Summer is officially on, which means it's time to step outside and find yourself a wine event. Enjoying wine with friends — and like-minded strangers — in a beautiful outdoor setting is a time-honored rite that ranks right up there with breathing. Well, at least we think so....
All across the country, there are plenty of festivals worth checking out. And you needn't live on the west coast to experience great-tasting food and wine. From Texas to Indiana to North Carolina, there's bound to be a great wine festival happening near you. Some of the most fun and relaxed ones appear in the list below.
Vintage Indiana Wine & Food Festival, June 4
For the 12th year running, Indiana's wineries fill their wagons and head to Indianapolis to pour their wines for the thirsty crowds. There'll also be plenty of tasty food prepared by some of the state's best chefs. Click here for tickets and information.
Salute! North Carolina Wine Celebration, June 4
The North Carolina wine industry has been on the rise throughout the past decade, with more vineyards being planted and wineries opening each year. This is as good a chance as any to see just how far the Tar Heel state's wines have come. More than 30 wineries are participating through several tastings, dinners and parties. Click here for tickets and information.
Paso Pino & Paella Festival, June 5
We've never attended this event in Paso Robles, but since it puts two of our favorite things on a pedestal — Pinot Noir and paella — we'll actually take it personally if you're able to attend this festival and choose to skip it. Even if it's a wedding... or a funeral. Paella and Pinot are top priorities in life. Click here for tickets and information.
Casa Pacifica Angels Wine & Food Festival, June 5
As if you need an excuse to sample dozens of wines, beers and dishes in the beautiful setting of California State University's Channel Islands campus. Proceeds support Casa Pacifica, which helps abused and neglected children. Click here for tickets and information.
Santa Cruz Mountains Vinters' Festival, June 4-5 & 11-12
A festival of wines so good, you get two chances to taste them all. The first weekend runs right in Santa Cruz, and the second brings all the wines further south to Santa Clara/San Mateo for slightly easier access. These are some of the tastiest, most expressive wines California has to offer. Click here for tickets and information.
Houston Wine & Food Week, June 6-12
We attended this one last year — and we had an absolute blast. There are dozens of events all over the city throughout the week, from tastings to dinners to a walk through the Woodlands with dozens of wines to sample along the way. If you're in the Houston area, participate in as many of the events as possible. Click here for tickets and information.
Flagstaff Wine & Food Festival, June 11-12
Arizona wines are on the rise and the cuisine — well, it's always been good. Get a taste for both at this intimate, educational event that's only in its second year. Click here for tickets and information.
L.A. Wine Fest, June 11-12
Join all the pretty people in Hollywood and sample dozens of terrific wines as well as dishes prepared by some of L.A.'s most popular food trucks. There'll be plenty of food since, remember, people in Hollywood don't actually eat. Proceeds support the Make-A-Wish Foundation and the YMCA. Click here for tickets and information.
25th Annual Ojai Wine Festival, June 12
More than 60 area wineries show up at this festival and pour their juice for the masses arriving from the Central Coast and Southern California. Proceeds go to the Rotary Club of Ojai, which supports local public schools and clean-drinking-water projects around the globe. Click here for tickets and information.
Pinot Days, June 18
This is always one of San Francisco's best tastings. More than 200 American wineries gather to show why this is one of the best places in the world to produce Pinot Noirs that vary tremendously in style — yet almost never in quality. This year's event will also bring the biggest collection of Oregon Pinots ever assembled outside that state's borders. Click here for tickets and information.
Great Tastes of Pennsylvania Wine & Food Festival, June 18-19
Yes, the state of Pennsylvania is responsible for much more than just the cheese steak. Check out all the tasty wines the Keystone state has to offer in the beautiful setting that is the Split Rock Resort in Lake Harmony. Click here for tickets and information.
Stowe Wine & Food Classic, June 24-26
Head to the Trapp Family Lodge in Vermont for a beautiful summer weekend full of tasty food and wine. Dozens of producers will be pouring through multiple events, and proceeds support the Copley Hospital. Click here for tickets and information.
Santa Barbara Wine Festival, June 25
Seventy Central Coast wineries come together to pour their delicious wines for a laid-back crowd enjoying the beautiful, natural surroundings. Proceeds support the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History. Click here for tickets and information.