Celebrate California Wine Month

Wine Institute explains how September is special

by Jane Firstenfeld
california wine month
San Francisco, Calif.—The Wine Institute (WI) and the California wine industry will celebrate the ninth edition of California Wine Month in September. While many local and regional associations and individual wineries will mark the event with promotional events, Wine Month has a larger significance in the national and worldwide wine markets.

Wine Institute vice president of communications Nancy Light described the origin and purpose of Wine Month for Wines & Vines readers who might be asking, “Isn’t every month wine month in California?”

California Wine Month was launched in 2005—when Arnold Schwarzenegger was governor—as an outgrowth of California Wine Week. “We’re in a very competitive market,” Light said. “Even with the growth of a lot of California wine regions, we didn’t see a lot of statewide California wine events. Wine Month is designed to provide an umbrella for all events.”

Although wineries and regional organizations are encouraged to mark Wine Month with events of their own, Wine Institute sponsors major promotions both within and outside of California. “We’re celebrating our home industry at harvest, at a couple of different levels” Light said. It’s all a part of WI’s bigger program: global promotion of California wine.

An in-store collaboration with Safeway will be the most obvious to California consumers. The supermarket will position special aisle-blade displays in all of its 500 California stores. “The chain is featuring California winners of the Sunset International Wine Competition as part of a joint promotion with the magazine,” Light said. 

Last year, more than 100 wineries posted September wine events on the WI website. “We generated more than 400 million media impressions. Our trade partners include some 2,500 outlets across the U.S.,” Light said.

Wine Institute is hosting two tastings of more than 70 wines from 10 California regions in New York, N.Y., next month: a Sept. 13 sampling at California Wine Merchants and a Sept. 16 ticketed tasting at the Astor Center. The group is also sponsoring in-store tastings in Manhattan and Brooklyn throughout September. Back in California, WI will host a tasting “across the state’s regions” on Sept. 21 at San Francisco’s landmark Ferry Building. Visit discovercaliforniawines.com for listings and links.

Some local California events
Temecula Valley was the first region to come forward with Wine Month events. With a reduced price September Sip Passport (now $35), and its CRUSH gala at Callaway Winery, the Southern California region’s 35 wineries and 60 vineyards strenuously support WI’s efforts with discounted wine flights and overnight stays.

All 35 wineries will be pouring at the CRUSH gala Sept. 14 at Callaway Winery. Tickets are $75/person; $100 VIP tickets include admittance to a pre-event winemakers roundtable panel discussion and winemaker tasting. 

Sip Passports ($35) offer full tasting flights and a souvenir glass at any four wineries throughout the month. For details and tickets, visit temeculawines.org.

Livermore Valley
East of San Francisco, the Livermore Valley Winegrowers Association is embracing California Wine Month, starting with its biggest event of the year, the 32nd annual Livermore Valley Harvest Wine Celebration on Sept. 1 and 2.

More than 40 wineries will be pouring for ticket holders, including the historic region’s newest wine producers: Dante Robere Vineyards, Ehrenberg Cellars and Darcie Kent Vineyards, and the new winery/tasting room at Cuda Ridge Wines. Food and art vendors will be at each site, as well as live music. With the Bay Bridge closed over the weekend, complimentary bus services will shuttle visitors among wineries on Sunday only. The wineries will be open only to ticket holders with wristband IDs; tickets are $55 in advance, $65 at the gate. Get details and tickets at lvwine.org.

Go LOCA in Lodi
Members of the Lodi Winegrape Commission are promoting their Lodi Road Trip Passport, featuring more than 150 individual activities hosted by 49 participating wineries Sept. 1-30.

Purchase of a $20 passport booklet will include exclusive discounts: See lodiroadtrip.com.

Mad for Madera
The Madera Vintners Association will celebrate with its California Wine Month Reception & Wine Tasting on Sept. 26.  Local restaurants will join wineries at Birdstone Winery with special food/wine pairings to benefit the association’s scholarship program. In addition to live music, the program will invite guests to vote for their favorite wines in the People’s Choice Awards.

Currently, Madera County has 16 wineries, according to WinesVinesDATA. Tickets to the Wine Month tastings are limited, and available only in advance for $35. The event starts at noon. For details and reservations, visit MaderaWineTrail.com.

SLO on Central Coast
Some of the most popular wine destinations are not officially marking California Wine Month. San Luis Obispo County, home to Paso Robles and to two distinct associations, lets its individual wineries take the lead.

“We don’t do any coordinated events for California Wine Month.…We usually just encourage our members to submit their events and specials to the Wine Month calendar, and we also promote California Wine Month on our website,” said Shannon Brady, industry relations coordinator for the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance.

Heather Muran at the San Luis Obispo Wine Country Association noted, “We don’t have an association-wide event in September. However, we will be a partner in this year’s Sunset Savor the Central Coast, Sept. 27-29 (as will PRWCA). Our members will be part of the Sunset on the Sand dinner in Pismo Beach on Sept. 27th.

San Luis Obispo’s 25,000-case Tolosa Winery will celebrate Sept. 6-7 with its inaugural Pinot Camp: A small group of Pinot Noir enthusiasts will spend a day during harvest with winemaker Larry Brooks. The $150 price of admission ($125 for wine club members) includes a Friday night reception, vineyard sampling, lunch in the vineyards, cellar tour and in-depth vertical Pinot Noir seminar hosted by Brooks. Inquire at (805) 782-0500 or email holly@tolosawinery.com.
The Napa Valley Vintners also leaves Wine Month activities to its individual members. “Our support of this endeavor is primarily linked to events and opportunities that Wine Institute coordinates: The New York and California trade, media and consumer tastings; posting a link from our website to the Wine Month section of WI’s website; taking out an ad in the San Francisco Chronicle,” NVV communications director Patsy McGaughy said.

The Sonoma County Winegrowers may have the priciest Wine Month promotion, but it’s so exclusive it’s already sold out; reservations are being accepted for 2014, according to Sean Carroll, SCW marketing and communications manager.

The three-day, $2,000-per-person ($3,700 per couple) fantasy camp allows some 25 participants to harvest and sort grapes, tour wineries and attend classes taught by winemakers and chefs; meals and hotel accommodations are included. Check sonomawinegrape.org to enlist at next year’s boot camp.

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