The state’s 14th official “Wine Month” happening right now is that time of the year when juicy ripe grapes hang heavy on the vines, basking in golden fall sunshine, and the air is filled with fruity aromas that signal harvest time. The crush that ensues is a dizzying process of picking and harvesting, selecting, pressing and fermentation until a finished bottle of wine is poured and enjoyed.
This month, those of us who delight in the harvest’s newest creations may choose a variety of events—from exclusive tastings to grape stomps and vineyard hikes throughout California’s wine regions, as well as some very unique ways to go “beyond the tasting room,” to celebrate California’s 250-year-old wine industry. With 4,800 vintners and 5,900 growers within its borders, California is the world’s fourth-largest wine producer and the source of 81 percent of the wine made in the United States. It is also the most visited state in the U.S. for food- and wine-related activities, attracting 24 million people each year. (Photo courtesy Wine Institute)
Here is a full list of events, let some of these winery events “wet” your palette!
Temecula’s wineries are celebrating the crush season this month with a “Wine & Culinary Showcase” on Saturday, September 29 from 7:30 – 10 p.m. at the Monte De Oro Winery. Held in one impressive location, food and wine aficionados are allowed to sample more than 100 wines from 30 crushes, plus enjoy cuisine from local restaurants and caterers. Always fun, this is the time to interact with the winery owners and winemakers on hand for the evening. For tickets and stay packages, contact www.temeculawines.org. (Photo courtesy Visit Temecula)
Beyond the Tasting Room: Tour the Grapes by Horseback
With equestrian outfitters and guides, picturesque riding trails and an equestrian center with exciting events, Temecula Valley is becoming as popular with visiting equestrians as its wine country. After all, the ranch life is part of Temecula’s heritage. From the 1800s until as recently as the 1960s, the area was predominantly grazing land for cattle. The Vail Ranch spanned more than 87,500 acres, and Temecula’s Old West lifestyle flourished. When the Vails sold their ranch, the valley transitioned to a pastoral, master planned community that would incorporate equestrian ranches and agriculture, including wine grapes.
The valley has expanded, but it is nice to know that its agrarian roots are intact. A bounty of horseback riding tours and opportunities exist, several designed to combine the area’s wine-tasting popularity with the equestrian experience. Saddle Up Wine Tours provides gentle horses and guides for rides alongside vineyards, ranches and wineries that line the De Portola Wine Trail. Along the route to wine tastings, riders hear historical wine country anecdotes. Wine-tasting destinations include wineries such as Oak Mountain with wine tasting in the mountaintop veranda with valley views. (Photo courtesy Visit Temecula)
Sip ‘n Saunter on the Central Coast
The late summer is a perfect time to go up for the fresh air and cooler temperatures of the Central Coast, especially around agriculture-rich San Luis Obispo. Foodies and wine-lovers should plan to make the trip for the area’s 2nd Annual Sip & Saunter in San Luis Obispo on Sept. 28. Held in Downtown San Luis Obispo, the growing event combines shopping with food and wine in multiple Downtown venues on Friday from 5-8 p.m. Each ticket includes a complimentary wine glass and wristband to access 30 different participating locations. This event sold out last year, so check for tickets here. (Photo courtesy unsplashed.com)
Beyond the Tasting Room: Jeep & Wine Tour
Take the ultimate culinary road trip with Cloud Climbers Jeep & Wine Tours. Explore the bounty of Santa Barbara’s wine country in an open-air, canopied covered Jeep. The guided Jeep ride climbs up Old Stage Coach Road, past Lake Cachuma to Santa Barbara’s Wine Country. Hear about local history and take in lush valley views and miles of orchards and vineyards, stopping to taste the wine bounty, as well as a gourmet picnic lunch at one of the vineyards. The journey returns to Santa Barbara through oak-shaded canyons and dirt trails, past the former Reagan ranch.
Beyond the Tasting Room: Zipline over the Pinot
Pair wine with a good dose of adrenaline on a Margarita Adventures Zipline Canopy Tour. Soar over pinot noir vines at the historic Santa Margarita Ranch on five distinct ziplines spanning more than 4,500 total feet. Along the way, learn about the ranch’s sustainable winegrowing practices, abundant wildlife and role as part of California’s famed Mission Trail. Complete the experience by tasting Ancient Peaks wines grown on the ranch. (Photo by Chris Leschinsky)
Beyond the Tasting Room: Around the State
Taste by Train
Experiencing the vineyards by train has to be a top wine country experience, and the Napa Valley Wine Train has been offering this novel way to pursue the vineyards for nearly three decades. Antique Pullman rail cars wind their way through the vine-rich valley, taking passengers on a variety of experiences—including some with on-board gourmet meals paired with fine wines. (Photo courtesy Napa Valley Wine Train)
About 20 miles from Chico, discover a mystical wine experience at New Clairvaux Vineyard, the only Trappist-Cistercian monastery in the Americas to grow, make and bottle its own wine. The winery is situated in Vina on what was once Leland Stanford’s Great Vina Ranch, the largest winery in the world in the 1890s. Taste wines, tour the monastery grounds and winery, walk through a Gothic-style 12th-century Spanish chapter house (a portion of the historic church) and join Trappist Cistercian monks as they chant during their prayer services.
Hike and Sip
Enjoy a two-hour hike offered by Reyes Winery through the Sierra Pelona Mountains near Santa Clarita. Your guide on the 7-mile trek is none other than winery owner Robert Reyes. Immediately following the hike, which offers breathtaking valley vistas from a height of 3,500 feet, savor brunch and a wine tasting.