They say you can tell a man by the company he keeps. Well, you can tell a real wine lover by how many wine events she attends!
These vinous extravaganzas are the sine qua non of the devoted wine enthusiast. As the World Series is to a baseball fan, as the Milan runways are to a true fashionista, so the wine event is to a lover of wine who wants to venture beyond wine’s outer fringes into its working heart and soul.
Fortunately, these days there are more consumer wine events than ever, hundreds of them in the U.S. alone. They fall broadly into four categories: wine tastings, wine seminars, charity wine auctions and food-oriented events that also feature wine. Of course, any individual event can consist of any combination, and the more interesting do.
The editors of Wine Enthusiast go to all sorts of wine events. We can’t provide an exhaustive directory of them all, but we thought it would be fun to select some of the best for your consideration this year. There are plenty more to choose from.
Dates and venues listed are the latest available information at press time and are subject to change. Call or consult the Web addresses to confirm details. A range of prices indicates the lowest and highest priced events or “package” available or, in the cases of traveling wine events, the prices of different venues.
Hit The Road, Jack
We start with a trio of regional road shows that travel the country. They offer an opportunity to taste a range of current and older vintages from an entire state or appellation—all under one roof.
Napa Valley Vintners Association “Wineries on Tour” Tasting
Hits Newport Beach on February 3, Albuquerque on February 4 and Denver on February 5. Tour continues in San Francisco on March 17 and Washington D.C., Chicago and Minneapolis May 4-6. Tel.: 707/963-3388; www.napavintners.com; $50-$75
About 70 of Napa’s finest pour their best and hold seminars.
De rigeur for serious wine enthusiasts, and an opportunity to meet winery principals. These events are often connected with local charity fundraisers and can be crowded. Book early.
“This great event does so much good for so many people. It’s fun and exciting, and a really great experience for my family.”
— Bob Trinchero, Trinchero Family Estates; co-chair of the 2003 auction
The tour kicks off in San Francisco on February 26, and then goes to Seattle April 16-18, New York May 17, and more. Tel.: 206/667-9463; www.washingtonwine.org; $45-$400
Taste the wines of up to 150 Washington wineries, depending on the venue. Thousands attend weekend events, so try to come during the week. The great selection of wines is paired with Pacific Northwest seafood.
Santa Barbara Vintners Association Tasting
Tours seven Californian cities in March and April, including Santa Barbara on March 10, Los Angeles on March 23 and San Francisco on April 22. Tel.: 805/688-0881; www.sbcountywines.com; $40
Dozens of wineries pour hundreds of crème de la crème wines from this important wine region. It’s a must for anyone who wants to keep up with its progress. It can be quite crowded, but it is worth it.
Turn it into a mini-vacation
Russian River Wine Road Winter Wineland
Held in Alexander, Dry Creek and Russian River Valleys, January 17-19. Tel.: 800/723-6336; www.wineroad.com; $25 (no fee for designated drivers)
This three-day Sonoma County event features open houses at 85 wineries. Count on lots of tastings, friendly staff and homemade food. A good way to meet winemakers, but tasting rooms can be crowded, and the weather can range from warm sunshine to cold rain.
Vintners’ Holidays at the Ahwahnee Hotel
Held in Yosemite National Park, November to December; Tel.: 559/252-4848; $469-$1,069
The ultimate romantic wine-and-food getaway. The summer crowds are gone and the park is sheathed in white. Seminars, panel discussions, tastings of top California wines, and nightly Gala Vintners’ Dinners in the shadow of snow-covered Half Dome and frozen Yosemite Falls.
“You taste fantastic wines in a place of unparalleled beauty. It’s also a chance to spend time with winemakers face to face.”
— Joel Peterson, founder/winemaker, Ravenswood
Rub elbows with the trade
World Wine Market
At Fort Mason, San Francisco, April 29-May 1. Tel: 415/383-1226; www. world-wine-market.com; $45, seminars extra
An up-and-coming event for consumers, restaurateurs, retailers and sommeliers. Offers extensive tastings of U.S. and international wines, exhibitions, interactive panels and seminars, informative lectures by vintners, celebrities and wine critics.
Family Winemakers of California
At Fort Mason, San Francisco, in mid-August. Tel.: 916/498-7500; www.familywinemakers.org; $35
More than 400 wineries pour under one roof in this huge, drafty, old warehouse on San Francisco’s waterfront. (Bring a sweater.) Nothing but the basics, but the best opportunity for keeping up with wines from California’s smaller family wineries. However, it can be mobbed with thousands of people.
“You get to pick and choose among hundreds of wineries, including many of the top, chic, cult houses!”
— Josh Jensen, owner/winemaker, Calera Wine Co.
