‘Tis the Crush Season: Where to Celebrate Harvest in Napa and Sonoma

Go to crush grapes, stay to drink, dine, and indulge in a wine country weekend

A wine country weekend is almost always a good idea. But it’s an absolute must in September during Crush. A celebration of the fall harvest season, Crush is a feast of colors and flavors that surround you from the reds and oranges of the leaves changing color to the ripe grapes hankering to be picked. From early September through late October, wineries throughout Napa Valley and Sonoma open their doors to everyone from wine-loving novices to seasoned oenophiles who come from far and wide to crush grapes, drink wine, and sample some of California wine country’s best meals.

Some wineries host “crush camps,” where you can learn the basics of wine making as you stroll through the rolling vineyards. Some host tasting events with bites provided by local restaurants. And still others participate in some of the regions harvest season weekend festivals.

With clearly enough events in September alone to fill an entire twelve month calendar, we picked through and created our ideal Crush season. See you in California!

Book a room at Bardessono, a boutique hotel in Napa Valley, that boasts a truly modern charm. From breakfast to dinner, the restaurant offers delectable and truly Californian menus starting with griddle cakes or a turkey omelette and finishing with oysters on the half shell and Niman Ranch strip steak. Take advantage of the Blue Bottle Coffee they serve at breakfast in the room or the restaurant. (Photo courtesy of Flickr/larryhalff)

During Sonoma Valley’s Crush Festival, held September 17–18, there are more than a handful of wineries hosting events like educational wine tastings, art exhibits (with wine), and picnic-style dinners at wineries nearby.

Partake in “crush camp” at Schramsberg Vineyards, where you’ll pick grapes in the vineyards, take them to the crusher, and learn about making sparkling wines. The three-day camp kicks off with a dinner at sunset, followed by tours of wine caves and tastings of pressed grape juices and base wines.  

Stomp grapes and then indulge in a cookout at Clos du Val winery, at their Annual Grape Stomp and Harvest Cookout. They make you breakfast when you get there and a wine-soaked dinner before you leave, but it’s all the grape stomping and wine tasting you’ll want to book for.

If crushing grapes at a festival just doesn’t go far enough into the process for you, head to Judd’s Hill Micro Crush in Napa Valley where you can customize your own wine. Make as little as one barrel of wine using your own fruit or a blend.

Embark on the Gourmet Napa Walking Tour, which, over the course of three hours, takes you to seven gastronomic stops starting with oysters at Oxbow Market (pictured) and ending at the Riverfront. You’ll sample all kinds of local and artisanal products from salame to wine-infused chocolates. (Photo courtesy of Flickr/cariberry) 

Then there’s the Sonoma Grape Camp. Sold out for 2011, this is one camp you should definitely book ahead for 2012. They invite you to experience every part of the winemaking process, complete with dinners in the Russian River Valley, vineyard tours, tastings, and hands-on workshops that include, of course, crushing.

Pressing further north from Napa Valley and Sonoma, spend late September in Washington’s Yakima wine country for their Crush weekend, September 24–25. Wineries host barbecues, offer barrel samples, and give tours of their vineyards to curious wine-lovers all weekend.

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