Thinking about visiting wine country during harvest? Crush, as it’s often called in wine country, is already underway in a few Sonoma County and Napa Valley vineyards. Since most grape picking takes place during hours of darkness and activities that immediately follow occur on crush pads and around fermentation tanks away from visitors, visiting wine country during harvest isn’t all that different from visiting during other times of the year. But that doesn’t mean everything is guaranteed to be the same. Here are a few things to consider when visiting during harvest.
Tasting Room Hours. Most wineries have separate staff for tasting room operations and wine production, but it’s not uncommon for everyone to pitch in during harvest regardless of whether the winery is large or small. If planning to visit tasting rooms that don’t require a reservation, double check to make sure they are keeping regular hours throughout September, October and November.
Tours and Special Tastings. Wineries may suspend tours or cut back on the number they offer during crush so they don’t interfere with wine making operations. Make reservations early to make sure you get the tours you want.
Traffic. Even though picked grapes are usually moved from vineyard to crush pad very early in the morning, during harvest it’s common to see a high volume of tanker vehicles moving extracted juice from crush pads to other wineries or production facilities throughout the area at all hours of the day. Expect traffic delays and drive carefully around the big rigs.
Restaurants and Hotels. Just because summer is over doesn’t mean visitor traffic to major wine producing areas drops off suddenly. Many visitors prefer to visit after the summer tourist season, which creates another mini-season of its own. Make hotel and restaurant reservations early.
Wine Deals. Wineries often advertise sales on new wine releases during harvest. Look for fall specials on wines you like the most.
Harvest Events. Finally, a great reason for visiting wine country during harvest are the great events many wineries hold during this time. Harvest parties are usually scheduled well in advance and take place within a week or two after harvest usually concludes. Check with wineries where you plan to visit to see if they are holding a special harvest event.