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Become a Connoisseur in California Wine Country

Aug. 27, 2019

With summer break over and harvest approaching, California Wine Month in September is the perfect time for aspiring wine connoisseurs to go “back to school.” From sommelier-led classes and educational tours to museums tracking the history of the leading wine region in the U.S., California wineries are serving immersion experiences designed to inspire.

WINE SCHOOL                 
As the No. 1 wine producing state in the U.S. and the fourth largest winemaker in the world, California is passionate about wine, and its sommeliers and winemakers are keen to share their knowledge of the state’s signature beverage, from detecting aromas to blending your own wine.

Napa Valley

  • K. LAZ at CIA Copia
    Taste and learn about some of California’s most compelling, cult-status wines and inaccessible gems with K. LAZ proprietor Kerrin Laz, former wine director of Dean & DeLuca. Throughout the month, a variety of winery friends will stop by to pour their wines and share their secrets.


Sonoma County

  • Gary Farrell Winery
    Learn to talk and taste like a wine sommelier in the ongoing “Somm Series” presentations, such as Aroma Tasting (Sept. 22), where an estate sommelier shares fragrance samples and leads an interactive discussion on how to best identify and describe wine aromas.
  • Meadowcroft Wines
    Learn the art and science of wine blending with Meadowcroft’s “A Perfect Blend,” where guests can make their own take-away red blend from wines aged in separate oak barrels.


Paso Robles

  • Halter Ranch
    Get “hands on” at Halter Ranch with an Excursion Tour, including a stop under the famous Ancestor Tree for a glass of the Estate Reserve Ancestor wine. Or opt for Halter Ranch’s Vineyard Walking Tour to learn about the sustainable agricultural practices behind the vines.
  • Opolo
    Grab a lab coat and graduated cylinder and join Opolo for one of their noteworthy blending parties to taste, mix and create what you deem a flawless wine blend. You can submit your creation to the expert tasting panel for a chance to win an etched magnum of your own Opolo wine blend.


Temecula Valley

  • BOTTAIA Winery's Wine Blending Lab
    Play winemaker for the day at BOTTAIA Winery, where guests can join the winemaking staff or wine educators in the professional blending lab to mix four separate red wines into three separate red blends using graduated cylinders and pipettes for exact measurements and take home their creation.

 

EDUCATIONAL WINE TOURS
For those who believe that you can only learn by doing, California boasts many sommelier-curated tours that allow guests to experience the incredible variety of wines produced in the Golden State’s 139 American Viticultural Areas (AVAs).

Sonoma County

  • Gundlach Bundschu’s Pinzgauer Tour
    Established in 1858, this historic, family-run winery offers Pinzgauer tours of their 320-acre sustainably farmed hillside ranch, where they sip estate wines, learn modern grape farming techniques, soak up vineyard and mountain views and enjoy a private tasting with food.
  • Explore Beyond the Tasting Room in Sonoma Valley
    With more than 100 wineries, Sonoma Valley features many specialized tours. Loxton Cellar’s “Walkabout Tour” explores the impact of different soils within the vineyard, while Benzinger’s Biodynamic wine tour, voted best 2018 tour in the Sonoma People’s Choice Awards, teaches Biodynamic farming practices.


Monterey County

  • Vino Wine Tours
    Sip your way along the fertile River Road Wine Trail with a Sommelier Guided Tour by Vino Wine Tours, where owner and “Taste" wine guide author Pablo Antinao creates personalized itineraries and shares  expert knowledge of wine and viticulture.


San Luis Obispo County

  • 101 Wine Tours
    For the perfect day in wine country, 101 Wine Tours creates custom itineraries curated by a certified sommelier, where guests taste wines and learn about local terroir as they explore vineyards and caves, chat with the winemaker and dine at a farm-to-fork eatery with local wines.
  • Breakaway Tours
    Enjoy Breakaway’s Private Wine Tour, where guests can learn about winegrowing basics—from terroir to sustainable farming—and then drink in deeper with a focused tasting, vineyard walk or jeep ride, barrel tasting, or behind-the-scenes production or wine cave tour of local wineries.


Temecula Valley

  • Ponte Vineyard Estate Tour
    Get an insider’s look at a working certified sustainable winery from an electric bus, enjoy a wine reception and pairings, learn about their winemaking process and sample from Ponte’s casks.

 

WINE MUSEUMS AND EXHIBITS
For those who want to connect with California’s vast wine heritage and history, wine regions across the state offer wonderful museums and exhibits.

Napa Valley

  • Chuck Williams Culinary Arts Museum at The CIA at Copia
    The Chuck Williams Culinary Arts Museum features more than 4,000 artifacts of specialty cookware, bread baking and culinary tools, appliances, and tableware created by the great European chefs of earlier eras, from whimsical tureens shaped like boar’s heads, rabbits, and lambs to curiosities like the duck press.


Sonoma County

  • Buena Vista’s Wine Tool Museum
    Rare and authentic 19th and 20th century winemaking tools offer entertaining insights into the history and evolution of winemaking at Buena Vista, one of California’s oldest wineries. Stay and learn to create three wine blends with Be the Count Blending Experience.


Paso Robles

  • Wine History Exhibits
    Dive into this wine region’s history with a visit to the Seeking Gold, Finding Grapes exhibition at the El Paso de Robles Historical Society, where you can learn about the beginning of California wine. Be sure to catch the Eberle Firsts exhibit at Eberle Winery to learn about one of Paso Robles’ pioneer winemakers.


San Luis Obispo

  • Wine History Project of San Luis Obispo County
    This project preserves and presents two centuries of local viticulture through research, interviews, exhibitions, publications, talks and tastings. The latest exhibits include 30 corkscrews on display from skilled historic craftsman and industrial production companies, as well as the “Mysteries of Zinfandel & Wine Legend Bill Greenough” exhibit at Saucelito Canyon Winery, which uncovers the origins and journey of the Zinfandel grape and honors vintner and owner Bill Greenough.

 

Another way to enjoy California Wine Month is to take part in up to 100 harvest events—from special tastings and grape stomps to festivals and concerts—throughout the state.

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