Read a Book Want to know how wine is made? Why vintage matters? When to decant a bottle--and how to go about doing it? Karen MacNeil's The Wine Bible is full of approachable and entertaining information (Workman Publishing, $20).
Visit a Wine Shop Most neighborhood wine shops host tastings and can tell you about clubs or gatherings in the area. Build a relationship with store owners, and they'll make suggestions or help you to experiment with new wines.
Take Notes Try sampling wine flights at bars or restaurants to get a feel for different kinds. Bring a wine journal with you to jot down your impressions and keep track of what you like.
Join the Club Women for WineSense is a national organization for women interested in wine making and education. Local chapters organize meetings at wine bars and restaurants where members do tastings and discuss topics like wine-and-food pairing. Last year, the New York City chapter invited speaker Josh Wesson, cofounder of Best Cellars, an online wine shop that specializes in bottles under $15. The Portland, Ore., chapter recently had a "Red Wine & Chocolate" discussion and tasting. The $40 basic membership includes an e-newsletter and discounts to events (womenforwinesense.org).
Play a Game Wineopoly is a fun take on Monopoly, with wine trivia questions and game pieces like a decanter and a cluster of grapes ($25, target.com). Test your nose with a wine-aroma box by Le Nez du Vin, with six vials containing scents like black currant and green pepper ($57, winecellarsonline.com).
From Cape Cod to the Great Lakes, from Southern California to the Gulf of Mexico, America’s beaches stay open long after the summer crowds have gone home. It’s the same sun and surf—oh, except that you've got some elbow room and hotel rates have come back down to earth!