These days, every foodstuff or drink gets a day in its honor. Did you know there's a National Pecan Cookie day (September 21)? One guess on how to observe either National Guacamole Day (September 16) or National Beer Day (April 7th). Joining these food holidays, in September, California wine will have an entire month of celebrations and activities.
Now in its seventh year, organized by the Wine Institute and proclaimed by Governor Jerry Brown, California Wine Month salutes the economic contribution of wine to the state. A $1.4 billion industry, there's no doubt that wine is a major business sector with more than 3,400 wineries producing 90% of the wine imbibed in the U.S. However, critics will note that much of that wine (two words: Charles Shaw) is of the mass-produced plonk variety. Upside: it's inexpensive. Downside: well, when compared to a decent wine, taste reveals why it's called plonk.
So how about a pledge to acknowledge California Wine Month by trying something new? With events across the state and local promotions to explore, no glass should be half full. Bottoms up.
As harvest and crush begin in each of the state's wine regions, September is one month when there is guaranteed activity. Glossy events, winery open houses and educational seminars are all on the calendar. This month, drinking wine is practically a civic duty.
This weekend, Sonoma Wine Country Weekend is packed with premiere wine and food events. The Taste of Sonoma features 170 Sonoma County wineries, separated by AVAs, and food from 60 restaurants on the grounds of the Mac Murray Ranch. Weekend events top off with BBQs and dinner parties at wineries (some are sold out).
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SHOW ME HOW
At the end of the month, September 29th - October 2, sponsored by Sunset Magazine, Savor the Central Coast will feature a wine awards gala on the Pismo Pier. Among the hands-and-feet-on seminars: pick and stomp grapes to learn how wine is made. (Not wine related but Sunday October 2's L.A. vs. S.F. cocktail smackdown has the potential to be very entertaining.)
Closer to L.A., on Labor Day, Margerum Wine company hosts its annual winery open house and picnic that tops off with ice cream made from the winery's late harvest Viognier. On September 10, there will be an opening party at Santa Barbara's Municipal Winemaker's new and greatly expanded tasting room where there are two parking spots out front designated for food trucks on weekend nights.
In downtown Los Angeles, Corkbar presents California wine exclusively and has special wine flights throughout the month from summer whites to unusual reds. They'll also have discounted food and wine pairings on the menu: try the Huntington meats-sourced hamburger--paired with a 2008 Frank Family Vineyards Zinfandel.
While it's easy to dismiss (isn't every month California wine month?), as Randy Clement at Silver Lake Wine points out, "Anytime there's actually a specific focus on a geographical area of wine, on many levels it's beneficial, if in any way it impacts someone--or a beer drinker or a scotch drinker--to ask for a California wine, that's a success."