The great state of California is known for a lot of things: hang ten surfers, Hollywood starlets and Disneyland. But for wine connoisseurs, the Golden State is known and treasured for one marvelous thing: it’s the heart of American wineries. From Napa and Sonoma to Santa Ynez and Malibu, California wineries have built a solid reputation that rivals the most renowned European producers. And this month, we celebrate the state’s rich wine history through “California Wine Month”—a time to tour, taste, toast and enjoy California’s most exquisite wineries.
Before we give you the highlights of California Wine Month, let’s take a look at some facts and figures that demonstrate how the state’s vineyards began and how far they’ve come.
• The first sustained vineyard was planted at Mission San Diego in 1779 under the direction of Father Junipero Serra who is known as the “Father of California Wine.” The grapes were called “Mission Grapes.”
• In 1833, the first European wine vines were planted in Los Angeles.
• In 1854, the first commercial vineyard was born in Napa Valley and the first winery was established there in 1858.
• In 1938, Modern winemaking techniques (aging wines in small French-Oak barrels, using cold fermentation, etc.) were introduced at the Beaulieu Vineyards.
• California now produces more than 90% of the nation’s wine and according to the Wine Institute, “if California were a nation, it would be the fourth leading wine-producing country in the world behind France, Italy and Spain.”
• California’s wine regions welcome 14.8 million tourists each year.
Now, on to some highlights of Wine Month’s celebrations!
1. Wine Road: Northern Sonoma, CA.
From winery specials and restaurant and lodging discounts, Wine Road makes the most of California Wine Month. Prices vary at each participating winery.
2. Adventures in Wine Tasting: Lodi, CA.
Every Sunday in September, enjoy an interactive tasting experience with Lucas Winery’s winemaker. The cost is $10 per person and includes tastings, a tour of the ZinStar vineyard and a 35th Anniversary Lucas Riedel glass as a souvenir. Starts at 2:00 pm.
3. Harvest and Polaris ATV Vineyard Experience: Calistoga, CA.
For a fun way to celebrate Wine Month, try Napa’s unique tasting experience. Hop on the six-seater ATV and zip through the vineyards, taste grapes right off the vine, watch (and even participate) in the winemaking action and finally, enjoy a private tasting. Only one appointment is taken per day (Sept. 1 to Sept. 30) so contact the vineyard early for an appointment (Contact Tara Katrina Hole at 707.331.9076). The cost is $80.
4. Harvest Tour de Vin: Paso Robles, CA.
Enjoy a luxurious two-day food and wine experience at several Paso Robles wineries. Meet growers and winemakers, learn how to blend wine and indulge in delectable country cuisine. The cost is $702 and includes meals and local transportation. Sept. 22 to Sept. 24.
5. Rancho Bernardo Historical Society Tasting Festival: San Diego, CA
Head south to San Diego’s Bernardo Winery on Sept. 22 for the third Rancho Bernardo Tasting Festival. There will be wine tasting from local wineries, food from local restaurants, live music and art for sale from local artists. The cost is $20 in advance and $25 at the event.
How are you celebrating California Wine Month? Let us know about your favorite wineries!