Wandering Wine Country Festivals in Winter

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 any of the many US wine regions may seem like a Spring-Summer-Fall adventure, but true wine aficionados know that 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, hat, and even invested in gloves for the occasion. Here is a partial list of events in the winter months in various wine regions.

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The author enjoys a glass of wine overlooking wine country at one of the many winter wine festivals. Photo by Barbara Barrielle

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 both celebrate wines during the winter with these wine country festivals.

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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 is an organization that promotes wineries in three sub-appellations: Dry Creek Valley, Alexander Valley, and Russian River Valley. This late January event allows visitors inside glimpses to new releases in an intimate atmosphere, but unlike days of old, the number of wineries a guest can visit daily is limited, which is better for both the winery and the imbiber.

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Off-season is the ideal time to enjoy the Sonoma Wine Road. Photo by Susan Lanier-Graham

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 a few more. Come to this festival wide-eyed and ready to inhale the fruit, spice, and floral aromas found in these food-friendly wines.

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Grape vines wintering in Mendocino County's Anderson Valley. Photo by Denice Breaux via iStock by Getty Images

Oregon and Sonoma Film Festivals

Sometimes the festivals aren't just about the wine, but 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. Throughout the festival, there are featured tastings and events at the area's wineries.

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A view of snowy Mount Hood from high above vineyards in Oregon's Willamette Valley. Photo by Leslie Brienza via iStock by Getty Images

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 continuously support wine, restaurants, and filmmaking.

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 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 sitting at 2320 feet above sea level.

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Adelaida Winery's high altitude views. Photo by Barbara Barrielle

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 are and how many wineries are actually producing wines. The annual Taos Winter Wine Fest is a boon to both 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.

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Gruet 2014 Cuvée Danielle Grand Rosé and Gruet 2015 Gilbert Gruet Grande Reserve at a tasting in Santa Fe. Photo by Susan Lanier-Graham

Tastings, dinners, and auctions take place 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, along with the foods they pair with—often infused with ice wine itself.

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 definitely more than just wine. Chef-led dinners, wine tastings, star-studded chef demonstrations, and more spread over five days offer something for everyone.

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The South Beach Wine & Food Festival takes place each February in Miami. Photo by Susan Lanier-Graham

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 a couple 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 one 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 north.

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Snow-covered frozen grapes on the vine for ice wine in the vineyard at Niagara on the Lake area, Ontario, Canada. Photo by JHVEPhoto via iStock by Getty Images

Vancouver International Wine Festival, Vancouver, BC, Canada

If you have been wanting 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 in mid-May—so you can usually avoid the worst of 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 during the winter months to sample great wines in more laid-back settings. While some of these festivals are simply tasting weekends at the wineries, others give you a chance to pair some of the best foods and wines from across North America. 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.

Wandering Wine Country Festivals in Winter

Written by Barbara Barrielle

Barbara is a long-time publicist who began travel and wine writing several years ago and has been roaming the world since. Barbara also acts and produces films and has a feature film "Break Night" out on Amazon Prime and a documentary on the California wildfires called "Crushed." Her favorite destination is the Cook Islands and spends time learning wine and languages in Europe. At home in Healdsburg, CA, Barbara manages a small vineyard and Airbnb and dotes on her Corgi puppy Pickles.

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