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Sip your way through fall at these US wine harvest festivals

Sept. 02, 2022
8 min read
grape clusters in a vineyard
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Some people look forward to autumn for the multi-colored foliage, hayrides, apple picking and cider samplings. Others anticipate a different kind of fall fruit picking: The great grape harvests that transform humble fruit into the prized wines we get to enjoy the rest of the year.

The autumn ritual of gathering grapes and pressing them into wine occurs in countries such as Italy and France; there, the fall vineyard festivities include grape stomping, large shared meals and free-flowing wine.

However, there's no need to face the airline delays and lost baggage armageddon that's currently plaguing the European travel industry. Instead, there are food- and drink-filled harvest festivals across the U.S. that will make the fall season feel like a special occasion. Depending on where you're based, these celebrations might be just a short drive (with a responsible designated driver who will refrain from the alcoholic offerings) away.

Here are a few of our favorite spots to sip and celebrate the wine harvest season across the country.

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Sonoma County Harvest Fair, California

SONOMA COUNTY HARVEST FAIR

Back after a two-year pandemic hiatus, the Sonoma County Harvest Fair brings the wine-producing community together with its adoring fans on the second weekend of October. This is one of the largest wine events in the country, and hundreds of wineries contribute wines to sample. There are some small bites to accompany the vino, but this isn't as foodie-focused as some other harvest celebrations in the U.S.

However, this festival does have one thing that you won't see elsewhere: A grape stomping competition. Expect things to get messy as teams stomp on hundreds of pounds of grapes in pursuit of large cash prizes. (Luckily you can sip with unstained feet in the tasting tent.)

If you'd like to try picking grapes or crushing them yourself, head more north in Sonoma County to Healdsburg; here, you can experience Alexander Valley Vineyard’s Harvest Party which provides numerous hands-on (and feet-on) opportunities to get close to the noble fruit.

The fair takes place at the Sonoma County Events Center Fairgrounds in Santa Rosa; this year it will be held on Saturday, Oct. 15.

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Where to stay: The fair is located in Santa Rosa, which is where you'll find the Hyatt Regency Sonoma Wine Country. It's in an ideal spot whether you want to attend the festivities or explore nearby vineyards. This pet-friendly resort also offers a pool, spa and on-site restaurant. It's a Category 4 World of Hyatt resort, with redemptions at 12,000 to 18,000 points per night; you can redeem your Category 1-4 free night certificate from the World of Hyatt Visa for this property. There's limited points availability during harvest weekend, but we did see a suite redemption for 24,000 points. Cash rates during the festival start at $400 per night.

Related: These are the best points hotels in Napa and Sonoma, California

Virginia Wine Festival, Virginia

Bluemont Vineyard grape stomping in Loudoun County, Virginia. LOUDOUN COUNTY TOURISM

Held the first weekend of October, Virginia's top wineries pour more than a hundred local wines for fans to try at this fall celebration. It gives you an opportunity to sample all the best of the Washington, D.C. area's wine region in one spot. In addition to offering wines for tasting and purchasing, the Virginia Wine Festival also has live music. To complement the crisp whites that are hallmarks of the region, there are freshly shucked oysters from the Chesapeake Bay.

Tickets for the festival — which will be held Oct. 1 and 2 at One Loudoun in Ashburn — start at $15.

If you want to live out your "I Love Lucy" fantasies while you're in the area, head to nearby Bluemont Vineyard. There, you can stomp to your heart's content on buckets of grapes. (You can even press your grape-stained feet on a tea towel to take home for a true one-of-a-kind wine weekend souvenir.)

Where to stay: The Salamander Resort and Spa nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains is a luxurious perch to explore the surrounding wine areas of Loudoun County. In addition to tennis courts, a large spa and an indoor pool, the resort has a lauded equestrian center, so you can take a trot through the autumn foliage. Local wines are on offer at the on-site Gold Cup Wine Bar and in the elegant restaurant.

The Salamander is one of the boutique properties that comprise Preferred Hotels & Resorts — and its I Prefer Hotel Rewards program is one of our favorite independent hotel loyalty programs. Rates start at $665 per night during the harvest festival.

