There are plenty of winter wine festivals in the colder months. Read our insider’s guide to the best wine country festivals this winter.
Wine tasting in many US wine regions may seem like a Spring-Summer-Fall adventure, but true wine aficionados know winter is the best time of the year. During this slower time when vines are dormant and wines in the barrels are aging, winemakers and vintners relax and spend time with visitors, something impossible during a busy harvest. There are plenty of winter wine festivals in the colder months of the year—the pace is slower, accommodation much cheaper, and even parking can be a breeze in normally crowded wine-tasting areas. This is how insiders try wines and visit wine-country areas. Now you too can wander wine country festivals in winter.
Please be aware that the changing rules and guidance surrounding COVID-19 may impact the below events. Check each website before making travel arrangements.
The Winter Wine Country Festivals and Events
As one who loves events, parties, and revelry, I have become more selective as I grow older. No longer do I tolerate lines and crowds. I want to live every day as my own VIP, so seeking out wine events when it is a bit chillier is right up my alley. And I have a coat and hat, and I even invested in gloves for the occasion. Here is a partial list of events in the winter months in various wine regions.
Western US Winter Wine Country Festivals
When most people think of wine country in North America, their first thought turns to the Western US. California and Oregon celebrate wines during the winter with these wine country festivals.
Winter Wineland and Barrel Tasting Weekends, Sonoma County
As a result of the pandemic, wine tasting is a more organized affair, complete with reservations. While some might find this inconvenient, I have seen it as advantageous, leading to some incredible experiences with educational benefits.
The Wine Road organization promotes wineries in three sub-appellations: Dry Creek Valley, Alexander Valley, and Russian River Valley. This late January event lets visitors glimpse new releases in an intimate atmosphere. Still, unlike in the old days, the number of wineries a guest can visit daily is limited, which is better for both the winery and the imbiber.
The first two weekends of March are Barrel Tasting weekends, which allow you to try—and buy—wines before they are even bottled, usually at a great discount.
Winter White Wine Weekend, Anderson Valley
Contrary to what you might imagine, Winter White Wine Weekend in the Anderson Valley is not a Chardonnay drinkers’ bonanza. Rather, this event focuses on varieties considered aromatic and those that do well in Anderson Valley, which runs through Boonville and toward the coast in Mendocino County. Here you find Gewurztraminer, Reisling, Pinot Blanc, Muscat, Torrontés, and others. Come to this festival wide-eyed and ready to inhale the fruit, spice, and floral aromas in these food-friendly wines.
Oregon and Sonoma Film Festivals
Sometimes the festivals aren’t just about the wine; the wine can play a key supporting role. Such is the case at the McMinnville Film Festival in Oregon’s Willamette Valley.
McMinnville’s film festival concentrates on short films. There are featured tastings and events at the area’s wineries throughout the festival.
Even larger, Sonoma International Film Festival in Sonoma, CA, presents feature and short films over this three-day extravaganza of movie watching, wine tasting, and food. So popular, this Sonoma festival has events year-round to support wine, restaurants, and filmmaking continuously.
Blendfest on the Coast, Cambria and Cayucos, CA
Blendfest on the Coast “blends” two of my favorite things: the California Central Coast and blended wines. Paso Robles is the wine region here, and the area is known for Bordeaux and Rhône varietals. Wine lovers appreciate that Paso Robles wineries are exceptional at blending wines in the old-world style.
Out of these experimentations has come what is known as “The Paso Blend,” a winemaker’s delight where they can create uniqueness by blending traditional and non-traditional varieties to make some of the most elegant wines in the region. Check out Adelaida Vineyard and Winery’s “2320,” a blend that changes with each harvest but represents the best lots found at this high-altitude winery at 2320 feet above sea level.
Other US Winter Wine Country Festivals
Not all of the great wine in the US is on the Western coast. There are great wine offerings now in almost every state. Likewise, you can find some fun wine country festivals in the winter months at other locations across the US. Here are a few of my favorites.
Taos Winter Wine Fest, Taos, NM
When my daughter lived in Albuquerque, I was amazed at how good New Mexico wines and how many wineries are producing wines. The annual Taos Winter Wine Fest is a boon for wine lovers and skiers. You’ll find plenty of local and national wines, including the sparkling wines of Gruet, rated the best value in bubbles in the US.
Tastings, dinners, and auctions occur in the scenic Village of Taos Ski Valley.
New York Ice Wine and Culinary Festival
The rare headiness of ice wine is celebrated at the New York Ice Wine and Culinary Festival in the underrated Finger Lakes region. Indulge in the wines made after the grapes have frozen. Intensely aromatic and made in only a few regions of the US and Canada, this one-day festival celebrates the wines and the foods they pair with—often infused with ice wine.
South Beach Wine and Food Festival, Miami Beach, FL
The South Beach Wine & Food Festival is an “escape from winter” food and wine event. Sponsored by The Food Network and Cooking Channel, SBWFF is more than just wine. Chef-led dinners, wine tastings, star-studded chef demonstrations, and more spread over five days offer something for everyone.
You’ll discover both collectible and common wines. Looking for great food experiences? You can enjoy elevated culinary experiences along with street food. This annual event attracts tens of thousand and supports the Chaplin School of Hospitality.
Canadian Winter Wine Country Festivals
Canada has an increasingly popular wine scene. Whether you head to Niagara in the east or Vancouver in the west, these are some of my favorite winter wine country festivals in Canada.
Niagara Ice Wine Festival, Ontario, Canada
The Niagara Ice Wine Festival in Ontario, Canada, is also for ice wine lovers, but this means crossing the border into Canada. In Canada, harsh growing seasons have forced wine and cider makers to be more creative—and they’ve met the challenge. Here you can discover ice wines from different white varieties than those in the US and Europe. You will also have a chance to sample fire and ice cider, which you’ll only find in the cold northern climates.
Vancouver International Wine Festival, Vancouver, BC, Canada
If you want to get to British Columbia to try the stunning wines of the Okanagan Valley, the Vancouver International Wine Festival gives you the perfect opportunity. Along with some great local wines, the Vancouver International Wine Festival also includes about 750 different choices from around the world.
The Vancouver festival takes place later in the Spring, usually mid-May, so you can avoid the worst winter weather. This event is known for amazing and creative food created using the abundance of Canada.
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Winter Wine Country Festivals
These winter wine country festivals offer the perfect chance to escape to sample great wines in more laid-back settings during the winter months. While some festivals are simply tasting weekends at the wineries, others allow you to pair some of North America’s best foods and wines. I hope you enjoy discovering these wines as much as I do! Be sure to check out Wander for more ideas on wineries you might discover and some of our favorite wines.