Visiting Napa Valley during harvest is one of the most beautiful times of the year to be in the wine country. Grapes are ripening on the vine, waiting to reach the ideal sugar levels before they are harvested. The vines begin to turn autumn colors and everywhere you look could inspire a painting.
Sparkling wine grapes are usually the first grapes to be harvested, while Cabernet is typically one of the last. Weather plays a huge role during harvest, an untimely rain or frost can necessitate an earlier harvest before grapes have reached their peak maturity. There are so many factors that contribute to that perfectly balanced bottle of wine.
Harvest is a festive time of year to visit Napa Valley. Some wineries post signs to let visitors know that they are crushing grapes. Throughout the valley there are events to celebrate the harvest. Some wineries have ceremonies to "bless the grapes" prior to harvest, while others offer grape stomping. Some wineries even let adventurous souls lend a hand. Here are a few ways to enjoy harvest:
Schramsberg, a favorite sparkling wine producer, offers two opportunities to learn more about the winemaking process at Camp Schramsberg, a Fall Harvest Camp to help during grape harvest and a Spring Blending Camp. These multi-day experiences allow visitors to work in the winery and vineyards to learn first-hand what it takes to make wine.
Jericho Canyon Vineyard offers a special perk to wine club members to participate in their Harvest Boot Camp which involves picking grapes, processing the harvested fruit, and participating in punch-downs. Throughout the day, there are opportunities to enjoy food and to be educated about the winemaking process. At the end of the day a celebratory dinner is held at the owner's hillside home overlooking the vineyards.
While arriving at Summers Estate Winery for a tasting, harvest was in process. The vineyards were crawling with workers picking grapes. The production facilities were busy keeping up with the activity. Inside the tasting room, it was calm and quiet. They make Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, and Charbono. Several people were seated on their outdoor patio enjoying a bottle of wine, while the bocce ball court sat unused.
Stay: Washington Street Lodging offers individual cottages with kitchenettes, living room and spacious bedrooms. The outdoor area feels like a resort with comfortable seating under the towering trees. The hammock is a wonderful way to relax and unwind after a busy day of wine tasting. Beds and bedding are so comfortable that a good night of sleep is practically guaranteed. The short five minute walk to shops and restaurants makes is easy to leave the car behind.
Dine: Calistoga Village Bakery has a wonderful assortment of baked items and coffee. Their ham and cheese croissant is particularly tasty. They also offer sandwiches, perfect for a winery picnic.
Boskos Trattoria serves Italian cuisine and has a selection of local wine by the glass or bottle. Their pastas are delicious and satisfying. The bar is usually not crowded and a quiet place to enjoy a meal.
About the Author: Karla is the author of several travel columns covering cocktails, wine, food, horse racing, and exotic car events, as well as undiscovered travel locations. Discover more from over 300 travel articles of places to explore.
©Karla Erovick 2012 article, photos