11 Best Vineyard Crush Experiences in the West

Catch the crush bug at these Western wineries playing host to grape picking parties, stomping competitions, barrel-room dinners, and more

Stephanie Granada
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Sleep among the Vines in Yakima Valley

At first, Alexandria Nicole Cellars’ owners, Ali (a.k.a. Alexandria Nicole, herself) and Jarrod Boyle, intended to only grow grapes and supply vintners. That hustle soon turned into a full-scale winery in when the couple released an inaugural vintage in 2001; but for the Boyles, their 263 acres of vines are still the heart of the operation. In 2015, ANC debuted a set of chic tiny homes in the vineyards, so guests could get closer to the action. Sustainably built, the houses are modern with clever wine touches, like cork flooring, accent walls covered in staves, and wine on tap. Waking up to rows of grapes and the Columbia River is dreamy enough; the wow-factor escalates in the fall, as the team hand-harvests the fruit, filling the air with sweet aromas.
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Stomp Your Heart Out in Oregon

Nearly 1,000 people compete in Oregon’s only official Grape Stomp Championship, where teams of two stomp their hearts out for a chance to be flown to the world finals in Santa Rosa. Some can sneak into the competition last-minute (don’t worry, there’s no previous experience required), but spots tend to sell out, so it’s best to book ahead. Even if you’re not getting your feet dirty, it’s an exciting affair as Willamette Valley Vineyards’ production is still in full swing: Stompers dress in quirky costumes, staff lead free vineyard tours, there’s live music—oh, and admission includes a flight of wine. Cheers to that!
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Eat (and Drink) the Bounty in Sonoma

After 20 years of hosting the community favorite Heirloom Tomato Festival, Kendall-Jackson switched gears in 2017 with a new Harvest Celebration, where all of Sonoma’s plentiful bounty (wine included!) is the star. Top chefs from the area work wonders with the riches through live cooking demos and pairings that match the illustrious winery’s assortment of vinos with farm-fresh goods—served up in KJ’s four-acre culinary garden and throughout the estate. But the party isn’t just about imbibing: There’s an educational component, with wine-blending seminars, truffle hunts, and sessions on pesticide-free home gardening.
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Learn the Ropes in Idaho

Telaya’s in-depth tours are more like winemaking bootcamps. It’s a good place to learn, too. Since opening in 2008, Telaya has quickly grown to become one of the winningest in the state thanks to the couple’s commitment to spreading the word on Idaho wine and fostering community through education. In the summer, the team takes oenophiles out to vineyards to learn about everything from planting to picking. But in the fall, the focus is all on production. You’ll see how the incoming fruit is sorted and destemmed; get the skinny on the winery’s yeasts and fermentation techniques; and obtain a primer on barrel selection. To finish, there’s a family-style dinner with the winemaking staff, and no question is off the table. Keep an eye out for other crash courses, like the vineyard tours, tasting series, and blending workshop.
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Live Like a Winemaker in Napa

For the MacDonnell family, wine doesn’t start and end with the grapes. It’s a whole sustainable lifestyle that involves homegrown meals, exalting nature in ethos and design (those views!), artisan foods—and sharing it all with new friends. On October 13th, Round Pond guests can tag along with winemaker Jaime “JJ” Dowell as he goes from the vineyards to the olive mill to the winery (and, finally!) to the table, during the Winemaker for a Day experience. You’ll see how these folks walk the walk, while sampling the winery’s fab Cabs, Sauv Blancs, and olive oils. Can’t swing it in October? There are plenty of other opportunities to celebrate the season during the Fall Release Party in September and the Olive Harvest Fest in November.
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Gather in a Vineyard at 5,000 Feet

Getting to Cortez, in Southwest Colorado, might be a trek for most, but it’s worth it to score a seat at one of the state’s most dazzling tables. Most of the meat and veggies on the menu for Sutcliffe Vineyards’ Harvest Dinner are raised by John Sutcliffe and his team, and the five courses are served on a communal table that stretches out between rows of vines. Hosted at the beginning of the week (as a play on Sutcliffe’s mom’s long-held assertion that only people of means can eat on a Monday), the event draws 100-plus oenophiles from all over. Though the crew runs transport from neighboring towns like Telluride and Durango, many opt to make a night of it by staying at the historic Canyons of the Ancients Guest Ranch, seven minutes down the road.
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Help out with the Day-to-Day in Washington

Just about any time you visit Lake Chelan’s Hard Row to Hoe during the harvest season—which tends to run from about mid-September with the early-ripening white grapes to mid-October’s red grapes—there’s a chance to get your hands dirty. The husband-and-wife owners welcome the help, whether it be picking the more than 20 grape varieties they grow or manning the punch-down (when you push the red grapes down into the juice as it ferments). “It’s pretty simple work,” says co-founder Don Phelps. “But, people like knowing they had a hand in making the wine.” There’s no promise as to what exactly you’ll be doing; it’s completely dependent on the grapes’ needs, but go in October and you’ll also get up-close with neighboring wineries as the region hosts its annual Lake Chelan Crush fest.
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Put the Kiddos to Work in Denver

Here’s a chance to get on a vineyard without having to venture far from the big city. Balistreri, just 10 minutes from downtown Denver, puts on a kids’ grape stomp during its Harvest Festival that’s every bit as adorable as it sounds. Little ones crush about 8,000 pounds of fruit for the winery’s Little Feet Merlot, and parents can pre-buy the wine, which helps benefit the Children’s Hospital Colorado. Also on deck are wood-fire pizzas, a pig roast, and specials on cases of wine. It’s a win-win on so many fronts.
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Party Like a Vintner in Paso Robles

Paso is known for having a particularly spirited and daring bunch of winemakers, so you better believe the harvest fiestas here are going to be some of the rowdiest around. During the Harvest Wine Weekend in October, you’ll stumble upon more than 100 soirees—from grape stomps to barrel room tastings—at the region’s 200-plus wineries. (Plus, probably another couple dozen that aren’t on the official lineup. After-party at a winemakers’ house anyone?). Have dinner in a wine cave at Eberle Winery, catch live music among the vines at Robert Hall, get down at Opolo’s big ol’ harvest fest, and unwind over a picnic lunch with the owners at Nadeau Family Vintners. And, that’s just to start.
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Barbecue with Winemakers in Napa

A hard day’s work deserves a hearty meal, a cold drink, and good company. And, that’s what’s on tap when you crash a harvest gathering at Tamber Bey, located at Sundance Ranch, where the winery owners also train their Arabian performance horses. The winemaking team opens their doors to a family-style barbecue twice a month. Picture it: You roll into the grand estate with its horse stables, stately live oaks, and rolling vineyards. The winemaker and his crew man the grill, and everyone sips on crisp rosés and other Tamber wines while exchanging vineyard war stories and know-how. Horses are present, too, and Mount Saint Helena sets the ideal backdrop for all your photo ops. All of that, plus food and drink for $50—a fraction of what you’ll pay for most winemaker soirees in Napa.
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Dine in the Vines in British Columbia

Twinkling lights dangle across the vineyards at Quails’ Gate Winery for the Fall Harvest Progressive Dinner. You’ll explore the picturesque grounds, stopping at key spots around the 125-acre estate to sip on library and new wines paired with small bites. Meanwhile, winery staffers share stories of the vinos, tasting tips, and their intimate knowledge of the historic locale.