The Best Wine Festivals Across America
Wine and food festivals are paradise for wine obsessives — they’re ideal opportunities to explore wine regions and styles, to taste through dozens, even hundreds of bottles. But while more and more festivals are popping up across the nation, not all are created equal.
Here are America’s best, from California to New York, from rosé-doused parties to Pinot Noir celebrations and beyond.
Food & Wine Classic, Aspen, CO
We have to be honest: When it comes to wine festivals, Food & Wine’s own Classic in Aspen is as good as they get. It’s well-known as America’s most renowned annual food festival, drawing the nation’s top culinary talent year after year, but the Classic is just as enticing for wine-lovers as for gourmands. Seminars and tastings range from the scholarly (Northern Rhône’s New Wave; White Burgundy and Beyond) to slightly more irreverent (Pop! Sparkling Wine & Popcorn; Yes Way, Rosé) to the extravagant (Wines for IPO Trillionaires). With more than 300 wines represented at the Grand Tasting Pavilion, there are bottles suited to every palate.
Upcoming event: June 16-18, 2017
Wine and Spirits Top 100, San Francisco, CA
Critics at the prestigious Wine & Spirits magazine blind-taste over 15,000 bottles of wine each year — and only the very best wineries are invited to their one-night San Francisco event. For the last 13 years, those anointed the “Top 100” have received at least two 92+ wine scores within a given year. They also must present their highest-rated wine at the event, ensuring an extraordinary selection of bottles from across the world—often poured by principal winemakers themselves. Acclaimed San Francisco chefs serve bites for the five hundred-plus guests.
Upcoming event: Early October 2017
Naples Winter Wine Festival, Naples, FL
Among the world’s most successful charity wine auctions, the Naples Winter Wine Festival raises millions of dollars annually for the Naples Children & Education Foundation, whose grants have impacted more than 200,000 underserved children in the region. Standout events include a ten-vintage tasting of Harlan Estate wines, including two 100-point vintages; and the annual auction, with lots ranging from a round-the-world wine tour by private jet to a hundred-plus bottle collection drawn from the cellars of private collectors. And with Wolfgang Puck serving as the ”Chef de Cuisine” for the entire festival, culinary offerings throughout the weekend are top-notch, from chefs with eleven Michelin stars and thirteen James Beard Awards between them.
Upcoming date: January 27-29, 2017
Nantucket Wine Festival, Nantucket, MA
After a quiet off-season, Nantucket Island wakes up every May for the Nantucket Wine Festival, one of the first highlights of the season. Over the past 20 years, the festival has hosted only the most prestigious wineries for showstopping events — from a 1945 “70-Year anniversary” wine dinner to a Grand Cru Burgundy seminar and a 1982 horizontal tasting of Bordeaux. Annual highlights include the Harbor Gala, with wines from forty exceptional wineries paired with bites from forty chefs, and “Great Wines in Grand Houses” — tastings and wine-pairing dinners hosted in Nantucket’s grand historic private homes.
Upcoming event: May 17-21, 2017
Sonoma Wine Country Weekend, Sonoma County, CA
More than two hundred local winemakers and sixty chefs come together at Sonoma County’s largest charity event, which has raised more than $24 million for local organizations. The annual wine auction is a perennial highlight, as are countless opportunities to experience wineries in the beloved region — from lunches and dinners hosted at Sonoma vineyards, to the “Taste of Sonoma” grand tasting, with more than two hundred wineries pouring thousands of different wines.
Upcoming event: Weekend of September 16, 2017
Hudson Valley Wine & Food Fest, Rhinebeck, NY
With more than 15 years of history, the Hudson Valley Wine & Food Fest is a harvest-time highlight for the New York region. Because it’s a registered farm market, guests can purchase wines, spirits, and craft beers from the producers themselves (and leave their haul at the wine check, all the better to keep tasting). Wine seminars and cooking demonstrations are always highlights, but attendees truly prize the access to New York winemakers themselves, and the opportunity to taste the wide variety of wines and spirits from across the ever-more-popular wine region.
Upcoming event: September 9-10, 2017
Denver International Wine Festival
Organized by wine journalists rather than a local promotion board, the Denver International Wine Festival draws in winemakers from across the globe, many of them underrepresented at similar festivals. (Esoteric wines are welcome; Hungarian wines were a highlight of the 2016 event.) The Pairsine Chefs Fine Food and Wine Pairing Competition is a yearly favorite, where Colorado chefs compete to create dishes paired with two standout wines, with the audience tasting and determining the winner. Wine tours show off several of Colorado’s still little-known wineries.
Upcoming event: Late October or early November, 2017
Napa Valley Wine Auction, St. Helena, CA
This one-of-a-kind wine auction has raised more than $150 million for the Napa County community over its thirty-seven years. Napa wines themselves are up for auction, whole barrels from more than 100 wineries sold as lots; at the live auction, big-ticket items have included a private tour of the Antinori Family Wine Estate in Tuscany and private jets trip to Michelin-starred American restaurants and the Bocuse d’Or competition in Lyon. But this Napa event encompasses a great deal beyond the auction itself — like private dinners at vintners’ homes, legendary parties, and enough fantastic California wine for all.
Upcoming event: June 1-4, 2017
Paso Robles Wine Festival
While less celebrated than Napa or Sonoma further north, Paso Robles is the largest and most diverse wine region in California, and one producing increasingly sophisticated wines. Now in its 35th year, the annual Paso Robles Wine Festival brings together more than seventy producers for winemaker dinners, live music, open-house events at wineries, and more. The Grand Tasting presents local wines by style — whether Bordeaux-style, Rhône-style, or non-traditional blends — showcasing the region’s impressive range.
Upcoming event: May 18-21, 2017