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Crush Time: Best Harvest Celebrations at Sonoma County Wineries

Impressions of Sonoma County: Fall colors and grape harvest.

The grapes are hanging heavy on the vine all across Sonoma County, but not for long. Harvest is under way, and soon, the meticulously trellised plants will be stripped clean, so that their luscious fruit can be carefully, artfully made into wine.

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Whether you’re a longtime local or a first-time visitor, the excitement in the air is palpable. This is one of the best times to plan a winery visit, to witness the hustle and bustle of sorting, stemming, crushing and the beginning of a long fermentation.

You have to get up pretty early in the morning (say, 3 a.m.) to see the actual picking, since fine wine grapes are at their best when cold. But local wineries offer a taste of the adventure, some of them so in-depth you might feel that you’re part of the winemaking team.

Harvest Festival at Landmark Vineyards, Oct. 5, 2013

One of the delights of this lovely 20-acre estate in the foothills of the Mayacamas mountains is the horse-drawn wagon rides that give you a sneak peek into the wine process.

The ride rolls along for about 15 minutes, passing right past the crush pad, with the driver narrating all along the way and explaining everything from the estate grape varieties, to trellising, to how his Belgian draft horses starred for the hoof-clatter sound effects in George Lucas movies.

For this event, you can be the first to try new wine club releases, enjoy delicious food, play a game of bocce ball, groove to live music, take a through the vineyard, or just kick back and smell the rosés. 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; $25.

Landmark Vineyards, 101 Adobe Canyon Road, Kenwood.

Harvest Celebration at Lambert Bridge Winery, Oct. 5, 2013

The winery is Architectural Digest beautiful, with the tasting room looking through a long wall of wood-framed glass into a barrel room glimmering with votive candles and glowing candlestick chandeliers.

For the harvest party, guests get to go inside the barrel room, and also check out the crush pad, before sitting down to a lavish supper at communal tables on the lawn. It’s posh, with such delights as oyster tasting stations, but also relaxed, attended to by the very well behaved winery dogs.

Lambert Bridge Winery, 4085 W. Dry Creek Rd., Healdsburg, 4 to 7 p.m.; $150.

Lancaster Estate Winery Harvest Celebration, Oct. 12, 2013

It’s the largest party of the year from this sophisticated southern Alexander Valley winery owned by Ted and Nicole Simpkins. The annual harvest celebration runs from noon to 3 p.m. and features delectable food and wine pairings alongside live music.

A particular highlight is the wine cave tour, deep into a labyrinth spanning 9,000 square feet into the heart of No Name Hill.

Lancaster Estate Winery, 15001 Chalk Hill Road, Healdsburg.

Red Car Estate Harvest Celebration, Oct. 13, 2013

Red Car owner Carroll Kemp knows how to throw a party. Formerly a Beverly Hills-based film producer, he has decorated his chic tasting room with antiques, movie-set caliber campy objets d’art, and jewelry necklaces designed by his wife, Pade Vavra, who has made baubles for Charlize Theron and Gwyneth Paltrow.

For this year’s gathering, entertainment will come from the acoustic sounds of Sonoma County musicians, flavor from barrel tastings, and food from chef Tricia Brown’s seasonal small bites. Vavra may break out her signature roller skates, too.

Red Car Estate Winery, 8400 Graton Rd., Sebastopol,11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Please call for reservations 707-829-8500; $20.

Dutton-Goldfield Harvest Party, Oct. 19, 2013

It’s the world-renowned winery’s 15th birthday (well, 15th vintage), so they’re throwing a party. The celebration features new wine releases, food pairings, and an exclusive show by a local jewelry artist. Toast to 2013!

Dutton-Goldfield Winery, 3100 Gravenstein Hwy. North, Sebastopol, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Field Stone Winery & Vineyards’ 3rd Annual Harvest Festival, Oct. 19, 2013

It’s not often that a wine event is family friendly, but at this pretty Alexander Valley property, the little ones are welcome.

Everyone will enjoy a stroll or horse drawn carriage ride through the vineyards, followed by a feast of steakhouse chili and cornbread paired with wines, plus dessert of pumpkin pie. Keep the wee ones entertained with craft sessions like how to make decoupage pumpkins.

Field Stone Winery & Vineyards, 10075 Highway 128, Healdsburg. Please RSVP by Tuesday, Oct. 15, at 707-433-7266; noon to 3 p.m.; $10; kids up to age 12 free.

Tyler Wines / Bacigalupi Vineyards Fall Release Party, Oct. 19, 2013

Chili with wine? You got it, at this chili bar stocked with all the fixin’s and prepared by KR Catering, winner of the Petaluma Chili Cook-off “People’s Choice Award for Best Chili.” There’s also a grape-stomping competition, with messy feet and juice a-flyin’. 4375 Westside Rd., Healdsburg, 707-473-0115, johntylerwines.com. Please RSVP, 1 to 4 p.m.; $25.

Quivira Winery Figs & Pigs Festival, Oct.19, 2013

For this the first-ever harvest ceremony, the organic and biodynamic winery pulls out the stops. Celebrate harvest with a glass of Zinfandel paired with dishes such as barrel stave smoked Berkshire pork loin or Wine Country campanelle pasta.

Watch barrels be built and toasted by a local cooper, then mosey on for small bites from estate gardens — and the estate’s own fig tree ice cream (one of the trees is 135 years old how cool is that). Next up is an Ol’ Fashioned Grape Stomp, a local artisans market, and live music.

Quivira Winery, 4900 W. Dry Creek Rd., Healdsburg, RSVP required: 707-431-8354, noon to 4 p.m.; $50.

Harvest Dinner at Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards, Oct. 20, 2013

Go behind-the-scenes on a tour with winemaker Steven Urberg, including a food and wine pairing featuring a very special library selection.

Then, tuck into a seasonal harvest-inspired and wine paired supper, followed by live music, sabering demonstrations and, if you dare, sampling Pinot Noir from a Spanish porrón (it looks like a wine bottle crossed with a watering can).

Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards, 23555 Arnold Dr., Sonoma, 6:30 to 10 p.m.; $150.

Harvest Festival at Robledo Family Winery, Oct. 26, 2013

It’s hard to get more authentic than a grape-stomp competition, and here you have it, rounded out with an official blessing of the grapes and olives. The party includes live Mariachi music, an Aztec dance performance, and the official release of the family’s 2011 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon.

Robledo Family Winery, 21901 Bonness Rd., Sonoma Noon to 4 p.m.; $65.

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