“The juice of the grape is the liquid quintessence of concentrated sunbeams.
– Thomas Love Peacock, Melincourt; Or Sir Oran Hautton
If anything epitomizes the spirit of Napa Valley, it is arguably the annual grape harvest.
Every year from August through October, the entire region is transformed by the excitement, energy, and urgency of harvest. Not only do many fortunes rise or fall on the success of each harvest, but the future of hundreds of vintners and wineries can hinge on the size and quality of harvest.
As our friends at VisitNapaValley.com so elegantly put it,
“Tending to the grapevines is a year-round process, but this is the time when the vineyards and the wineries bustle with workers racing to pick grapes at their peak ripeness. The entire valley is filled with the wonderful smells of harvest, and you’ll find ideal warm autumn weather.”
And this “ideal warm autumn weather” lends itself to inspired outdoor entertaining opportunities, as well.
Harvest Time is Also Time for Feasting and Festivities in Napa Valley
One of the most exciting features of harvest season in Napa Valley is the sheer number and variety of harvest events that take place each year.
If Napa Valley is best known as being the “original” wine country region of California, it’s also well known for the celebrations and festivities that accompany the annual harvest. Early on, for example, the residents of Calistoga celebrate with an outdoor harvest dinner for the community and visitors known as the Calistoga Harvest Table.
As September moves closer to October, several local wineries host a variety of dinners and celebrations, as does the historic Bale Grist Mill with an event to support Napa Valley State Parks. The 2022 Bale Grist Mill Harvest Dinner and Live Auction will be held to celebrate “176 years as a center of nature and community in beautiful Napa Valley!”
The CIA at Copia is The Culinary Institute of America’s food and beverage center in the heart of Napa. And one of the ways they celebrate the annual harvest is with their 2022 Harvest Celebration Dinner.
As they describe it,
“Experience wine country cuisine the way it should be—fresh, seasonal, simple, and local—with the unique style of seasoned California chef and CIA grad, Dominic Orsini. Join us for a meal in the Chuck Williams Culinary Arts Museum that reflects the bounty of this season’s harvest and, of course, a selection of wines to celebrate.”
In addition, there are several events hosted by various wineries throughout Napa Valley including V. Sauttui, John Anthony, Trefethen Family, Pine Ridge, Conn Creek, Merryvale & Starmont, Frank Family, Bouchaine, and the Napa Valley Wine Academy.
If there is one thing that make Napa Valley a wonderful destination in the fall is the preponderance of harvest activities, festivities, and celebrations almost everywhere.
Celebrating the Harvest with Great Outdoor Entertaining
The fall and harvest time is still a great time for grilling and barbeque feasts outdoors. And as the nights begin to cool and the days mellow, the leaves in the vineyards start their transformation. As the one source describes it,
“Autumn is a magical time in Napa Valley. From showstopping fall foliage to the sweet smell of crushed grapes wafting through the vineyards and the excitement of another successful harvest, there’s a certain electricity in the air. And while California is not necessarily known as a fall color destination, Napa Valley’s wide-open spaces and rows of vineyards turn into a patchwork of autumn brilliance from October-November.”
Communal dining is an age-old Napa Valley practice as witnessed by the dozens of events hosted by as many wineries and other groups throughout the region during the late summer and fall. And hosting a large group at your own home can often be a great way to participate in the delightful grape harvest tradition.
While your group may not number in the dozens, any gathering of friends and family for a delicious outdoor dining get-together is sure to be a fun and memorable experience.
Fall in Napa Valley also provides assorted other “harvests” aside from the ubiquitous wine grapes that can be included in your fall harvest fare menu. For example, we have a wide variety of farms and ranches that produce an abundance of items such as meats, cheeses, dairy products, fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, and, of course, craft beers and boutique wines.
And some fruits are partial to the fall.
For example, a local tour company website shared that,
“Around the same time that wineries welcome participants to come and stomp grapes, winemaking teams gather for a different kind of harvest. Winemakers like Douglas Danielak from the legendary Knightsbridge Winery in Calistoga upholds his own tradition of preserving fruit harvested by hand from the winery orchard. Doug recognized many moons ago that when the blackberries are ripe, you know the grapes are soon to come.”
A great addition for fall feasts in your outdoor festivity are cheese boards and charcuterie. And the Napa Valley growers, farmers, ranchers – and local fromagers – provide a cornucopia of ingredients to choose from.
A Great Party Platter Prize with Petite Pumpkins
Many vegetables are stolid autumn regulars including pumpkins and various types of squash. A clever and appetizing take on pumpkin or butternut squash soup is to create edible and festive “bowl” vessels to serve it in. This can be accomplished by roasting mini-pumpkins and carving them into serving bowls.
This easy recipe from Sunset magazine offers a simple method for creating this fun fare:
- 6 mini pumpkins or squash such as Baby Bear, Munchkin, Jack Be Little, Gold Nugget, or Wee-B-Little, 6 to 8 oz. each
- About 2 tsp. olive oil
- Kosher salt and pepper, to taste
- Preheat oven to 400°. If needed, cut a thin slice from bases of pumpkins so they sit flat.
- Set on a rimmed baking sheet, rub with a little oil, then sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Bake until tender when pierced, 40 to 45 minutes.
- Cut off lids about 2 in. wide.
Carefully scrape out seeds with a small spoon, keeping walls and bases intact. If you accidentally get a hole in the pumpkin, line it with a piece of foil.
Cal Mart: Your Source for Napa Valley Harvest Foods and Supplies in Calistoga
Cal Mart has been a family-owned and independent grocery store in Calistoga for more than 50 years and during those five decades we have provided our customers with an enjoyable shopping experience.
And continue that tradition today.
We are proud to be known as “Napa Valley’s Finest Grocery” and we like to think that it is our love for what we do and our commitment to providing exceptional customer service that continue to make Cal Mart a quality shopping experience.
Cal Mart is home to a great delicatessen, a gourmet cheese department, a tantalizing selection of specialty foods items that are unique and hard to find, as well as our extensive craft beer selection.
Of course, we also maintain a broad and varied selection of quality fine wines.
Looking for that special something to give to a friend or loved one this fall? We offer beautiful gift baskets that make for a charming way to give a bottle or two of fine wine. In addition, we have a fresh collection of seasonal flowers and plants for any occasion.
So, during this year’s harvest, we invite you to take a few moments to stop by and explore all that we have to offer. And, while you’re here, please feel free to talk with our friendly and knowledgeable staff.
Of, course, fall is also a great time of year to stop in at our deli and treat yourself to cup of coffee, tea, or a delicious smoothie made with organic ingredients.
Cal Mart in beautiful downtown Calistoga – where you will always find something unexpected, unusual, and uncommon!