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Giving Thanks in—and for—Wine Country

Ian White | November 12, 2014 | Story Wine and Spirits

November is one of the best months to visit the wine country. The weather is beautiful, tourism is slower, and the hottest events of the year kick into action. Stars from the culinary and wine worlds will be strutting their stuff everywhere from the Napa Valley Film Festival to the Mendocino Mushroom and Beer Festival. Though many wineries are closed on Thanksgiving Day, some great ones stay open and, in either case, holiday specials are starting now. Here are some of our top event picks this November:


The Napa Valley Film Festival (Nov 12-16)
The 4th Annual Napa Valley Film Festival offers the perfect blend of celebrities, chefs, film screenings, and wine tastings. This year, more than 125 independent films and studio sneak previews will be screening in 14 venues throughout Napa, Yountville, St. Helena, and Calistoga. Stars including Kevin Costner, Jeremy Jordan, Michelle Monaghan, and Shailene Woodley will be in attendance. And there will be many more celebrity sightings throughout the weekend to accompany the copious amounts of food, wine, movies, and insider film activities.

Flavor! Napa Valley (Nov 19-23)
Flavor has become the premier annual culinary event in Napa Valley. While most events in the wine country involve food and wine, this event truly focuses on how the two interact, and celebrates the winemakers and chefs. Options range from intimate winemaking and cheesemaking experiences to seminars with cooks such as Masaharu Morimoto. Book quickly as the endless options on the website sell out every year. Also, definitely consider The Appellation Trail, which is perhaps the best single event of the year for tasting the valley’s best wines and culinary treats in one location.

26th Annual Festival of Lights Celebration in Yountville (Nov 28, 2pm-6pm)
This casual event is packed with more locals than tourists, many in Santa suits, and is one of the valley’s most romantic traditions. Walk around quaint downtown Yountville visiting booths with treats from local chefs and winemakers, and wander into tasting rooms, restaurants, and specialty shops. This is an ideal event for the family and to buy high-end gifts related to food and wine. Thinking Thanksgiving dinner in Napa? Book immediately and consider Thanksgiving at étoile, my personal favorite for the serious foodies. There's also Thanksgiving at V. Sattui Winery for those looking for a great time at a beautiful winery.


Sonoma Tastemakers at St. Francis Winery (Saturday, November 15, 1–3pm)
Head to the mission-style tasting room at St. Francis winery for a complimentary wine and food program. Each month, the winery hosts a different Sonoma artisan producer (this time it's Petaluma Pie Company, which will be serving pumpkin pie in honor of Thanksgiving) who shares product samples paired with wines. This way you’ll know just what wine to pair with each slice of pie.

Holidays in Carneros (Nov. 22 and 23, 10 a.m.– 4 p.m.)
A more focused version of the Sonoma Valley Holiday Open House (below), this event features 20 wineries in the Carneros region of the Sonoma and Napa Valleys. Each winery offers unique activities, including food and wine pairings, live music, arts and craft shows, special tastings, and discounts.

31st Annual Heart of Sonoma Valley Holiday Open House (Nov. 28 and 29, 11 am – 4 pm)
If you enjoyed Holidays in Carneros, or are bummed you missed it, then you’ll love this annual event. The open house concept is nice because it allows each winery to show off in its own specialized way; gives visitors access to discover places that are not generally open to the public; and features extra treats and deals. 24 wineries throughout Sonoma Valley participate in this annual celebration, so you’ll want to plan your route in advance if you’ve got specific places you’d like to see.


Mendocino Mushroom, Wine & Beer Festival (November 7-16)
The annual Mushroom, Wine & Beer Festival is a celebration of the more than 3,000 types of mushrooms that grow in Mendocino—and the beers and wines that go with them. Visitors get to sample and pick some of the 500 varieties of edible mushrooms, such as chanterelles, porcinis, morels, and hedgehogs, and even the rare candy cap mushroom. There are quite a few different events featuring mushrooms, winemakers, and brewmasters, including dinners, mushroom exhibits, guided mushroom forays, and mushroom pairings. There is also an open house component for those who would like to visit wineries and breweries.

San Francisco

16th Annual PinotFest (November 22, 3-6pm)
For wine lovers who want to stay in the city, head to Farallon for one of the longest running wine-tasting events in San Francisco. Try more than 60 of Oregon and California’s best Pinots, including Au Bon Climat, Byron, Kosta Browne, Merry Edwards, Patz & Hall, Siduri, Williams Selyem and more. The afternoon also features hors d’oeuvres to complement the wines and an opportunity to meet many of the winemakers.

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