Related: Long Weekend Getaways: How to Sip Your Way Around Virginia Wine Country

Santa Fe Wine & Chile Fiesta, New Mexico

GMARKSPHOTO

New Mexico is always a glorious fall getaway as the lush green summer foliage transforms to bright reds and yellows. You won't just find those hues on the leaves, though: The annual Santa Fe Wine & Chile Fiesta harvest coincides with foliage season, and it features piles of red chiles for an added pop of color to the changing season. Nothing goes better with chiles than...wine? Find out for yourself at this Santa Fe celebration, which is now entering its fourth decade. Over the course of five days — which run from Sept. 21 to 25 this year — you'll be able to sample food and wine from 60 participating restaurants and 90 winery partners. (However, note that most of the wineries aren't based in New Mexico.)

The fiesta brings together bites from James Beard award-winning chefs and mom-and-pop cooks, all of which are paired with great wines. One highlight of this year's festival will be food offerings from chef Paddy Rawal; a native of Mumbai and the chef and owner of Raaga-Go and Zaika, Rawal will serve dishes paired with Rhône varietal wines from Tablas Creek. There are also deep dives into — and tastings of — Champagne, tartare, caviar and, of course, New Mexican chiles. Winery dinners and special tasting tickets range from $100 to $175. They sell out fast, so be sure to plan ahead.

Where to stay: Book an affordable and stylish stay at La Posada de Santa Fe. This Tribute Portfolio resort has a full-service spa, outdoor pool and multiple dining venues plus luxe touches such as exposed beams and ensuite fireplaces. Rooms start at 30,000 Marriott Bonvoy points per night. During the festival dates, nightly prices start at $435 or 60,000 points.

Catch the Crush, Yakima Valley, Washington

YAKIMA VALLEY

Head to Washington State for Catch the Crush. This wine-centric event celebrates the fall harvest with a full weekend of grape-related activities during the first weekend of October. Instead of being held at one central location, the "Crush" encompasses events at 40 local wineries, all of which are accessible by purchasing one $30 pass per person. Passholders can then sample limited releases, tour cellars, listen to live music in the vineyards and even stomp some grapes while traversing the valley.

Details were still rolling out when we went to press in August, but there are a few highlights we're excited about. Some include a grape stomp at the Prosser Tasting Room; a vineyard 5k run at Airfield Estates Vineyard in Prosser; and a behind-the-scenes look at a working winery — including the "crush" and tastings — at Dineen Vineyards and Two Mountain Winery in Zillah.

Where to stay: The Hilton Garden Inn Yakima Downtown puts you within walking distance of restaurants, shops and three tasting rooms, so you can leave your car parked for a while. The pet-friendly hotel also has an indoor pool and room service. Prices during the fall harvest festival start at $134 or 32,000 Hilton Honors points per night.

Featured image by Getty Images
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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  • Weak on travel outside of flights and everyday spending bonus categories
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  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits
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  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
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  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
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Apply for American Express® Gold Card
at American Express's secure site
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Best for the well-traveled foodie
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
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Rewards Rate

4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.
4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
3XEarn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.

    60,000 bonus points
  • Annual Fee

    $250
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent/Good

Why We Chose It

There's a lot to love about the Amex Gold card. It's been a fan favorite during the pandemic because of its fantastic rewards rate on restaurants (that includes takeout and delivery in the U.S.!) and U.S. supermarkets. If you're hitting the skies soon, you'll also earn bonus points on travel. Paired with up to $120 in Uber Cash (for U.S. Uber rides or Uber Eats orders) and up to $120 in annual dining statement credits at eligible partners, there's no reason that the foodie shouldn't add this card to their wallet. Enrollment required.

Pros

  • 4x on dining at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets (on the first $25,000 in purchases per calendar year; then 1x)
  • 3x on flights booked directly with the airline or with Amex Travel
  • Welcome bonus of 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first six months

Cons

  • Weak on travel outside of flights and everyday spending bonus categories
  • Not as useful for those living outside the U.S.
  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits
  • Few travel perks and protections
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
  • $120 Dining Credit: Satisfy your cravings and earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the American Express® Gold Card at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations. Enrollment required.
  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees