Grapes ready for harvest — Photo courtesy of Jim G via Flickr
Pop the corks and roll out the tablecloths; California grape harvest is underway. All over the state, wine events large and small are paying homage to the mighty grape.
Napa Valley may be California's most-famous wine region, but don't tell the grapes. They grow happily on vines all over the sunny state, producing award-winning wines and a cornucopia of celebrations. But a quick spin through California illustrates the long reach of the grapevine. In Southern California, just north of San Diego, more than 30 Temecula Valley wineries dot the map. In mid-state, you'll find Paso Robles, the rockstar of Pinot Noir, but varietals of all kinds are produced by more than 100 wineries tucked among these pretty rolling hills. And in far Northern California, Mendocino wineries gain grace from the fairytale setting of mist-shrouded, dramatic rocky coastline.
That's just a sampling. Wine regions are all over California, and each one is gearing up for a harvest-time bash. Here are ten standouts from around the state.
Sonoma Wine Country Weekend
A top wine event, Sonoma Wine Country Weekend taps the talents of 200 wineries and 40 chefs, and donates event proceeds to charity. Event tickets are sold individually; main event is $165. The fun is just a little over an hour from San Francisco. Sonoma Starlight kicks off the weekend with dinner around a shimmering pool at Francis Ford Coppola Winery in Geyserville. Here, more than 35 wineries pour for 500 guests. Saturday's main event is Taste of Sonoma at MacMurray Ranch in Healdsburg; 2,500 guests drift in congenial bliss, sampling wine and food. Winemaker lunches, dinners and barbecues are favorites throughout the event, and Sunday's Sonoma Wine Auction ends the weekend on a high note.
Savor the Central Coast
Jointly sponsored by Volvo and Sunset magazine, Savor the Central Coast heralds beaches, wineries and a charming small coastal town. The event last for four days, but the main dates to attend are September 26-27 at Santa Margarita Ranch. Here, 100+ wineries and restaurants will showcase their goods, celebrity chefs whip up dazzling dishes in front of an audience and adventure tours depart for guests to explore the Central Coast.
Stop and smell the roses–and aromatic wine–among the laid-back crowds served by more than 50 wineries. Mendocino's singular setting of misty, rocky coastline is softened with a backdrop of redwood trees; a romantic delight. Tickets for the event are $125.
Capitola Art and Wine Festival
Capitola is the cozy, cottage-lined beach town everyone wants to make their home. Luckily, admission is free to Capitola's Art and Wine Festival. Twenty-three wineries from around the Santa Cruz mountains pour wine for a fee, as artwork from more than 160 artists serve as visual candy. With less wine sloshing since you buy it by the glass, kids fit in. Look for the kids' creative art area.
Lake Tahoe Autumn Food & Wine Festival
Another classic wine festival, Lake Tahoe Autumn Food and Wine Festival's main event puts 25 chefs on the line, in a culinary showdown at 6,000 feet. A $75 ticket lets you eat their spoils of war, plus sip on wine that is paired with each dish. Choices abound other days–a progressive picnic hike or "vertical tasting" on a gondola ride.
Livermore Valley's Harvest Wine Celebration
Never heard of Livermore Valley? Perhaps Wente Vineyards and Concannon Vineyard ring a bell? This wine valley is a short highway haul from San Francisco and produces stellar wines. Forty-five wineries participate in the festival; most pour and serve yummy things in tasting rooms.
Funky Beaverstock pours on foot-stomping music along with lots of wine. And craft beer. And yoga. A stellar musical line-up includes California Honeydrops, The Brothers Comatose and One Time Spaceman. Don't forget to dip your feet in Vino + Therapy Studio's crushed vine scrubs.
Temecula Valley Crush
Here, expect an evening under the stars on the lawn with wine poured by 30 Temecula wineries and tasty tidbits from local foodie spots. Tickets are $85.
V. Sattui Harvest Ball
This winery sits in a beautiful, Tuscan-like castle and is celebrating its 130th Anniversary with Harvest Ball this September. Expect fresh Italian cuisine and an Abba tribute band at this black-tie event.