Winter is a great time to visit breathtakingly scenic California wine country. Insiders know that hotel rates are at their lowest of the year in most regions, the pace at winery tasting rooms is relaxed, and you have the best chance of meeting the passionate and dedicated artisans who make the wines you enjoy at home. And with 114 distinct wine regions growing more than 100 grape varieties, there's a diverse range of wines sure to entice wine lovers on any budget.
From fun hands-on winery activities and cool festivals to hot travel packages, there are many reasons to escape to California wine country this winter. To learn more, visit www.discovercaliforniawines.com.
Northern California area
California insiders know that winter offers many wine-related events, from winter barrel tastings to wine and whale-watching festivals. In popular wine country destinations, the peak visitor periods are over, letting you feel like a local.
A great way to warm up a day on the North Coast wine region are the Mendocino County Whale Festivals, with wine and chowder tastings in Mendocino and Little River in March as well as wildlife art exhibits, lighthouse and sea cave kayak tours and more. If you're ardent about art and wine, try Sonoma County's "Winter Wineland" (Jan. 14-15), where you can speak with artists, view art, and learn about vineyard practices at over 140 participating wineries. Wine connoisseurs in the San Francisco Bay wine region won't want to miss the annual ZAP Zinfandel Festival in San Francisco (Jan. 26-28), billed as the premier single-varietal tasting in the world with more than 200 wineries. In the Sierra Foothills wine region, wine lovers can treasure hunt for their next favorite wine at the annual Bring Out the Barrel event (Jan. 28-29). Explore up to 27 wineries, each offering a rare chance to preview wines in the barrel before they're blended or bottled.
Central California coast area
California's way of life includes eating like a locavore, enjoying cuisine that's innovative, adventurous and made with the freshest regional ingredients (California grows more than 400 seasonal crops). These Central Coast activities let you experience the California lifestyle.
Passionate about Pinot? Pinot Paradise offers the rare chance to sample virtually all of the renowned Santa Cruz Mountain Pinot Noirs in one location, including a VIP tasting with one-on-one winemaker meetings and technical seminars (March 31-April 1). If you're zany about Zin, run to Paso Robles' Zinfandel Festival (March 16-18), which includes a grand tasting, auction, food pairings, meet-the-winemaker experiences and more.
Southern California area
With celebrity-studded and culture-filled city streets, surfer community, theme parks, miles of sandy beaches and desert golf courses, Southern California is a great playground to warm up in this winter. Down in Temecula Valley in the Southern California wine region, a growing number of wineries are popping up, making this a great place for savvy wine lovers looking for something new.
World of Wine 2012 offers more than 30 wineries to explore (March 3-4), each featuring varietal wines paired with scrumptious food. Cacao fans will love Chocolate Decadence and Pechanga Wine Festival (March 2-3), where one can sample an array of chocolates and pastries with local sparkling and dessert wines.
For details on winter events go to www.DiscoverCaliforniaWines.com/events.