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Go on a Month-Long Harvest Bender in Wine Country

Harvest time means free-flowing wines and a full roster of vineyard parties, with plenty of chances to venture outside the tasting room—and sometimes even climb in the barrel yourself.

The Clif Family Winery.


Harvest brings hot days and sleepless nights for vineyard workers and winemakers. Lucky for us, it’s also a massive, month-long celebration. From barbecue barn bashes and Dionysian dance parties to family-friendly festivals, here are our picks for the best harvest parties and grape stomps in Napa, Sonoma, and Livermore valleys. 


September 12
Don't wear white to the Madrigal Family Winery’s annual harvest party and grape stomp. The winery actually lets you get in the barrel yourself. After you smush some grapes, enjoy the live music, paella, and a library tasting. 
Noon–4 p.m. $50.

September 12 and 26–27
Alpha Omega Winery is throwing a slew of harvest events, including a dinner on Saturday, September 12, and parties on Saturday, September 26, and Sunday, September 27. AO is known for its barbecues, patio parties, and elegant but casual affairs. Expect their bold wines to flow freely at this family-style affair.
Times vary by event. $85–150.

September 13
This is no white-tablecloth party. Rutherford Hill Winery’s Fourth Annual Barn Bash is casual and includes live music, games, prizes, and smoky barbecue paired with their spicy, earthy reds and crisp whites. You’re welcome to bring the kids, who can attend for free unless they eat the catered meal. 
Noon–4:30 p.m. $55.

September 19
Peju Province Winery’s harvest celebration begins in the gardens with a wine reception, followed by dinner and wine pairings in the vineyards. There's also an educational element to the dinner—so come with questions and an open mind. And then loosen that tie and dance the night away in the winery’s tower.
6 p.m.–10 p.m. $225.

Feeling competitive? Try Castello Di Amorosa’s harvest celebration and grape stomp competition. This full-size castle and winery produces some of the best events in the valley. Expect a party packed with food and wine stations, live jazz and dancing, tours of the underground areas, a series of harvest demonstrations, and, of course, the grape stomp competition. 
7 p.m.–10 p.m. $135.

October 3
While the folks behind the Clif Family Winery rose to prominence thanks to the Clif Bar, they’re now becoming known for their cycling tours, tasty wines, and lively parties. Gary Erickson, Kit Crawford, and the whole family will be in attendance at the winery’s Seventh Annual Farm Fest—and feel free to bring yours, too. This gathering will feature live music, wine tastings, food and wine pairings, local artisan food demos, farm tours, and games for the whole family. 
3 p.m.–8 p.m. Adults: $75; ages 12–20: $20; children under 12: free. 


September 4–6
Sonoma Wine Country Weekend isn’t just a harvest party: It’s Sonoma County’s largest charity event of the year, bringing together more than 200 Sonoma winemakers and grape growers, and great chefs from the area. Hit up the Sonoma Harvest Wine Auction, a poolside dance at Francis Ford Coppola Winery, and winemaker dinners and lunches all weekend long. 
Times vary by event. $80–$500. 

September 25
At Buena Vista Winery’s Crush Brunch, tipple on sparkling wine and brunch in the Fountain Courtyard while their winemaking team demonstrates the process of crushing and sorting grapes. If you’re up for it, they’ll let you help out.
10 a.m.–1 p.m. $45.

September 25–27
The 118-year-old Valley of the Moon Vintage Festival takes place in Sonoma’s historic downtown square. Things get started with a gala event Friday night, which includes a variety of local food and wine, and ends with dancing under the stars. The rest of the weekend is family friendly and features kid zones, grape stomps, a parade, art festival, and even 5K and 12K runs.
Times vary by event. $0–$199.

September 26–28 
The Sonoma Valley Crush Festival is three jam-packed days of grape stomps, tours, and wine sampling at every stage of production (including fermentation and barrel). There are 15 wineries participating, so while you probably could hit all of them in three days, you’re better off picking just a few stops.  
11 a.m.–4 p.m. $35. 

September 26 
These days it’s hard to be the first at anything, but you can boogie your way to premier bragging rights at Stuhlmuller’s first annual harvest party. This off-the-beaten path vineyard and winery makes easy-drinking, big reds and complex, refreshing whites. Expect high-energy covers and original music from the Harvest Band along with wine pairings, dancing, and whole roasted pigs.
6:30 p.m.–9 p.m. $75. 


September 6
Livermore has been throwing its Harvest Wine Celebration for 33 years. On the Sunday of Labor Day weekend, the whole valley bands together, with more than 40 wineries hosting events that include art, crafts, food, and wine. Keep an eye out for grape stomps, as they will likely be announced at a later date at participating wineries. You can check in on the latest developments by calling 925-447-9463.
Noon–5 p.m. $45.


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Photo: Courtesy of the Schug Carneros Estate Winery