Zinfandel Associates and Producers (ZAP) 13th Annual Festival
In San Francisco and Napa, January 21-24. Tel.: 530/274-4900; www.zinfandel.org; $55-$200
Some 300 California Zinfandel wineries pour over 1,000 wines. Attendees can meet winemakers and sample scrumptious food from dozens of restaurants. Some events take place at COPIA, The American Center for Wine, Food and the Arts in Napa, and others at various San Francisco venues. The SF tasting is huge and can be rush-hour crowded.
If Pinot’s your thing
World of Pinot Noir
In Shell Beach, California, March 5-6. Tel.: 805/489-1758; www.worldofpinotnoir.com; $675
One of the more regal California events, WOPN attracts a few hundred hardcore Pinotphiles for intimate tastings, seminars, travel to local wineries and world-class dining. The venue—on the rocky shores of the Central Coast—is spectacular.
“I like the combination of hedonism and education.”
— Dan Goldfield, winemaker/partner, Dutton-Goldfield
International Pinot Noir Celebration
At Linfield College in McMinnville, Oregon, July 23-25. Tels.: 800/775-4762 or 503/472-8964; www.ipnc.org; $795
The country’s biggest Pinot-fest features extensive tastings from 56 of the world’s most important producers; workshops, wonderful meals by renowned guest chefs, and the chance to mingle with winemakers in the low-key atmosphere of a college campus. With only 630 attendees, it sells out months in advance.
Hospices of Sonoma
Held at wineries in Russian River Valley/Green Valley on November 13. Tel.: 707/829-2433; www.hospicesofsonoma.org; $225
A Who’s Who of 24 of Sonoma County producers with cultlike followings (Dehlinger, Rochioli, Gary Farrell, Flowers, etc.). Features barrel tastings, current releases, grand luncheons and dinners and a charity wine auction. Small, intimate and de rigeur for serious Pinotphiles.
For Rhônistas only
Rhône Rangers Annual Tasting
At Fort Mason in San Francisco on March 20. Tels.: 415/345-7575 or 707/939-8014; www.rhonerangers.org; $45-$90
Over 150 wineries from California, Idaho, Oregon and Washington present barrel samples, new releases and library vintages of Rhône-style wines. There’s also a silent auction. It’s gotten increasingly mobbed with thousands of attendees, but if you can work the crowd, it’s a great opportunity to meet the winemakers and sample their bottlings. Sells out quickly.
Hospice du Rhône
In Paso Robles, California from May 20-22. Tel: 805/784-9543; www.hospicedurhone.com; $595 or $75 per tasting
Held outdoors at Paso’s old county fairgrounds, this event mixes zaniness with high-level tastings and seminars. Bowl with your favorite winemakers, taste wines from 150 wineries and dance into the night with Rhône-masters in tutus.
Calvalcade of States
It’s amazing how many big cities host wine events. Here’s a sampling:
Boston Wine Expo
At Boston’s World Trade Center, January 31-February 1. Tel.: 877/946-3976; www.wine-expos.com/boston; $60-$92
A biggie: Last year, it attracted nearly 20,000 eager to taste wines from 18 countries. Includes seminars, chef demos and a gala dinner.
The Atlanta Wine Show
At Atlanta’s Fox Theatre on February 22. Tel.: 678/574-5222; www.atlantawineshow. com; $40-$50
Hotlanta’s top wine event, and one of the biggest in the Southeast. Dozens of American and international wineries, great food, live jazz, silent auction, all under the roof of an historic building.
Washington D.C. Wine & Food Festival
At the Washington Convention Center, February 28-29. Tel.: 800/343-1174; www.wine-expos.com/dc; $61-$82
Some 1,700 wines from 20 wineries are featured at the Grand Tasting. Also expect scrumptious food, celebrity chefs’ cooking demos, wine seminars, and, for the first time, a big Vintner’s Dinner.
Cincinnati International Wine Festival
At the Cincinnati Convention Center, March 5-6. Tel.: 513/241-3434; www.winefestival. com; $60/day
Sample 600 wines from 150 wineries. Grand tastings, dinners, live music, a charity wine auction and other special events are stretched out over two days. Last year, 6,000 people came, so get there early.
Philadelphia Wine Festival
At numerous venues around Philadelphia, May 1-5. Tel.: 215/979-7493; www.phillymag.com; $25-$150
This event is expected to draw 1,500 attendees and principals from 120 international wineries (including superstar winemakers) for a week of vertical tastings, winemaker dinners, art exhibits and seminars. Part of the larger, first-annual Pennsylvania Wine Week.
New Orleans Food & Wine Experience
In New Orleans at numerous venues, May 26-30. Tel.: 504/529-9463; www.nowfe.com; $395
If you’re looking for an excuse to get to N’Awlins, look no further than this monster wine-and-food fest. Thousands come for four days of jazz, strolling the French Quarter, Vintner’s Dinners at top restaurants. At the Grand Wine Tasting, 250 wineries pour their best bottlings.
