Want to explore wine around the world? Wine Spectator's monthly guide opens the door, with insider tips, upcoming events and seasonal packages, and once-in-a-lifetime cultural experiences.
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Hitching Post winery will open its first tasting room later this month, in a location adjacent to the Hitching Post II Restaurant. For the past decade, tourists have flocked to this unassuming corner on the outskirts of Buellton in Santa Barbara County for a photo opportunity in front of what has become one of the most popular destinations in the area. Made famous by the film Sideways, this roadside restaurant owned by Frank Ostini and Gray Hartley is also the name for their wine label, which the two started in 1979. At the new tasting room, guests will be able to sample rare single-vineyard bottlings as well as older vintages of Hitching Post wines. It's housed in a restored farmhouse, and deli plates of Hitching Post sliced meats and cheeses will complement tastings. The restaurant plans to offer a takeout and delivery menu to feature at the tasting room and picnic grounds. Also in the works is the Camp HP Burger Bar, a Hitching Post lunch served from an Airstream trailer on the property. Learn more about the winery.
After nearly five decades, Calistoga’s historic Francis House plans to reopen its doors in mid-August as a stately inn. New owners Richard and Dina Dwyer have spent three years restoring the property to its former glory after it closed in the 1960s. The couple is well-suited for the project: Dina is an interior designer and Richard is a real-estate developer based in San Francisco. They repurposed stone from the property to design the front gate and have completely remodeled the interior. Originally built in 1886 by prominent local merchant James Francis, the stone building features French Second Empire architecture, an English-style garden and a restored mansard roof. Stays at the 5-bedroom property, which also features a pool and sauna, start at $495 a night. Check the website for updates.
The Napa Valley Wine Train has launched a new tour, for beer aficionados. On Monday nights, the popular wine-country train becomes the “Hop Train” as the Napa Palisades beer company takes over and offers three local craft brews and food in the open-air cars. The beers include the 1849 Gold Rush Red, the Loco IPA and the crisp Little Loco Session IPA. Tickets start at $75 for the two-hour tour (two beers, food and transportation from San Francisco are included).
Panther Creek winery, founded by vintner Ken Wright in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, has ventured across the state line to open a new tasting room in Woodinville, Wash., about a half-hour’s drive from Seattle. The opening weekend in June included pours of the winery’s single-vineyard Pinot Noirs and special library selections going back as far as 30 years. Offerings include vertical tastings of Pinot Noirs from the Carter, DePonte, Kalita and Schindler vineyards, plus a French Creek Chardonnay; horizontal tastings span from the 2013 to 2016 vintages. Tastings start at $15. Plan your visit.
Ready for the next adventure? Look for these wine travel experiences in July.
Easy livin’ Self-described as the “first porchfest west of the Mississippi,” Napa Porchfest, on July 29, brings local performers to play music on, yes, Napa residents' porches. The community event, which drew approximately 15,000 people last year, is free and largely volunteer-run in support of the Napa County Landmarks nonprofit organization dedicated to historic preservation. Food trucks line neighborhood streets as the music plays, rain or shine. Children, beach chairs and banjos are welcome (but dogs are not). There's no drinking permitted on the streets, but that doesn’t mean you can’t head to one of the wine bars on Main Street any time thirst strikes. Check out the porchfest.
Bathe in wine country “July brings warm weather and late sunsets; it’s an ideal time to experience forest bathing,” says Sharon Rooney, director of public relations at Four Sisters Inns. But it’s not the type of bathing you might be thinking of. Forest bathing, inspired by the Japanese term shinrin-yoku, is a solo or small-group nature retreat that involves using all five senses to take in a variety of outdoor sites—not for exercise, but for restorative and stress-relieving purposes. To add to the peaceful theme, there’s typically no technology allowed.
Intrigued? You’ve got options. Lovers of viticulture should try Red Car winery’s July 28 forest bathing event ($45 per person), which will take place at their Zephyr Farms vineyard. Guests will meditate among Pinot Noir grapevines with a guide that’s both a forest therapy and Sonoma County wine professional. Find out more. Not far away, the Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods is holding a forest bathing in Guerneville, Calif., on July 22 , or contact the Four Sister Inns’ Gaige House + Ryokan in Sonoma Valley to schedule a private walk.
And don’t forget the wine! It completes the tranquil experiences at Red Car and Gaige House + Ryokan. Following the walk at Red Car, guests are led to a hilltop to taste local cheese, fruit and, of course, Pinot Noir, then to the tasting room for more samples. At Gaige House + Ryokan, walk attendees can opt to stay and sip wines at the 5 p.m. “magic hour” that’s open to all guests at the boutique inn.
Sommeliers, unite For the first time in its history, SommCon is making its way to Washington, D.C., July 22–24 at the Westin Georgetown. The conference, tailored to wine professionals and serious enthusiasts, will consist of more than 50 panelists and presenters including Brent Kroll, Andy Myers and Erik Segelbaum.
From educational sessions to networking and tastings, this event has it all for those looking to improve their knowledge on the wine industry. The conference offers an array of sessions to choose from with a variety of different wine topics, including “Building Your Own Personal Brand” and “How to Manage a Successful Restaurant Beverage Program.” Registration is filling up fast.—Kami Knaudt
Alors on danse Rootstock festival returns July 13–15 at Chȃteau de Pommard, an 18th-century estate in Burgundy. The music, wine and food festival will feature preformers Jungle, Breakbot and Keziah Jones, as well as a grand tasting event and more activities.
With the guidance of a sommelier, guests can taste a selection of wines, including the limited-edition Rootstock Cuvée Rosé 2016, while learning about the UNESCO Heritage Site climats of the region. Other activities to choose from include cycling tours, yoga and more. For the full Rootstock experience, stay in the onsite pop-up hotel (accommodations start at $1,450).
The festival will also be awarding the Rootstock Artist Package to select performers, which provides financial support to rising artists. Day passes start at $42.—Kami Knaudt