Not all food and wine festivals are created equal. The inspiration for wine festivals stemmed from celebrating the harvest of grapes – and we can trace the origin of these celebrations back to the Greek god of the grape harvest, Dionysus. But over time, they have evolved in various ways in different places all across the country. While some continue to celebrate in the fall, around the traditional time of harvest, others have started hosting in different seasons. While some focus on unique, regional wines, others have expanded to include an international portfolio of varieties. Many benefit tourism, while others have developed a partnership with a charity they donate all or most of the proceeds to. Some have music; others provide impressive menus. All of them offer a good time in their own way.
To give you a taste of some of our favorites, we’ve gathered a list of some of the best food and wine festivals in locations all across the country and at all times of the year. After all, celebrating a good glass of wine is always in season.
Fall Wine Festivals
Given the harvest theme, fall is naturally a favorite time of year for wine festivals – from grape harvests to grape stomping and, of course, wine tasting – it’s the busiest time of year for wineries. As the air gets cooler and crisper, and the fall foliage begins to show, it’s a perfect time to make a trip to a couple of our favorite wine festivals. Our picks for this part of the year span all the way from the West Coast to the East Coast.
- Wine & Spirits Top 100
If you’re looking for wine connoisseurs, certainly they’re among the staff at Wine & Spirits Magazine. So it’s no surprise that their exclusive Wine and Spirit’s Top 100 event makes our list of best wine festivals. Throughout the year, critics on staff blind-taste over 15,000 bottles of wine and then select 100 of the best wineries to be featured at this annual event in San Francisco. Wineries are required to present their highest-rate wine at the event, so as a guest, you’re sure to be served the best of the best – sometimes poured by the winemakers themselves. As if that wasn’t impressive enough, it doesn’t stop with good wine. Acclaimed chefs from San Francisco are also onsite serving their signature specialties, often including fresh oysters, local cheeses and other artisan specialties – making this an event both wine lovers and foodies won’t want to miss.
As a bonus, this wine festival teams up with groups that work to protect water resources to raise money and awareness, so you can feel extra good about spending money on a ticket. This year, proceeds from this event benefit San Francisco Baykeeper, an organization that advocates to stop pollution in the San Francisco Bay. As Wine & Spirits points out, wine is 80% water, so water purity and conversation is an issue that should be near and dear to a wine drinker’s heart.
- Epcot® International Food & Wine Festival
Epcot may make you think of a place you go primarily for the kids, but their food and wine festival proves they have something for the whole family. This Disney Park is known for taking families around the world to 11 country pavilions in a day – its food and wine festival takes it up a notch and adds food and drinks from an additional twelve countries and regions. Celebrate with a grand tasting event, specialty pairing or a wine seminar. The best part? The fact that this event is family-friendly. There are a wide variety of kid-friendly food options, so your children have the opportunity to indulge, too – in a different way, of course.
In addition to sampling cuisine and drinks from around the world, this is one of the longest wine and food festivals – lasting an entire 75 days from the end of August into November, so you have plenty of time to buy your tickets and plan your trip. Big name TV chefs and culinary icons make the trip to Disney to teach you their cooking and baking tips live – some of the big names include Alex Guarnaschelli, Cat Cora, Buddy Valastro, Shaun O’Neale and Carla Hall. You’ll also enjoy jamming to live music as big names are also a part of the festival’s Eat to the Beat concert series – among the acts this year are Boyz II Men and Sugar Ray.
- New York City Wine and Food Festival
Known as NYCWFF, the New York City Wine and Food Festival is the largest in New York City with more than 50,000 attendees – not surprising when you consider that Food Network, Cooking Channel and Coca-Cola are behind this event. This event has a lot of bragging rights, but the best part is that 100% of the net proceeds from this event benefit Food Bank for New York City and the No Kid Hungry® campaign.
While you’re supporting this worthy cause, you’ll have the opportunity to taste the creations from over 100 wineries and spirit producers in settings that range from intimate dinners to a signature Grand Tasting. You can even bring the kids to this food and wine festival, as it also features family-friendly activities. At this event, you’ll get to rub elbows with over 500 famous chefs, wine and spirit producers, pop culture icons and, of course, your favorite Food Network and Cooking Channel celebrities. Not only that, but you’ll be able to party at some of New York City’s best venues, including Food Network and Cooking Channel’s Culinary Campus at Piers 92 and 94.
