September is harvest season all over California. I believe grape harvest season is the best time to visit wineries because the weather is a bit cooler and the ripe grapes hang beautifully everywhere. Just like in Italy, the early fall is perhaps the most beautiful season to visit when everything comes alive with festivals and celebrations. In California, the famous wine regions of Napa and Sonoma are not the only places to go for fun and festive Grape Stomps, the Temecula Valley is no exception.
To ring in the wine harvest season, several Temecula wineries throw annual grape stomps and early fall festivals for guests and wine-lovers. In ancient times, long before the introduction of sophisticated wine pressing equipment, using feet to stomp grapes was a very efficient and effective way of juicing grapes. While this method has been banned in American wine production for some time, there are still some small European wineries that have carried the torch. Southern Californians do not miss out on these winery traditions as the Temecula Wine Country region continues to expand and create reputable wines.
One of my favorite wineries is Ponte Winery, which I visit several times through the year for its lovely Ponte Inn and farm to table restaurants. Ponte Winery doesn’t merely give guests a chance to mash some small juicy orbs during their annual Grape Stomping Festival, they plan a full-on dinner buffet and day around the event. Last Sunday was their 2016 Grape Stomp event and unlike the Napa region, they catered not just to couples and single adults, but to families with accommodations for children. After all, why wouldn’t a kid want to smash a bunch of grapes with their bare feet!
I love Ponte for their family friendly atmosphere, yet where an adult can relax and enjoy a day of wine tasting. With three different eateries that reflect very different atmospheres, you can pretty much get the best of any feel you like at Ponte. Ponte Winery and Estates offers award winning alfresco dining and focus on fresh, seasonal and local ingredients.
Ponte Inn and Winery Restaurants
The Restaurant at Ponte
The Restaurant at Ponte is a Top-50 restaurant for outdoor dining in the U.S. The al fresco dining area is surrounded by vineyards and beautifully manicured gardens. They are connected to the tasting room where you can enjoy casual American fare, but be aware that they close fairly early.
Over at the Inn you will find more late night options. Bouquet Restaurant offers both indoor and outdoor dining surrounded by manicured Italian gardens, breath taking views of the vineyards and pond.
The Cellar Lounge
Step down to the only full-service bar in the Temecula Wine Country with an alluring and elegant underground lounge. Along with live music and a fun atmosphere The Cellar Lounge features signature cocktails, craft beer, gourmet entrées and small plates. Their sliders are fabulous!