SAN FRANCISCO — When temperatures plummet in other parts of the country, it’s time to warm up to a winter getaway in California wine country. 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 in-depth, educational tastings. See DiscoverCaliforniaWines.com to search for wineries by region, varietals and amenities.
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 and curated pairings 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.
Fans of crab and wine enjoy the Mendocino Crab Feast. Photo: Visit Mendocino.
Tour northern Sonoma County during Winter Wineland (Jan. 18-19), when vintners pour samples of new releases and limited-production library selections.
Enjoy special tastings at the Santa Cruz Mountains Passport Celebration Day (Jan. 18), when more than 40 participating wineries throughout the region open their doors 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—all centered around California’s distinctive Zinfandel wine.
The Zinfandel Experience in San Francisco features Zinfandels from all of California’s growing regions.
Good times, good friends are part of the Lodi Wine & Chocolate Weekend.
The Garagiste Festival: Northern Exposure (Feb. 15) in Sonoma gives tasters access to under-the-radar, micro-production wines from Napa Valley, Sonoma County, Mendocino County, the Santa Cruz Mountains and more. Central Coast winemakers show off their blending expertise at BlendFest on the Coast in Paso Robles (Feb. 20-23), a tribute to the region’s rule-breaking wines. This year’s Anderson Valley Winter White Wine Festival (Feb. 22-23) highlights Riesling and other Alsace varietals with seminars, a grand tasting featuring local and international vintners and winery open house events.
Amador County wineries present educational seminars, food pairings and hard-to-find wines at Behind the Cellar Door (March 7). Taste barrel samples and meet the winemakers behind them at the WineRoad Barrel Tasting (March 6-8 and 13-15), a tasting tour of the Alexander, Dry Creek and Russian River valleys in Sonoma County. Sip some of Mendocino County’s finest wines in shops and galleries throughout Mendocino village while scouting the coastline for giant aquatic mammals at the Mendocino Whale Festival (March 7).
Wintertime Winery Activities
California wineries host special activities and tastings throughout the winter season.
Acumen in the Napa Valley now offers Wine and Chocolate Tasting Thursdays through Sundays in partnership with Napa’s Annette’s Chocolates. Learn about chocolate production while sampling three PEAK Cabernet Sauvignons paired with six chocolate selections. Reservations must be made online or by phone 72 hours in advance.
Every Friday through April, Long Meadow Ranch in St. Helena hosts a Winter Farmers Market featuring organic produce, beef, honey and other farm-grown goodies.
Head to V. Sattui Winery in St. Helena on Jan. 18 for a Coq Au Vin and Cabernet Pairing in the glow of the winery’s crackling fireplace. Steaming bowls of slow-cooked coq au vin with porcini-parmesan polenta are matched with Napa Valley Cabernets, including older vintages.
On President’s Day Weekend, Black Stallion Winery in Napa is celebrating with a wine and oysters event Feb. 15. No reservations needed.
Wine Institute is the public policy association of California wineries producing 80 percent of U.S. wine. 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.