September is California Wine Month, which means 30 glorious grape-filled days with the squeaky sound of corks popping out of bottles and the splash of vino pouring into stemmed glasses. All month long, the Golden State is celebrating the vintner culture with festivals, tastings, and tours along the West Coast.
We were inspired by California’s month-long dedication to the local wine industry, but because any time is a good time to cheers, we’ve raised our glass to several wine regions that are well worth a visit any day of the year. From the ever-popular Napa wine country to the lesser-known areas of Paso Robles, we’ve revealed some must-visit Cali wine regions and events that will take place in each spot during the September festivities.
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Napa Valley is a top dog when it comes to wine regions—and not just in the U.S. This wine country reigns among some of the best in the world, as its climate, geography, and geology create the ideal viticulture environment. Roughly an hour north of San Francisco, Napa is home to American Viticultural Areas, which bear fruit to cabernet sauvignon, merlot, pinot noir, and chardonnay.
This September, Napa is hosting a variety of events in honor of Wine Month. Starting September 11, ZD Wines will offer Harvest Tour: Walk in Our Winemaker’s Boots, an opportunity to go behind the cellar scenes and sample wines maturing in the barrels and still fermenting. Rather get outside in the fields? Now’s your chance to pick some grapes at the Trefethen Harvest Boot Camp at the Trefethen Family Vineyards on September 26. After wine tasting your way through the valley, stay at one of the best hotels in Napa Wine Country and rest up for round two.
Head south along the coast and make a pit stop at Paso Robles, a coveted wine grape growing region in San Luis Obispo County. While it might not be a household name, Paso Robles is well-established with 32,000 acres of vineyards. Eighty percent of the wines produced are red, and the region bottles up more than 40 varieties of grapes. When it comes to the most popular picks, the heritage variety zinfandel and Rhone varieties get the majority of the attention.
Paso Robles is all about mixing wine tasting with the art scene. All September long, 15 wineries will be taking part in The Erin Hanson Art & Wine Tour 2015, displaying artwork and offering raffles in between wine tastings. Prefer film over oil paintings? Head to JUSTIN Vineyards & Winery on September 18 for dinner and a movie. Wine tasting starts at 6 p.m., followed by a 1960s New York-style dinner and a showing of the classic “Dirty Dancing” movie.
Though the region was already gaining traction, the 2004 film “Sideways,” further helped put Santa Barbara on the California wine country map. This central Cali region boasts a diverse climate and geography—coastal in the west and mountainous in the east—giving it a unique and flavorful advantage. With five American Viticultural Areas, Santa Barbara serves up a vast range of wine varietals, but pinot noir is by far a favorite.
Viewfinder Tip: Some wineries don’t serve food, so pack a picnic and pair some wine with your spread.
For a sip of the local nectar, swirl, sniff, and sample at the 34th Annual Taste of Town Santa Barbara on September 13. Eighty Central Coast wineries and restaurants are serving up the best of the best at Riviera Park Gardens. Can’t make the tasting event? Join one of the California wine tours, from Santa Ynez Valley to Sta. Rita Hills, instead.
Los Angeles sits roughly two hours south of Santa Barbara. Once you get outside of the congested, traffic-jammed streets, you’ll come across more than 50 wineries in the Santa Monica Mountains. Although not as well-known as the vineyards up north, they’re some of the best kept secrets on the coast. Expect full-bodied reds and sweet whites at these SoCal tasting rooms and estates.
While you’re in town, whet your palate at The Taste, from September 4-6. Foodies and wine snobs unite at this tasting event that showcases the hottest cuisine, cocktails, and wine in town. Marvel at the cooking demonstrations by top chefs and drink wines from near and far. If you’re not around for the tasting event, swing by the wineries for a sip straight from the source.
Temecula is considered Southern California’s wine country. Just north of San Diego, these vineyards have excelled in producing merlot, chardonnay, and sauvignon blanc. More recently, they’ve begun experimenting with Mediterranean-style wines, such as syrah, sangiovese, and tempranillo.
Stay at one of the hotels near Temecula wineries and vineyard hop, or attend one of the special September events. Beginning on the first of the month, SIP Temecula invites you to pick four local wineries to visit for discounted rates on flight tastings. If you’re more interested in learning about the vintners themselves though, check out Temecula Valley CRUSH, where you can meet and greet winemakers from more than 30 vineyards in the region. Sip and sample your way through this wine and food event at Wiens Family Cellars on September 19.
While California Wine Month is the perfect excuse to get out into the countryside and savor the local blends, it doesn’t have to be the month of September to revel in the finer things. Head to the vineyard-filled hills today and get a taste of the West Coast grapes. For a full list of California wine country events, check out Discover California Wines.
What are your favorite vineyards on the West Coast?