Grape Expectations: Getting Ready for Wine Season

Tasting wine is a fine thing to do no matter what time of year it is. True, certain varietals are associated with different seasons or months. The Beaujolais Nouveaus arrive in late autumn while Champagnes may bubble up in the midst of winter. Often, holidays and festivals may call for the traditional imbibing of certain vintages or types of wines. Anything from a friendly gathering to an important event can find folks sipping slowly on the good stuff, enjoying and sharing in the experience of partaking of the finer nectars given to us by the grape.

There is one time of year, however, when certain energy fills the air. Vineyards start seeing a lot more visitors as they themselves are overtaken with excitement and industriousness. In a word, it’s the harvest.

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When is Wine Season?

In the northern hemisphere, wine grapes are largely harvested from August through October. This is the critical moment when the growing season comes to a close, the grapes are popping ripe with those essential sugars that transform into heavenly elixirs, and everybody working in the industry gets very, very busy!

Along with that comes the celebration of this joyful time of hard work and “grape expectations.” Anticipating the next steps of processing and fermenting the crop, previously aged wines are uncorked and sampled to the delight of folks in the business and visiting aficionados alike. You’ll find these regions abuzz with activity and excitement — and you should be prepared to be a part of it!

California Wine Dreaming

Those months of late summer and early autumn are blessed with idyllic weather in California’s legendary wine country. Areas like Sonoma and Napa are covered in wildflowers blanketed by warm weather. This is when the vines are so laden with grapes ready to be picked, they practically want to jump off the stems themselves. Workers race to reap the harvest they have sewn in a frenzy. Tourists flock here at the same time thanks to the mild climate and colorful growths in the countryside. So it becomes all hands on deck to serve customers and get that fruit picked!

These are the times you can feel the electricity in the air. Anticipation brews as wine fans ready themselves for the tasting across the almost 3,000 wineries found across the state. Vintages ready to be served are sampled with great fanfare and joyous clinking of glasses.

And at the same time, there’s the physical and logistical work of moving grapes from harvest to crushing and pressing for fermentation. It’s simply an atmosphere brimming with human activity whether laborers are helping make the coveted bottles or oenophiles are chomping at the bit to wash down some samples. It’s not too hot or too cold, so even the air itself is conducive to the fun!

Wine Festival Frenzy

As if you even need an excuse to head out to wine country and bless your palate with the delectable products of the vines, wine season festivals cater to the excitement all the more. And it’s not just about the wine! The Sonoma County Harvest Fair is one of the wine-growing region’s seminal events. Beyond the fantastic Cabernets, Pinots, and Chardonnays on hand to sample, there are food pairings, workshops, and spirits to be enjoyed. There are even opportunities to stomp some grapes, giving you the chance to get your feet purple with the wonderful juice that becomes the perfect glass of vino! Timing your visit to a prime vineyard area with the wine season in full swing is only enhanced when you synchronize your calendar with one of these fantastic festivals to really amp up the experience!

Wine Season Prep 101

Booking your travel and making your palate anticipate flutes filled with fine fermented beverages is the easy part. How you actually get ready to properly partake of the wine season’s sublime offerings is another. So here are a few tips to keep in mind when you’re gearing up to blend in with the harvesting crowd.

  • Comfortable shoes. While you may be driven from winery to winery, but once on an estate, you’ll be exploring the rows of vines, traversing hilly landscapes looking for the best pastoral views, and maybe even do a little wine stomping! So treat your feet sweet and make sure they are well cushioned with some comfy kicks.
  • It’s an educational pursuit. You’re not just here to enjoy, but to learn. Ask your vineyard professionals a lot of questions so you can gain knowledge about varietals, casing methods, and all the other details that will help you make more informed purchases as you grow as a hobbyist. 
  • Budget accordingly. Chances are, you’ll want to not only sample great wines but also take some bottles back home with you. If you’re traveling all the way to the harvest, make sure you maximize your time investment with a little financial padding to make it all the more worthwhile. By indulging in plenty of tastings, you’ll be learning how to hold your glass, use your nose, and prepare your palate to gain expertise in this wonderful world!

Wining Through Other Seasons

Just to be clear — there’s always something going on in wine country. Yes, the official “wine season” in the August to October period is the very best time to visit. But there are other moments on the calendar to take a look at. Spring’s vines may be bare, and the weather wetter and colder, but warm hearths are fired up for great food festivals.

Summer can get hot and crowded, but music festivals attract fun-seekers of all stripes. And while winter may feel bare, the truth is that the crowds are gone and tasting rooms are more mellow and relaxed. Regardless of when you go, bottles will be ready for uncorking, fine tastings, and good times with friends old and new alike.

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Brooklyn native, accent-having, travel lover, wordsmith and bud enthusiast. Versed from the streets of NYC, mixed with some world influence, writer/editor and medical user extraordinaire, JJ is here to tell you like it is and guide you to the finest. Brooklyn's favorite feminine stoner, your neighborhood contributor, wrapping leaves like a bandage and bringing you along for the ride.

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