In Millwood on June 5-6. Tel.: 800/277-2675; www.showsinc.com/vvwine; $22
About 50 Virginia wineries and 20 local restaurants set up shop outdoors in a meadow, rain or shine. Highlights include live jazz, rock and blues, and arts and crafts exhibitors.
Wine South Atlanta
At the Gwinnett Center in Atlanta, September 18-19. Tel.: 678/985-9494; www.winesouth.com; $50-$95
Enjoy appetizers, cooking demos, live music, and best of all, an opportunity to taste 500 wines arranged in regional Pavilions. Some 5,000 people are expected to attend.
Miami International Wine Fair
At the James L. Knight Center and other venues, October 2-4. Tel.: 305/777-2255; www.miamiwinefair.com; $55-$75
This event gets more popular every year. In 2004, some 5,000 thirsty folks are expected to attend the two-day extravaganza. From tastings to gala dinners, guest will be able to sample over 400 wines.
Las Vegas Odyssey
At various Las Vegas locations in November; call for dates. Tel.: 877/370-9182; www.lasvegasodyssey.com; $100-$1,200
Only in Sin City. Four days of high-roller wine tastings, cooking demos and meals prepared by celebrity chefs.
The Big Auctions
Florida Winefest & Auction
In Sarasota at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel and other venues, April 13 and 15-18. Tel.: 800/216-6199; www.floridawinefest.com; $15-$300
Sixty-five wineries pour at this big charity auction event, which includes yummy meals and winemaker dinners at area eateries.
Napa Valley Wine Auction
In St. Helena, California, at the Meadowood Resort, June 3-6. Tel.: 707/963-3388; www.napavintners.com/auctions; $2,500 per couple
The nation’s biggest, and biggest-spending, charity wine auction is held at posh Meadowood. The main event is the action-packed auction itself, but built around it are stellar tastings and dinners at many local wineries and a barrel auction.
L’Été du Vin
In Nashville at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center, and other venues, June 9-24. Tel.: 615/341-7337; www.nashvillewineauction.com; $100-$375
Multiple events mark the 25th anniversary of this event, capped by the June 17 Grand Vintner’s Tasting. The July 24 Grand Auction and Dinner is one of the most important charity wine auctions in the country. This year’s Vintner’s Tasting theme is Champagne.
Sonoma County Showcase
Held at numerous Sonoma venues, July 15-17. Tel.: 707/586-3795; www.sonomawine.com /$75-$770
It’s an auction, it’s a party, it’s a weekend in the summer sun, but mostly it’s three days of drinking wine and eating superb food. The 2004 Showcase will focus on the 13 Sonoma County wine locations featured in Hollywood films. It can be crowded and hot, but it’s a blast.
KCBX Central Coast Wine Classic
Held at numerous Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo county venues, July15-18. Tel.: 805/781-3026; www.wineclassic.org; $40-$670
This four-day, nonstop celebration can be exhausting, but it’s a must for lovers of Southern California’s wines. Starting with a fabulous Collectors’ Dinner, it includes the always sold-out soirée at Hearst Castle, varietal symposiums and winery events throughout the region, not to mention the auction itself.
Sonoma Valley Harvest Auction
Held at Sonoma Mission Inn and at other local venues, September 2-5. Tel: 707/935-0803; www.sonomavalleywine.com; $NA
Sonoma Valley does its thing with style and with lots of fun. One of the highlights of the charity wine auction is seeing winery staff dress up in everything from tutus to tomato suits. The noshes are incredible.
“The beauty is that it’s laid back and nobody takes themselves too seriously. It’s one of the few I go to.”
— Richard Arrowood, Arrowood Vineyards & Winery
At the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens, in Fort Bragg on September 11. Tel.: 707/961-4688; www.winesong.org; $100-$150
This one-day afternoon affair enjoys a spectacular location, with acres of gorgeous gardens leading to the Pacific beaches. The event includes a live charity auction and silent auctions.
For the liquor-is-quicker crowd
The Chicago event is on April 7; the New York event is in mid-October. Tel.: 800/610-6258; www.maltadvocate.com/whiskyfest; $85 in Chicago, $95 in New York. It’s the “world’s largest whiskey celebration” and is held in a hotel ballroom in the evening. Some 65 distilleries pour.
Kentucky Bourbon Festival
In Bardstown, Kentucky, September 15-19 Tel.: 800/638-4877; www.kybourbonfestival.com; free-$135
Black-tie galas, great food, music and entertainment, golf tournament, fun run, Bourbon breakfast and the famous “mixed drink challenge” are all on tap. A Bourbon-lover’s paradise.