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Celebrate the Holidays in California Wine Country
November 30, 2012

SAN FRANCISCO — When it comes to merrymaking over the holiday season, nobody does it better than California wine country. From festive events and activities, to inspiring décor and unique gift ideas, California’s wineries are the perfect place to celebrate in style.  See all offerings listed at www.discovercaliforniawines.com.

NORTHERN CALIFORNIA

Holiday Lights
California’s wine regions are enchanting any time of year, but over the holidays, California wineries kick it up a few notches with festive holiday lights and décor.

Throughout December, wine lovers in Sonoma County can vote for their favorites in the 7th Annual Sonoma Valley Gingerbread Winery Contest, where 14 wineries create and display amazing gingerbread replicas of their winery buildings. While in the valley, leave the car behind and taste with the Sonoma Valley Holiday Wine Trolley, brimming with garlands and lights. Tour historic landmarks and four beautifully decorated wineries while listening to classic holiday music and sipping hot cocoa. Over in Napa Valley, wineries have gone all out on décor, from the lights decorating Sutter Home’s Victorian estate to the lights on Far Niente’s verdant, hundred-year-old olive trees. A popular site each year is the vintage truck outside V. Sattui, adorned with many lights and a Christmas tree, as well as the huge star illuminating the night from Ehler Estate’s 1800s stone façade. Robert Mondavi Winery invites visitors to its Annual Holiday Tree Lighting Ceremony and Party on December 1.

Up in coastal redwood country, BARRA of Mendocino Winery invites guests to a special tree lighting celebration on Nov. 30 from 5:30-8 pm, including a holiday sing-along with Tom Allman and the Willits Brass Band, Martha Barra’s tasty homemade treats, spiced cider and crafts for the kids along with wine tasting for the adults in the beautifully decorated tasting room.

Holiday Shopping
Visitors to Napa Valley and Sonoma County will find plenty of local gifts and stocking stuffers.

In the Russian River Valley, take advantage of the Korbel Holiday Shopping Spree Weekend Nov. 30-Dec. 2, featuring holiday gifts, ornaments, and decorations, as well as special case sales. On Saturday and Sunday afternoons, enjoy Christmas carolers and a cameo appearance by Santa Claus.

Got a foodie in your life? Visit the nearby J Vineyard’s Holiday Sip and Shop Event Dec. 7-9, where you can sample limited-release sparkling and varietal wines while perusing elegant items such as wine gift sets, essentials for entertaining, olive oil, gourmet cookbooks, champagne openers and more.  Rodney Strong Vineyards Holiday Craft Faire Dec. 1 -2 also offers a festive shopping experience with gifts by local artists. Due east in Napa Valley, Black Stallion Estate Winery Holiday Open House and Art Show on Dec. 1 lets you enjoy holiday refreshments and music while meeting local wine country artists, who will sell everything from oil paintings, pastels and photography to wood turning, jewelry, ceramics and more.

Events and Activities
Want to relax and immerse yourself in holiday cheer? Head to Holidays in the Vineyards in Livermore Valley Dec. 1-2 to visit the region’s 40-plus wineries and enjoy wines, gourmet food, live music, and unique local arts and crafts. Wente Vineyards is also hosting a Gingerbread Family Workshop that weekend, as well as a unique Gingerbread Class & Wine Tasting on Dec. 5. During the latter you can participate in a tacky holiday sweater contest while building gingerbread houses and tasting award-winning wines paired with favorite holiday treats.

J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines in San Jose is offering great classes and events for personal enjoyment or wowing your guests this season. The J. Lohr Wine, Cheese & Charcuterie Pairing Seminar on Dec. 9 offers a guided tasting and discussion of five wines matched with two gourmet cheeses and a selection of gourmet antipasto items, led by cheese expert Courtney Vasquez of The Little Cheese Shoppe. J. Lohr Holiday Feast with Chef David Page Dec. 15-16, features an elegant six-course holiday meal with local ingredients paired with six world-class J. Lohr wines. The J. Lohr Holiday Wine, Cheese & Dessert Mixer on Dec. 20 lets wine lovers savor six wines alongside a selection of gourmet cheeses and holiday desserts, giving guests tips for their own holiday get-togethers.

In Napa Valley, wine lovers will want to celebrate the season at the Merryvale Holiday Barrel Tasting & Pinot Noir Release Party on Dec. 15, featuring new releases, holiday décor, gifts and savory soups from Yountville’s Bistro Jeanty.