- San Diego Bay Wine and Food Festival
Travel and Leisure names San Diego one of “America’s Best Cities for Foodies.” Pair that with California vineyards, and you have an epicurean experience like no other. Over 150 wineries, breweries and spirit purveyors and 60 of the city’s best restaurants come together to throw a West Coast celebration that’s tough to beat. Over 10,000 wine lovers and foodies make the trip from all across the country to be a part of this wine and food festival. With eight days of events, there is something for everyone. From chef’s battling to make the best fish taco to seminars on the coastal qualities of SLO Wine Country, you won’t be disappointed.
Traveling on a budget? You’ll be happy to know they have a category of events that are budget friendly at $85 and under. If you’re just going for the wine, you can purchase the wine lovers package to make sure you hit all of the wine highlights. Haven’t been to San Diego before? You might want to check out the “experience San Diego” package so you can enjoy your glass of wine with some sightseeing. Neither of those sound like something you’re interested in? Don’t worry; there are other packages available that just might fit what you’re looking for.
Winter Wine Festivals
Winter is a great time to trade in your crisp, fruity wines for a textured wine. But thanks to our winter wine festivals, you won’t have to put away your warm weather favorites or bundle up for these wine and food festivals – instead, pack your bags and head south.
- Naples Winter Wine Festival
The Naples Winter Wine Festival makes our list of best wine festivals because it’s a combination of great wine and a great cause. Held during a weekend in January, this event began in 2001 and has raised over $161 million for at-risk and underprivileged children through the Naples Children and Education Foundation (NCEF). While wine and food are front and center for attendees, it’s truly all for the kids. In fact, the entire weekend kicks off with a day dedicated to meeting the children and organizations the festival’s proceeds have helped – including a lunch break with acclaimed vintners.
Then you’ll dive right into a weekend full of events, including exclusive dinners with award-winning chefs and celebrated vintners in different locations throughout Naples, a live auction with a selection of some of the world’s finest and rarest wines, and a “wine down” with live music by Grammy-winning musicians. Attendees fly in from all over the world for this event, so if you want to make the guest list, you’ll have to plan ahead. Wine and charity sure are a winning pair!
- Charleston Wine and Food Festival
This South Carolina festival started 13 years ago and attracts almost 20,000 food and wine enthusiasts from across the country. In these four days, you’ll get to taste the best wines, barbecue and tacos – all using the traditional Lowcountry ingredients. With over 100 events on the schedule, they have a variety of food and wine experiences to offer. Wine lunches and traditional tastings are a part of the lineup, but they also have a few unique sessions, like one called “Unicorn Wines” that claims to offer once in a lifetime tasting experiences. In addition to all of the wine-focused events, there are several events for foodies. Acclaimed chefs, artists and experts teach hands-on classes with all different themes and cuisine focuses so that you can develop your very own culinary skills. Signature dinners and brunches combine food and wine, and the culinary village at the heart of the festival gives you the opportunity to pair your wine with a little retail therapy. The only difficult part is choosing which events to attend.
- Key West Food and Wine Festival
If you live somewhere with cold winters, escape to the islands at the southernmost tip of Florida for a five-day wine and food festival you’ll never forget. This particular festival is all about celebrating the islands. Over 3000 people make their way to the Keys each year to enjoy wine and food with breathtaking views. These Floridians are passionate about hosting the event – iconic island locations team up to offer waterfront tastings, winemaker and chef collaborations and other “funky events” that give guests an authentic taste of Key West. A few of these fun activities include cooking dishes with Francesca, exploring tropical gardens, watching a beautiful sunset, eating Bahama Brunch, being a part of an “Old Town Shrimp Boil,” and going on an Italian cooking adventure. What a great way to escape winter and celebrate wine and food!
Spring Wine Festivals
Wine and spring fever are a perfect pair! As the days begin to get longer and the weather starts to get warmer, spring is a great time to celebrate food and wine.
- Paso Robles Wine Festival
We’re sure you’ve heard of Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley, but situated farther south, in between San Francisco and Los Angeles, you’ll find Paso Robles, the largest and most diverse wine region in all of California. Home to more than 200 wineries and 40,000 vineyard acres that grow more than 40 wine grape varietals, this is an area that is completely focused on premium wine production. From Blaufrankisch to Zinfandel, the wines are sophisticated, so you’re sure to find some of your favorite classics, but also some new non-traditional blends you might just fall in love with. Held downtown in a city park, more than 70 wineries gather for the “Grand Tasting.” From there, you can make your way beyond the park to wine seminars, BBQs, winemaker dinners, live music and more.
