California Wineries Are Pulling out All the Stops with Unique Tasting Experiences
Shuffleboard, falcons, sabres, oh my! We’ve got our eye on these unique wine tasting experiences in California.
You know what pairs well with a Mac DeMarco jam session? A glass of gewürztraminer.
At least that’s what the organizers behind Huichica Music Festival are banking on, as they prepare to host their 11th annual event this fall. Northern California-based producer (((folkYEAH!))) will set up three stages for the likes of singer-songwriter DeMarco, indie rock band Yo La Tengo, and more Oct. 15-16 at Gundlach Bundschu Winery, a Sonoma estate that’s grown gewürztraminer for decades.
“Sure, we managed to pull off a secret show with Metallica in 2020, but have been eagerly awaiting the return of our beloved Huichica Music Festival,” Jeff Bundschu, festival co-founder and Gundlach Bundschu president, said in a press release. “Huichica has always been about sharing intimate experiences around music, wine, and community—and we’re thrilled to bring live music back to the winery once again.”
Single-day tickets are on sale this week, or you can grab two-day passes to make it a full weekend. It’s just one example of how California wineries are pulling out all the stops to offer unique experiences that take tasting to new heights. Ever wanted to pair your vino with a side of crowd-surfing? (Kidding, sort of.)
There are myriad options to enjoy wine in new ways ahead of harvest season, from art in Napa to sports in Sonoma. A flight over vineyards? Check. Meet-and-greet with falcons? Check. A game of shuffleboard? Got that, too.
While some wine tasting experiences offer an intimate encounter for a handful of people, others can be shared among a larger group. Be sure to check with each venue ahead of your trip to confirm availability as well as any details or guidelines that may have changed.
Here are some of the unique wine tasting experiences we’ve got our eye on, from low-key pairings to a sky-high adrenaline rush:
Cruise high above Napa Valley during this 20-minute open cockpit flight in a Boeing PT-17 Stearman before heading to Brasswood to sip Aileron Estates sauvignon blanc and cabernet sauvignon. As her schedule permits, estate founder Shannon O’Shaughnessy greets guests at the hangar or private tasting room. $650 per person, two-week minimum advance booking required.
Gaggle of Fun
Meet the falcons that mitigate damage from birds and rodents at Bouchaine’s Napa Valley vineyards before a glass of wine. Kate Marden, a master falconer with West Coast Falconry, leads the demonstrations for both small groups and private events. $75 per person.
Cliff Lede Vineyards hosts wine tastings in its private art gallery (among other experiences), where guests can take in rotating exhibitions. Currently up: the work of Tom Everhart, who puts a neon spin on Charles Schulz’s iconic “Peanuts” characters. $90 per person.
Learn to Saber
At Napa’s Domaine Carneros, you can make an appointment to learn the “history, legend and technique” of sabrage, aka the art of lopping off the top of a wine bottle with a saber. It includes a demonstration and a flight of four estate sparkling wines paired with cheese, meats, and caviar from local artisans. You must be over the age of 21 to attend. $150 per person, $120 for members.
Abbot’s Passage Winery and Mercantile launched a Shuffleboard Social Club where guests can rent a court among the Sonoma Valley vineyards accompanied by a seasonal grazing board and a bottle of wine. $250 for two hours; $200 for members of Abbot’s wine club.