From August to October (and sometimes November), Wine Harvest season is upon us. It's a magical time to visit wine country as wine lovers, growers and vintners all celebrate (literally) the fruits of their labor.
Wine country gets down and dirty with grape stomp competitions whilst drinking delicious new vintages and dining on fresh and innovative wine country cuisine. Some wineries even invite you roll up your sleeves, slip on your mud boots and work the vineyard.
So, what makes this time of the year so special? David Scheidt of Mastro Scheidt Family Cellars in Healdsburg says, “Harvesting is romantic, primal and laborious." Maybe it’s the change in the season, the nip in the air or the gorgeous fall foliage--but there truly is something so natural about being part of a harvest. And after the hard work is done, it certainly deserves a celebration."
Here are 5 of the Best Fall Wine Harvest Weekends
Famous for Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc, stunning Sonoma County is home to two harvest events. The Sonoma Harvest Fair with its famed grape stomp have tickets starting as low as $5. While Sonoma Wine Country Weekend is a dress-up affair where “chefs serve, winemakers pour, and proceeds matter” that has gloriously raked in over 16 million dollars for charity. Both events put you elbow-to-elbow with Sonoma County’s most interesting winemakers and growers who are dedicated to sustainability and halfway to their goal of becoming 100 percent sustainable by 2019. Whilst wine tasting always so do responsibility... and in style. Vin de Luxe Tours can arrange private drivers for your group to cruise the wine trail in chic classic cars.
With three days and over 140 activities to savor in Paso Robles, you can experience everything from grape stomping to intimate tastings with the winemakers themselves. Dining options run from casual barbecues and fancy picnics to full on gourmet harvest dinners with an estate tour at biodynamic Tablas Creek Vineyard.
Famous for its absence of “tension or pretension” Paso Robles is perfect for wine debutantes (beginners) to develop their palate. There’s no general marquee ticket. You pay as you go per event. Make sure to swing by and taste a flight of delicious unfiltered wines at biodynamic AmByth Estate. Pick up the Harvest Wine Weekend Official Guide for a complete listing of events, circle your favorites, draw straws for a designated driver and join the fun.
Certified sustainable through LIVE and Salmon- Safe since 1997, the Willamette Valley Vineyards know how to put on a harvest celebration. Now in its 25th year, over 1,500 wine lovers come together to celebrate. You can compete in the grape stomp or cheer on your favorite team of champion stompers. Come hungry as the Winery Chef turns out Willamette Valley favorites for wine and food pairings. A family friendly harvest celebration, there’s even a grape stomp competition for kids.
Famous for Riesling, the Finger Lakes wine-growing region is a host to a plethora of Harvest Festivals. The 26th Annual Hunt Country Harvest Festival, who recently reduced its carbon footprint by 40 percent, hosts free wine tastings, tours, live music, grape stomping, and (my favorite!) horse-drawn vineyard rides. CasaLarga Vineyards celebrates harvest season with its 20th Annual Purple Foot Festival. Yes, more grape stomping and it's perfect for families with a dedicated area for the kiddos. Or if you want to celebrate the harvest in old-country German-style, swing by Lucas Vineyard for their 13th Annual German Festival serving up award-winning Rieslings and Gewürztraminer and dance to an oompah pah Bavarian band. Either way, on the Keuka Lake Wine Trail at harvest time, you can taste recently released wines and enjoy perfectly paired fall dishes.
The creator of Lodi Rules, to support sustainable wine-growing in the U.S., Lodi has a long history of grape-growing and is famous for their hundred-year-old zinfandel vines. In the last decade, Lodi irrevocably cannonballed into the winemaking scene by creating excellent Zinfandels praised by wine critics. The celebration begins with a Harvest Dinner in downtown Lodi. The weekend is filled with barrel tastings, live music, and fresh wine country cuisine. Each winery hosts it's own celebration and be sure to make a reservation at such popular wineries as Klinker Brick, Lange Twins Family Winery & Vineyards, and Harney Lane Winery.
If you can't find a Wine Harvest Weekend celebration near you, Nikki Wooldridge, a level 3 sommelier and wine broker, says that most wineries in the U.S. host a special harvest dinner. Two of her all-time favorites are Hawley and Preston bio-organic wineries in California's Dry Creek Valley.
So, roll up your sleeves, get in the vineyard and pick some grapes. Or roll up your pants and start stomping. Either way, raise your glass and starting drinking. Fall is the perfect time to celebrate the harvest that will make next year's greatest wines.
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