Grape Escapes: The Best California Wine Month Events

Jericho Canyon Vineyard

Summer, we’ve loved you, but we’re happy to have September’s clear skies and (ahem) “balmy” afternoons. And while giving up your carefree spirit is a bit of a drag, there’s a small sigh of relief in returning restless youngin’s to some structure.

As though aware that back-to-school would signal “adult time,” Mother Nature happily aligned it with grape harvest. And because “harvest” and “festival” go hand in hand, September is the time of celebrating California bounty. From the Sierras on down to San Diego, California wine countries will be stomping, tasting, carousing, and enjoying life Dionysian style. Here, your guide to the best California Wine Month events. And for more tips on enjoying wine country, checkout our interview with Wine Institute’s Nancy Light.

North Bay

What: Harvest and Polaris ATV Vineyard Experience
Why: Before it becomes the nectar of the gods, it’s grapes and fermenting juice. On this vineyard experience, you’ll get a taste of the winemaking process.
Where: Jericho Canyon Vineyard, Calistoga
When: September 1-30
How much: $80 (by appointment only).

What: Harvest Party
Why: Because grape stomping and bocce are a divine pairing. Plus, there’s live music and barbecue (oh, and wine).
Where: Alexander Valley Vineyards, Healdsburg
When: September 14, 26
How much: $75

What: Harvest Celebration and Grape Stomp
Why: A grape-stomp competition and dancing will indulge both your party attitude and your competitive streak. Also on the menu are oven-roasted pizzas and barrel tastings.
Where: Castello di Amorosa, Calistoga
When: September 21
How much: $115

wine collage 2What: Harvest Party (part deaux)
Why: Meander through fruit trees, cluck with the chickens, groove to the music, and savor the “edible delights”—what’s not to love about getting down on the farm? A portion of the proceeds support CAFF  (Community Alliance with Family Farmers)
Where: Clif Family Farm, Angwin
When: September 28
How much: $60 ($20 age 20 and under)

What: Sonoma Valley CRUSH
Why: Get a true taste of Sonoma County with harvest activities (think tours, winemaker chats, demos, and more) at wineries 17 wineries.
Where: Sonoma County
When: September 27-29
How much: $35 for a three-day tasting pass

Central Coast

What: Gourmet Grazing on the Green
Why: You can savor local food, wine, beer, jam, and music, all while benefiting cancer.
Where: Aptos Village Park, Aptos
When: September 21
How much: $65

What: Harvest Tour de Vin
Why: Three glorious wine-fueled days featuring exclusive tours, classes, luscious lunches and all things “the good life.”
Where: First Crush Winery, Paso Robles
When: September 22-24
How much: $750

What: Harvest Wine Dinner
Why: It’s the full-bodied experience—you’ll enjoy wine tasting while the grapes are crushing and pressing. Then it’s off to a family-style dinner in the Cellar.
Where: Château Julien Winery, Carmel
When: September 20
How much: $105

What: Sunset SAVOR the Central Coast
This mondo-fest celebrates everything that is delicious about one of California’s most fertile regions. Beyond food and wine extravaganzas. there are adventure tours (Abalone on the Cliffs of Cayucos, anyone?) and special dinners.
Santa Margarita Ranch (and throughout San Luis Obispo County)
When: September 26-29
How much: Varies

What: Grape Stompin’ and Wine Sippin’
Why: The glory goes to the fastest stomper (fullest bottle in 30 seconds wins a prize), but everyone walks away with a token “grape-foot” tee. Plus, food, music, the works.
Where: McGrail Vineyards and Winery, Livermore
When: September 28
How much: $25

winery activities california

Inland Valley

What: Road Trip Passport
Why: Fill up on tastings, harvest festivals, concerts, demonstrations, cycling excursions, and so much more. Bet you didn’t know Lodi could be this cool.
Where: Lodi
When: September 1-30
How much: $20 passports offer discounts on activities

What: STOMP Out Cancer
Why: Play with a purpose. All proceeds from this event go to the American Cancer Society. Music will play, ice cream will be eaten, wine will be sipped, grapes will be stomped.
Where: Harney Lane Winery, Lodi
When: September 22
How much: Free to attend, $20 donation to stomp

Sierra Foothills

What: Lake Tahoe Autumn Food & Wine Festival
Why: Keep it real in Tahoe with wine and brew walks, vertical tastings, demos, a foam fest, bike tours… (Need we say more?)
Where: The Village at Northstar Resort
When: September 6-8
How much: Varies

What: Wine Tasting & Tour at Preston Castle
Why: Get a taste of history with your exquisite Amador County wines.
Where: Preston Castle, Ione
When: September 14
How much: $40

What: Sip and Paint
Why: The wine and creative juices will both be flowing at this artistic outing.
Where: Lava Cap Winery, Placerville
When: September 14
How much: $45

What: Hands-On Harvest
Why: Have the berries-to-barrel experience: touring the vineyard, collecting grapes, measuring sugar, and then glimpsing all the rest. All followed by a tasting and light lunch.
Where: Fenton Herriott Vineyards, Placerville
When: September 28
How much: $24.95

Photos: Wine Institute