CENTRAL CALIFORNIA

Holiday Lights
On the Central Coast, Vina Robles in Paso Robles is lighting up the holidays with its annual Illuminating Evening on Nov. 30. Upon arrival guests will be greeted with a mug of hot chocolate and cookies before enjoying special holiday music and dance performances, followed by the traditional ceremonial lighting of their towering Christmas tree.

Holiday Shopping
Check out A Mountain Holiday with Summit Wineries in the Santa Cruz Mountains Wine Region. Five wineries along Summit Road invite wine lovers to a festive weekend on Dec. 8, filled with gifts for sale by local artisans, as well as live music, food, and wine. On the same day, Pomar Junction’s Holiday Open House in Templeton (San Luis Obispo County) lets shoppers enjoy cocoa for kids, treats and wine tasting while perusing an extensive selection of ornaments, home décor items and gift items. Also that weekend, the Riverbench Holiday Open House Weekend in Santa Barbara, is an event where wine lovers can buy beautiful local holiday gift baskets, taste a flight of bubbles in a commemorative etched flute, and play an fun game of “elf on the shelf” (be the first to find the elf that is hiding somewhere on the property and win a prize). Visit Santa Barbara County Vintners Association’s site for more holiday events that weekend.

Events and Activities
Looking for holiday entertaining inspiration? Try wine education immersion classes at Niner Wine Estates in Paso Robles. On Dec. 15, take their Cooking Class: Winter Dining with Chef Robert Trester, where foodies can learn to create tempting dishes with local ingredients, such as tempura-battered squash blossoms and grilled flat iron steaks atop root vegetables and enjoy the fruits of their labor paired with estate wines in a family-style setting next to a roaring fireplace.

Eberle Winery in Paso Robles is hosting its annual Holiday Open House on Dec. 8, featuring the chance to enjoy live music in the underground caves, two huge Christmas trees with a train underneath, hot apple cider and mulled wine, appetizers and holiday shopping and gift wrapping. Or check out their gourmet grilled cheese and wine pairing event Dec. 7, featuring a chat and tasting with local purveyor Vivant Fine Cheese.

Also in Paso Robles, Vina Robles will be serving up a Pre-New Year’s Eve Bash Dec. 31, 2012, where wine lovers can dance to the rhythms of San Luis Obispo’s hottest gypsy jazz group while enjoying hors d’oeuvre and light desserts.  Nearby, you can also ring in the New Year roaring 20s style with Robert Hall Winery at their Great Gatsby Gala, on Dec. 31, including a cocktail hour in the caverns, four-course dinner in the fully decorated Meritage Room and the Blue Latitude jazz band playing period and contemporary music all night long. DJ music lovers can also join the Cavern Dance Party downstairs.

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

Holiday Lights
South of Los Angeles, don’t miss WinterFest Holidays’ Twinkling Lights in Temecula, where tens-of-thousands of twinkling lights shine brightly arch-to-arch in Old Town, which is surrounded by miles and miles of vineyards. Santa’s Electric Light Parade brightens the evening on Dec, 2nd at 7 p.m.

Holiday Shopping
Ponte Winery is a great place to find last-minute goodies for those on your list who’ve been nice, selling everything from wine accessories, home décor and cookbooks to gourmet condiments, beautiful plates and vases. They also have a New Year’s dinner in the barrel room.

Events and Activities
Also in Temecula, South Coast Winery and Spa has teamed up with the Temecula Carriage Company to create fabulous horse-drawn carriage vineyard rides throughout December, featuring jingle bells, highly decorated horses and a vintage-style trolley decked out in holiday splendor.  Don’t want to cook this holiday? Enjoy special Christmas Eve and Day meals at their Vineyard Rose restaurant, featuring elaborate gourmet meals glowing under holiday lights and décor. Their Fire & Ice New Year’s Eve Four-Course Wine & Food Pairing Dinner is a sure bet for wine lovers, including great overnight packages at the winery.

For more ideas on wine tasting and other activities in California wine country during the holidays and beyond, go to Wine Institute’s website at www.discovercaliforniawines.com.

About Wine Institute

Wine Institute is the association of 1,000 California wineries and wine-related businesses dedicated to enhancing the environment for the responsible production, consumption and enjoyment of wine.  California is the fourth largest wine producer in the world, making 90 percent of all U.S. wine and two out of every three bottles enjoyed in the U.S.  Each year, 21 million tourists visit wine regions throughout the state to explore and enjoy the wines, the cuisine and cultural offerings associated with California’s signature industry.