You taste wine, talk about wine, read about it, maybe even dream about it. Now, you need to visit wine country.
There's nothing like breathing in a winery's intoxicating aromas of earth, diesel, steel and fruit to understand wine's unique partnership of Man and land.
Americans' wine travel has increased on par with our wine consumption, which now tops the world (in volume, not per capita.)
And whether you're a certified cork dork or just want a meal with a view, you have plenty of options.
Do you want intensive seminars and no-frills vineyard tours, elbow-to-elbow with America's top wine minds? Check out The Society of Wine Educators' Annual Conference, this year exploring Rhode Island's infant wine scene (societyofwineeducators.org).
For an industry in early maturity and more frills -- including a breathtaking and fire pit salmon roast -- explore the 25th Annual International Pinot Noir Celebration in Oregon wine country (ipnc.org)
For day-tripping, California's Kunde family offers guided hikes through their 1,850 acre, volcanic estate including tasting, luncheon, examples of sustainable winegrowing and some of California's most spectacular views (kunde.com).
Finally, there's the do-it-yourself method, winding from winery to winery along a more-or-less established wine route (famously, Route 29 through Napa or Burgundy's "Routes de Grands Cru") be it by car, bike, barge or train.
To begin your plans, ask yourself the 5 Ws:
When do you want to travel, during peak season or when tasting rooms are empty? Where? Wine grows on every continent (except Antarctica) and lies from sea to shining sea in the U.S. What do you want? Knowledge, exercise, status, relaxation? Why? Are you shopping for a vineyard or just a good glass of wine? With whom? Un-wined companions need outside activities but make excellent designated drivers.
Finally, remember the adage, "Too bad the country is so far from town." Despite the tourism hype, wine country is farm country. If varying access to television, air conditioning, clearly marked roads and other amenities will ruin your vacation, make other plans. Otherwise, carry necessities with you and set your patience to high.
In my next column, I'll touch on ways to make the most out of your wine country experience.
• Advanced Sommelier and Certified Wine Educator Mary Ross writes Good Wine. Contact her at email@example.com.