Here I Am At Camp Sonoma
Welcome to wine camp! In the last few years, a variety of programs, both one-day and sleep-away, have sprung up, for wine lovers looking to immerse themselves in the winemaking process. Despite the "Camp Granada" connotations associated with many childhood summer experiences, few wine campers end up roughing it. In many cases, participants stay in luxurious inns and hotels—where vineyard work boots are clearly not part of the dress code—and are treated to at least one multi-course meal. While some are scheduled throughout the year, it's best to attend in spring and/or during the fall harvest to get firsthand experience helping out in the vineyard and blending room.
Here are five to consider:
Napa: Camp Schramsberg in Calistoga offers students two separate three-day camps: the fall session focuses on the harvest while the spring camp covers blending. Both programs are led by Schramsburg Vineyards'Â winemakers Hugh Davies, Keith Hock and Sean Thompson and allow campers to get down and dirty, pruning the vines in spring and picking grapes in fall.
Napa & Sonoma: At Wine Boot Camp winemakers and viticulturists who serve as guides are addressed as Lieutenant and Major by students, who are in turn called "recruits." During this one-day program, campers work hands-on in the vineyard and the cellar and are exposed to "the joys and frustrations" of winemaking. Those who make it through the day are rewarded with a bottle of wine they blended themselves and an "I Survived Wine Boot Camp" T-shirt.
Long Island: Wine Camp was one of the first wine camps to launch back in 2005. Each four-day session held in spring and summer includes visits to various vineyards, hands-on tutorials, and discussions with winemakers, vineyard managers and owners throughout the eastern end of Long Island wine country. An elegant five-course pairing dinner at Castello di Borghese caps off the session.
Oregon: Though Rogue Wilderness Adventures' three- and four-day wine trips come closer to camping than any of the others—they're rafting trips—campers experience few deprivations. Lodging is in historic and private inns and at night the rafting guide morphs into a gourmet chef, preparing Rogue River salmon and locally-grown beef dishes.. The evening program focuses on wine, with a guest vintner visiting campers to pour wines and talk about winemaking.
Door County, Wisconsin: Stones Throw Winery conducts three separate day-long workshops throughout the year. The first session in early May serves as an introduction to winemaking where campers learn about winery operations and help top off barrels. The second session in August is called Arts & Crafts and focuses on blending. Campers create and bottle their own wine to take home to finish aging. The final meeting, Prelude to a Wine, falls in September and campers are cautioned not to wear anything white as they help out with the fall crush.Â