It is the beginning of harvest in Napa Valley, the most wonderful time of the year. This is when people and machines start picking the grapes that are eventually turned into wine. It is a time of celebration, hard work and the promise of good things to come. It is also a grand time to visit.
Many Napa Valley wineries roll out the proverbial welcome mat for visitors during harvest, hosting a variety of events. These include parties, dinners and dancing, tastings from fermentation tanks, blending seminars, wine boot camps, special tours, family farm activities and yes, the chance to throw off your shoes and socks and stomp some grapes yourself.
Here is a listing of what some of Napa Valley’s hundreds of wineries are doing to welcome and engage the public in the coming weeks and months:
CASTELLO DI AMOROSA
This hilltop winery built in the style of a medieval Italian castle features a grape stomp, barrel making demonstration, cellar tours, live music, food and wine pairings, chats with winemakers and tastes of fermenting 2014 wines. $115 per person plus $10 for grape stomp. Must be 21 or older. Saturday, Sept. 20. 7-10 p.m. 4045 St. Helena Highway, Calistoga. Shuttles to downtown Calistoga included. 707-967-6274.
CLIF FAMILY FARM
This is the sixth year they have been bringing in the harvest with a “family farm fest,” including wine tasting, farm fresh food, local food artisans, music and activities for children. $75/$20 children 12-20/free under 12. Saturday, Sept. 27. 4-9 p.m. Pope Valley. 707-968-0625. email@example.com.
The winery’s 2011 Kathryn Hall Release Party is filled with music (DJ Adam Jobe), food (Feast Catering) and tastings of rare and newly-released wines. Saturday, Sept. 13. 1-4 p.m. $90. 401 St. Helena Highway South, St. Helena. 707-967-2626.
GRGICH HILLS ESTATE
People have been giving thanks for the first fruits of the season since the time of Noah. Join one of Napa’s greatest winemakers, Mike Grgich, as he leads a blessing of the grapes—the winery’s 38th annual—marking the start of harvest. Free, no reservations required. 10 a.m. Friday, Aug. 22. 1829 St. Helena Highway, Rutherford. 707-963-2784.
The evening includes a tasting with winemaker Kimberlee Nichols in Markham’s old stone cellar, a three-course dinner prepared by Tra Vigne and dancing to the Suspects of Soul. Transportation discount if you use Beau Wine Tours. $100. Saturday, Oct. 11. 6-9 p.m. 2812 St. Helena Highway North, St. Helena. 707-302-2039.
PEJU PROVINCE WINERY
“Black and red wine country cocktail attire” is recommended for this dinner and dance evening hosted by the Peju family and winemaker Sara Fowler. $225. Saturday, Sept. 20. 6-10 p.m. 8466 St. Helena Highway, Rutherford. 800-446-7358.
RUTHERFORD HILL WINERY
Two events worth noting here: A merlot blending seminar and tasting, and a “Barn Bash” party. Seminar: $105. 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 6. Barn Bash: Wine, BBQ, live music. Reservations required. $45. Sunday, Sept. 14. 11:30 a.m.-4 p.m. 200 Rutherford Hill Road, Rutherford. 707-963-1871 ext. 2218. firstname.lastname@example.org.
“You pick it, you stomp it”—that’s the theme of Schweiger’s Harvest Stomp, which includes Brix testing, picking and stomping. Not to mention a catered lunch and wine tasting. Family friendly. Reservations required. $200. 4015 Spring Mountain Road, St. Helena. 707-963-4882.
Not only they are bringing in the grapes at this 1,600-acre winery, they’re bringing in the lobsters too. Dinner highlights are a lobster feed and new releases of the 2011 wines. $95. Saturday, Oct. 4. 6-9 p.m. 3450 Sage Canyon Road, St. Helena. 707-967-8414.
TREFETHEN FAMILY VINEYARDS
Work is mixed with play at this “Harvest Boot Camp” that starts with a morning of picking grapes followed by an al fresco lunch under a walnut tree in the vineyards. Then comes samples of fermenting wines as well as current releases. $125. Limited to 125 people. 1160 Oak Knoll Ave., Napa. 800-556-4847.
V. SATTUI WINERY
Highlights here include more than 45 different wines to sample, winemaker talks and demonstrations of winemaking techniques, and a crush where, as the winery says, “you can actually get your feet wet—and grape skins between your toes—in a roll up your pants, no shoes and socks grape stomp.” $105. Saturday, Oct. 4. 6:15-10 p.m. Must be 21 and over. 1111 White Lane, St. Helena. 707-963-7774
Winemakers at this Silverado Trail winery will conduct special tours and tastings on three Fridays in September, including early tastes of fermenting 2014 harvest wines. Sept. 12, 19, 26. Tours 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. $85. 8383 Silverado Trail, Napa. 707-963-5188.
NAPA VALLEY VINTNERS
This nonprofit trade association, founded in 1944, is a terrific resource for all harvest activities in the valley. See its website for weekly updates on what is being harvested, and where; Twitter feeds (#napaharvest) from wineries, winemakers and others; photos; even a weather report.