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10 Wineries with Harvest Parties That Are Totally Crushing It

Where to find harvest balls, grape stomps, and Sonoma’s answer to Oktoberfest.

Peju Province Winery's harvest party and grape stomp, held August 20. 

 

It’s harvest time in the wine country: That means big parties, grape stomps, new wine releases, live music, dancing, and the heavy, earthy scent of fermenting grapes permeating everything. Here are the harvest fests you don't want to miss in Sonoma, Napa, and Livermore.  

SONOMA

If you like a party (or just want to get more bang for your buck), check out Sonoma Valley Crush. Thrown by 13 wineries, the fest (Sept. 16–18; $35–$40) includes everything from hands-on harvesting to laid-back sipping. Another all-weekend option: The Sonoma County Harvest Fair (Sept. 30–Oct. 2; $5–$125) features everything from craft beer and artisan cheese to arts and crafts for kids.

Hawkes 
Friday, September 16. 5 p.m. Free with RSVP
At Hawkes, you’ll feel like you’re visiting family at the farm (albeit family that expects you to shell out for food and drink). Jake Hawkes will be cooking in the garden while music plays on the patio. It’s a laid-back affair where everyone mingles, meets new people, and eventually finds a table to sit down and eat. Try the soft, round cabernet or the summery vin gris, plus some of the wine club exclusives if they haven’t yet sold out.

La Crema 
Saturday, September 17. Noon–4 p.m. Free with RSVP.
Think of this party as a choose-your-own-adventure. The setting: La Crema’s newly opened winery estate at the famed Saralee's vineyard. You’ll be sent on a self-guided tour through the vines before heading to the barn for the main event. Though the focus will be on La Crema’s single-vineyard wines from Saralee’s, they’ll be pouring and discussing wines from all over. When you’ve had enough walking, pull up a seat on the patio or relax on the lawn for wine and food pairings and a little live music. 

Schug Carneros Estate  
Saturday, October 1. Noon–4 p.m. $45 per person (children 12 and under free). 
Schug’s big family-friendly shindig is an Oktoberfest for wine. The harvest wines are on offer, of course, but don’t miss the Federweisser, a cloudy German wine still in the process of fermenting; think of it as a kind of wine soda or sweet sparkling wine. For this party, Schug sets up a hilltop tent, serves German foods like Zwiebelkuchen (a traditional onion tart), and rocks out to the winemaker’s band, Grand Cru. If you’ve got kids in tow, look out for corn hole and the arts and crafts table, hosted by local artist Lisa Russell.

Landmark Vineyards  

Saturday, October 1. 11 a.m.–2 p.m. $30–$60.

This casual, family-friendly party is all about kicking back and getting to know Sonoma pinot noir and chardonnay. There will be local vendors with bites to pair with the wines, and plenty of spots to relax on the grounds, which have lots of open areas for kids to run and nooks to explore. Take a horse-drawn carriage ride gratis (and consider this year’s holiday photo done). 

St. Francis Winery 
Sunday, October 2. 2 p.m.–5 p.m. $60.
Now here’s a harvest party without a cheese cube in sight. Zinfandel and barbecue happen to be an ideal pairing, and in celebration of that fact St. Francis is putting them together. The winery will have six different zins on offer, as well as some highly rated cabernet and red blends. Many of these—like the double gold 2013 Old Vine Zinfandel—are under $25. Consider this your chance to get first crack at St. Francis’s new wines (and get a discount while you’re at it). 

NAPA

Unlike Sonoma, there are no huge collective harvest parties open to the public, but Napa does have the Crusher Games (Sept. 17; noon–4 p.m.). This tournament of table tennis, wine barrel minigolf, and wine pong is about as down to earth as Napa gets. A portion of ticket sales ($35 apiece) benefits the Napa Humane Society. 

Grgich Hills Estate 
Daily, August 19–October 31. 10 a.m.–4 p.m. $35.
The beauty of this harvest party is that it lasts for over a month, so you can go stomp grapes on your own schedule. It’s also relatively inexpensive and comes with a glass of wine, a reusable glass, and a T-shirt that you can wear while you stomp grapes (also comes in handy to wipe off your feet at the end).

Clif Family Winery 
Saturday, September 17. 3 p.m.–8 p.m. $75. 
Clif’s annual farm fest is one of the best family-friendly parties of the year in Napa Valley. Yeah, you’re getting the usual artisanal bites, wine pairings, and band, but you’re also getting family games, farm tours, and all kinds of other distractions so that your kids (or spouse) won’t know just how much you’ve had to drink. If you do choose to indulge, you’re going to need a designated driver to make it back from Pope Valley.

V. Sattui Winery 
Saturday, September 17. 6 p.m. till late. $250 for non-members.
Here’s your opportunity dress to the nines and have a romantic dinner in the middle of a vineyard, then dance the night away in a barrel room. At V. Sattui’s harvest ball, the wine flows all night long, with a list including everything from latest releases to old vintages, reserves, and big bottles. Italian chefs with Michelin stars will be cooking it up for you before Super Diamond—which is, yes, a Neil Diamond tribute band—kicks things up a notch for dancing in the cellar. Before last call, relax on the terrace with a nightcap of Madeira, port, and cigars.

Ehlers Estate 
Saturday, September 24. 5 p.m. till late. $95. 
Winemaker Kevin Morrisey’s harvest party takes the form of an Italian feast, served up in Ehlers’ stone winery harking back to 1886. The winery, set on an organically farmed 42-acre vineyard, is known for making floral, spicy, earthy wines—which should be plenty to fuel the after-dinner dancing with oldies and soul cover band Jimmy Duvet and the Comforters. 

LIVERMORE

It is, in fact, possible to attend a weekend’s worth of harvest festivities without leaving the East Bay. For Livermore’s Harvest Wine Celebration (Sept. 4–5; $45–$55), more than 30 wineries party in unison. Each offers something special, from a grape stomp to live music and food. No designated driver? Hop on the trolley, which will be making stops at the west side wineries. 

 

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