- Nantucket Wine & Food Festival
Every May for five days, this little island throws a big food and wine party. Nantucketeers have been hosting the event for 22 years, and have over 60 events – and that’s not including the individual restaurants on Nantucket that join in the fun and host their own events simultaneously. Rather than buying one ticket to the festival, tickets are sold individually for each event – and last year, they all sold out, so keep your eye on their website to make sure you don’t miss out on reserving your spot to your favorite event.
Among a few of the features that make this stand out from other wine and food festivals:
- The Junior Top Chef Competition for a grand prize of a $5,000 culinary scholarship
- The Great Wines and Grand Houses events that feature dinner and drinks in elegant, historic Nantucket homes with distinguished winemakers and chefs
- Individual tasting events for wines from through the United States and around the world
You’ll also find a hub of activity in the culinary tent. Taste food, watch cooking demonstrations and shop – you’re sure to see some of your favorite local, regional and national chefs, as well as some famous wine critics and authors.
- New Orleans Wine and Food Experience
One of the premier events in the Big Easy, the New Orleans Wine and Food Experience has become an attraction for wine lovers, foodies and artists across the country. Over the course of the weekend, you’ll have the opportunity to choose from over 1,000 wines from around the world. Seminar series will help you refine your palate, and the gala provides a memorable grand finale. But the real highlight of the festival is the Royal Street Stroll – an authentic New Orleans experience.
Think of this as your opportunity to be in a New Orleans Mardi Gras parade celebrating wine. Wine-themed costumes are encouraged as participants are led by the Krewe of Cork, a world-famous wine industry phenomenon, and winemakers as Grand Marshals. You’ll be able to walk in the parade, shop the galleries of Royal Street, drink your favorite wines and taste the local cuisine – all while listening to live jazz music. It truly is the quintessential New Orleans experience captured in a wine and food festival.
This particular celebration has been happening for over 25 years – and in that time, it has raised more than $1.2 million for local nonprofit organizations. Each year they announce the partnering organizations, so you have the opportunity to know which organization you helped with the purchase of your ticket. Where else can you parade around the French Quarter, drinking wine, indulging in the local cuisine and supporting a good cause?
Summer Wine Festivals
The best food and wine festivals happen in the summer sun when you can explore exciting outdoor venues, sip on a chilled glass of wine and take advantage of the extra daylight hours. Whether you want to celebrate in Colorado or in the Finger Lakes region of New York, you can’t go wrong with a summer celebration of wine.
- Food & Wine Classic
Celebrity chefs, renowned wine experts and epicurean insiders gather in Aspen, Colorado each year for the Food & Wine Classic. Recognized as “America’s Hottest Festival,” this event is in a class all its own. It features over 80 cooking demonstrations and wine seminars in addition to over 300 wines and luxury lifestyle brands. The 5,000 attendees from around the world are at the epicenter of the food and wine world as they sample food and wine and get introduced to some of the industry’s newest products. What more would you expect from a company that is known as the ultimate authority on the best of what’s new in food and drink?
Simultaneously, the Restaurant Trade Program by American Express provides a unique opportunity for hospitality professionals to learn from and network with industry leaders like Anne Burrell and Andrew Zimmern. Panel discussions with the hottest culinary talent about cutting-edge trends give these professionals invaluable insights to enhancing business – it’s one of the best wine and food festivals, with a professional development addition!
- Finger Lakes Wine Festival
The Finger Lakes region of New York is known for wine trails, but why worry about transportation for the trail when you can attend the wine festival they have each summer? Held at Watkins Glen International, an auto race track located at the southern tip of Seneca Lake, this event gives you the perks of traveling a Finger Lakes Wine Trail all in one place. What makes the wines from this region so special? The environment is unique due to the climate created by the lakes and the Limestone-laced soil. These wines have a distinct taste that you can’t find anywhere else – and this event is the largest showcase of wines from New York State. You’ll have the opportunity to try wine from over 80 wineries, plus participate in cooking classes, attend cooking demonstrations and enjoy live music and the work of regional artisans.
Not only do they bring over 80 New York wineries to one central location, but they also have a wine claim check system in place so you can purchase your favorite wine without having to worry about carrying it around or the hassle of making multiple trips to your car. Tickets to this three-day event can be bought on a day-by-day basis, or together. They also have a special discount for attendees that come as designated drivers!
If you can’t make the trip to one of our favorite wine festivals, we can help you stock up on some of your favorites. We have an extensive selection of wines available for you to order online. Our diverse collection includes several different types from regions all over the world at a variety of price points – from under $10 to $50+. Each week we feature discounts in our weekly ad, and we have a section especially for our budget-friendly wine picks, called Great & Under $8. Regardless of what you’re looking for, visit our website to browse our inventory – if you find something you like, it’s easy to order online.