Wine Institute, a public policy association of California wineries producing 80 percent of U.S. wines, has put together a list of festivals that can be turned into a vacation for those who love to add wine to their leisure time. As the nation’s number one state for wine and food tourism with 3,900 wineries, California attracts 24 million visitors to its wine regions each year.
So, when temperatures plummet in other parts of the country, a warm up to a winter getaway in California wine country does much to enhance the moment. Not only does the Golden State enjoy sunny skies and comparatively mild temperatures year ’round, California’s distinctive wine regions offer a host of seasonal activities and events, from food festivals to barrel tastings. Here are just some of the activities and events happening in California wine regions this season.
For those who prefer hands-on pursuits, many California wineries offer wine-blending workshops, cooking classes that focus on seasonal ingredients and educational tastings. See DiscoverCaliforniaWines.com to search for wineries by region and events.
For great wine tasting deals in Napa Valley, pick up the Winter in the Wineries Passport ($60), which includes tastings at 16 Calistoga wineries, or St. Helena’s Little Book of Big Experiences passport ($75), which offers enhanced wine experiences at 15 wineries throughout the season.
Annual Wine & Food Events
Some of California’s best wine and food events happen in the winter months. During California Restaurant Month in January, eateries across the state offer special rates on prix-fixe lunch and dinner menus. Restaurant Week promotions run in various cities throughout the month. This year, Sonoma County extends its Restaurant Week celebration from Feb. 21-March 1.
The Napa Truffle Festival (Jan. 17-20) includes mushroom foraging and truffle cultivation seminars, plus chef-led cooking demonstrations. Crab Feast Mendocino (Jan.24-Feb. 2) features all-you-can-eat crab feeds, a wine competition showcasing local producers and a Crab Cake Cook-off.
Sonoma County during Winter Wineland (Jan. 18-19) brings vintners who pour samples of new releases and limited-production library selections.
Santa Cruz becomes an epicenter of The Good Life in January when Santa Cruz Mountains Passport Celebration Day (Jan. 18) brings 40 participating wineries throughout the region to visitors. The Temecula Valley Barrel Tasting Event (Jan. 25-26) offers a self-guided taste and tour to sample barrel and tank wine samples, as well as new releases. The Zinfandel Experience (Jan. 30-Feb. 1) is a three-day wine and food fest in San Francisco that presents wine seminars, an auction and dinner and a grand tasting of California’s distinctive Zinfandel wine.
Sweet treats are in focus at two February events: the Lodi Wine & Chocolate Weekend (Feb. 7-9), and the Madera Wine Trail Wine & Chocolate Weekend (Feb. 8-9), held at multiple wineries. The Presidents’ Wine Weekend (Feb. 15-16) in Calaveras County presents wine experiences and special events in the Gold Rush town of Murphys.
The Garagiste Festival: Northern Exposure (Feb. 15) in Sonoma gives tasters access to micro-production wines from Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino, Santa Cruz Mountains and more. Central Coast winemakers show off their blending expertise at BlendFest on the Coast in Paso Robles (Feb. 20-23). This year’s Anderson Valley Winter White Wine Festival (Feb. 22-23) highlights Riesling and other Alsace varietals with seminars, a grand tasting and winery open house events.