Wine Country Parties: What's Hot, Where to Go

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By Courtney Cochran

Wine Country invariably inspires thoughts of relaxation, but it can just as easily stoke the party urge within us - provided we know where to exercise that urge, and when.  Read on for tips on your best bets for tracking down parties in Wine Country; because we wouldn't have you miss out on a good time in the most beautiful place on earth, just because you don't know where to find it.
Social Networks: The New Party Lines
First off, a quick note on your best bet for learning about last minute happenings: The ultimate inside track to Wine Country parties, social networks like Facebook, Twitter and foursquare are where you'll find buzz surrounding what's going on tonight, tomorrow or this weekend.  It can pay dividends to plug into these networks and seek out Wine Country influencers who have the inside track on the latest happenings, either before you're here or once you arrive.    

And of course, don't forget to check out our own blogs and events pages for tips, too.  We do our best to keep you updated on as much as we see coming, and for anything we miss, check out for event listings in the Wine Country region you'll be visiting, sign up for winery newsletters to stay abreast of regular happenings at your fav Wine Country haunts, and cruise winery and regional blogs prior to your trip.

Wine Country Parties: The Many, the Merry
Festivals - Usually held annually - and occasionally for adequately appealing one-off occasions - Wine Country festivals run the gamut of themes (many musical, some agricultural) and are almost always a good time.  Napa's own Festival del Sole, which takes place every summer at lush locations throughout the valley, pairs wine, five-star cuisine and art exhibits with celebrated music and performance acts including renowned pianists, opera singers, orchestras and dancers from the American Ballet Theater.  Festive, indeed.

Passports/Barrel Weekends - Often coordinated by regional wine entities (think Santa Cruz Mountains Winegrowers, passport or barrel weekends are like a series of mini parties at several wineries in the same neighborhood.  Held once yearly and sometimes more often, these events are a terrific way to get to know a region's wines and make a great excuse for a daytime party with a group of pals.  Note: Choosing a designated driver or renting transportation is a must, as the sheer number of tastes throughout the day can really add up at these (not that we're counting).

grapestomp.jpgHarvest celebrations - The period that spans the end of summer and early fall is easily the most magical time of year in Wine Country.  Known as harvest or crush, this is when the spoils of each year's harvest are brought into the winery to undergo the miraculous transformation from grape to glass.  It's also an excuse for revelers to attend a host of fantastic harvest celebrations; for the inside track on the best, be sure to check out our companion piece on top Wine Country harvest events, Harvest Happenings 2010.

Release Parties - If you're lucky enough to belong to a winery's wine club or mailing list, you'll likely be invited to Wine Country once a year for the spot's annual release party.  These fĂȘtes are not only good fun (think top-notch food and wine, spectacular settings and superb people watching), but also windows into the personalities of wineries, which make a special effort to show off their best assets and entertainment during this hallmark once-yearly affair.  

Seasonal FĂȘtes - Festive to the end, many wineries host holiday events to mark the likes of New Years, Valentine's Day, Halloween, and yes, even Mother's Day and Father's Day.  To get the scoop on which spots boast the best holiday parties, check with your favorite wineries in advance of your visit, inquire with a concierge, and check here for insider tips like this year's Mother's Day Must-Do list.  As you might guess, we do holiday well in Wine Country.  

farm_pic_05.jpgHappy Hours & Weekly Specials - Perhaps the most low-key of all Wine Country parties, simple weekly happy hours and recurring events are easy ways to plug into a little party while you're here.  Take, for example, The Carneros Inn's "Thursdays at the Pavilion" event series, which features open-to-the-public, alfresco musical performances from DJs and local acts during summer months.  Paired with use of the spot's Bocce ball courts, there's plenty to make an evening of here, and you might even make a few new friends while you're at it. Cheers!

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