Hotel (2927 Maple Ave.; from $179/night), which recently underwent a $36 million renovation. Eat: At Local (2936 Elm St.), a bistro in the Deep Ellum district, the inventive tasting menu is $70. On the way back to the hotel, grab a nightcap at Teddy's Room (2024 Cedar Springs Rd.), named after T.R. himself.