Wine is as much a part of the California lifestyle as catching a wave, hiking among ancient redwoods, or cruising in a convertible along the Golden State’s breathtaking coastline. As the home of 620,000 acres of vineyards, more than 100 different grape varieties, and 4,800 wineries, California produces more than 80 percent of the nation’s wine. That’s a major achievement that calls for a big celebration. Throughout the month of September—officially designated as California Wine Month—wineries from all over the state are hosting behind-the-scenes harvest tours, festivals, grape stomps, culinary experiences, and more.
You can also bring the harvest home with classic California recipes. California Grown has teamed up with California Wines and Visit California to create a free recipe e-book. Sign up for Visit California's weekly travel inspiration e-newsletter and you'll get a free copy of Iconic California Dishes to Celebrate California Wine Month, featuring classic California dishes like Avocado Salad with Hidden Valley Ranch-Style Dressing, and The Best Strawberry Shortcake inspired by the famous version served at Boccali’s Pizza in Ojai.
Whether you’re strolling the urban wineries along the Mid-Peninsula Wine Trail in San Carlos, learning how to harvest grapes in Napa Valley, or enjoying a private tasting in the Anderson Valley in the North Coast region, there are dozens of events and experiences planned all over the state.
To get you started on your California Wine Month adventure, here are some excellent ways to celebrate—along with tips for bringing home the excitement of harvest. (To view the full calendar of California Wine Month events and activities, go to Discover California Wines.)
Take a Behind-the-Scenes Crushpad Tour
Head to Dutton Estate Winery in Sebastopol on Fridays and Saturdays during September for free Crushpad Tours and watch behind-the-scenes harvest happenings from vine to tank. The Duttons have farmed in Sonoma County for six generations, and that proud legacy shines through in their celebrated Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays.
Fall in Love with Barbera
The Barbera Festival returns to Amador County on Sept. 9 at Terra d'Oro Winery in Plymouth. More than 50 wineries from across California will pour samples of Barbera—the region’s signature red variety—in a beautiful outdoor setting as festivalgoers enjoy live music and Barbera-friendly food made by local chefs.
Learn the (Lodi) Rules
Acampo’s Acquiesce Winery & Vineyards, a specialist in Rhône-style white wines, is offering a Harvest Vineyard Tour, Tasting, and Lunch from September 2–16. The educational experience highlights the winery’s sustainable and regenerative vineyard and winemaking practices, which follow Lodi Rules—California’s O.G. sustainable winegrowing program.
Join Stag's Leap Wine Cellars in Napa on Sept. 16 for the Technical Tour with Marcus Notaro & Harvest Lunch. Winemaker Marcus Notaro and his team will lead guests through tactical winemaking processes that demonstrate the intricacies and challenges of the annual harvest. Afterward, chill with an alfresco lunch paired with Stag’s Leap’s iconic Cabernet Sauvignon wines.
Raise a Glass to the Grape
Bring the family along to Grape Day Park in Escondido Sept. 9 for the Escondido Grape Day Festival. The free festival in San Diego County dates back to 1908 and includes grape stomping, local wine tasting, food vendors, antique farm machinery, children’s games, and live music.
Shake Up a California Wine Cocktail
Raise a toast to California Wine Month with a California 75 cocktail or Peach Frosé from the Iconic California Dishes recipe e-book (sign up here). The California 75 combines sparkling wine, dry vermouth, and freshly squeezed lemon juice. The Peach Frosé is a frozen cocktail featuring fresh peach slices, California Rosé, and orange juice.
Get Your Hands Dirty
On Sept. 9, Groth Vineyard & Winery in Oakville hosts From Fruit to Wine: The Magic of Harvest. Walk the vineyard with Director of Winegrowing Ted Henry to gather grapes, then head back to the winery to evaluate their ripeness and estimate a potential harvest date. The tour finishes with a visit to the crushpad and cellar to taste the first juice of the vintage.
Catch a Movie
Spread out a picnic blanket and catch a flick under the stars at Viansa winery in Sonoma Valley. On Sept. 14, the winery will host an open-air screening of Bottle Shock—the story of the California wine industry’s early days and the famous “Judgment of Paris” tasting—on Viansa’s scenic hilltop terrace. Tickets include a glass of wine and freshly popped popcorn. Cheese and charcuterie boxes will be available for purchase.
Raise a Paddle for a Charity
The Sonoma County Wine Auction weekend is back Sept. 14–16 with vintner dinners across Sonoma County, a can’t-miss party at Rodney Strong Vineyards, and live auction action at La Crema Estate at Saralee’s Vineyard—all to benefit Sonoma County nonprofits. Up for bid this year are rare wines and bucket-list vacations, along with incredible wine and culinary experiences in Sonoma County and around the world.
Cultivate a New Crush
Meet and mingle with winemakers at Temecula Valley Crush on Sept. 30, hosted by Monte De Oro Winery in Temecula. The walk-around tasting showcases wines from more than 30 award-winning producers from this Inland Empire hub, along with tasty bites from local caterers.
Bid Farewell to Summer
Celebrate the season’s end and the start of California Wine Month at Tobin James winery in Paso Robles. The End of Summer Bash on Sept. 9 will feature limited-release wines, plus local wine country cuisine and live music by MoFunk.
Wine and Dine
On Sept. 23 in San Luis Obispo County, enjoy passed hors d’oeuvres and a multi-course dinner at Dine in the Vines, held at the ONX Estate Vineyard, located in the Templeton Gap District of the Paso Robles AVA. Chef Amy Robinson of Epicurean Santa Barbara will prepare the meal, which includes a whipped ricotta and marinated zucchini with toasted focaccia, leek and sorrel risotto, and miso-braised beef cheeks, all paired with wines from the ONX team. Artist Kailee Collar will also be doing a live painting during the event. Tickets are $199/person.