California has more than 25 distinct wine regions. Explore them all. (Photo: Rebecca Podests/offmetro SF)
There’s rarely a reason not to enjoy wine, but come September, sipping feels ever more imperative. Not only does the mild weather lend itself to both crisp summery whites and robust winter reds, but harvest season means the grapes (and festivals) abound. During California Wine Month, wineries and regions all over the state offer many reasons to enjoy the local bounty, savor beautiful days, and celebrate one of California’s favorite crops: the grape. There are more than 70 events happening throughout the month, but here are ten to put on your calendar.
Combining beach and bounty, the Capitola Art and Wine Festival (September 12–13) is two days of family fun. Parents can enjoy local artwork and beverages from 23 wineries while youngsters can get creative at the kiddie art area. Everyone will love the live music, dance and performing arts groups, including Santa Cruz Pipes & Drums and the Surfing Magician.
2. Lake Tahoe Autumn Food & Wine Festival
Back to school has never been so fun as it is at Lake Tahoe Autumn Food & Wine Festival (September 11–13), where learning means everything from mixology workshops and painting classes (with refreshments) to cheesemaking lessons. Enjoy the fresh mountain air on a progressive picnic hike or a wine-and-beer walk through the village, or just eat your face off at luncheons, dinners, and cooking demos.
Don your fanciest duds and celebrate vino at V. Sattui’s Harvest Ball. (Photo: V. Sattui Winery/Facebook)
3. Harvest Ball at V. Sattui Winery
The Harvest Ball at V. Sattui Winery (September 12) will celebrate the winery’s 130th anniversary with exquisite cuisine and the finest V. Sattui wines. Dinnertime will feature the musical stylings of Abbacadabra, an ABBA tribute band, while things will go even more vintage after dinner thanks to Big City Revue, a Motown/disco/retro band. The weekend also features a Saturday morning vineyard tour with winemaker Brooks Painter, and Sunday “morning-after” mimosas and Italian pastries.
4. Hahn Estates Bluegrass & BBQ Fall Release Party
Not feeling fancy? Kick up your heels at Hahn Estates Bluegrass & BBQ Fall Release Party (September 12), where lawn games, classic barbecue, and impeccable vintages reign on a sunny Salinas Valley day.
5. Sunset SAVOR the Central Coast
Sunset SAVOR the Central Coast (September 24–27) turns California’s heartland into a veritable cornucopia of syrahs, ciders, sauces, and charcuterie. This four-day foodie extravaganza features seminars and workshops, one-of-a-kind dinners, celebrity chefs, and adventures around San Luis Obispo County.
6. Taste of the Town Santa Barbara
Down on the California Riviera, Taste of the Town Santa Barbara (September 13) will celebrate all kinds of art. In addition to tastings from 80 Central Coast wineries and restaurants, the evening will offer live entertainment and a silent auction, plus demos from Bacara Resort & Spa’s new Executive Chef, Vincent Lesage.
Always wanted to stomp some grapes? South Coast Winery’s got your chance! (Photo: South Coast Winery Resort & Spa/Facebook)
7. Blessing of the Wines Grape Stomp & Harvest Festival
Those with I Love Lucy dreams should beat (grape-stomping) feet down to Temecula for the Blessing of the Wines Grape Stomp & Harvest Festival (September 20), a fun-filled day of games, tractor rides, clowns, and face painting, and, of course, a grape stomping competition.
8. Sip Savor Lodi
Lodi might not be the first name that comes to mind when you think “California wine country,” but this beautiful stretch of Central California produces more grapes than Napa and Sonoma combined. Sip Savor Lodi (September 25–27) allows plenty of options to taste local wares, via Cellar Tours, an al fresco Harvest Dinner in historic downtown Lodi, and more.
9. Trefethen Harvest Boot Camp
Tasting is great and all, but you might appreciate the wine more if you know what goes into it. The friendly folks at Trefethen Family Vineyards in Napa Valley allow you to get in on the action at Trefethen Harvest Boot Camp (September 26). You’ll join the harvest crew in the morning and then celebrate with lunch al fresco among the ancient walnut trees of Katie’s Acre.