Pro: No crowds, you can often talk with the owners and winemakers.
Con: Weather can be cold and wet. In fact, the occasional flood can really put a damper on things. Some smaller wineries may be closed some days as some restaurants may. I've found wines sometimes not tasting their best because the bottles have been opened for a couple days.
|February in Russian River Valley|
Pro: Warm, dry weather. A few more visitors, but not near peak season.
Con: Memorial Weekend crowds in Napa and southern Sonoma.
Pro: This is sort of the "secret" time to visit as crowds are often lower than May and the weather is good.
Con: The occasional heat wave can hit anytime between mid-May and early-Oct. Nothing worse than wine tasting when it's 105!
Pro: First part of the month is still not too crowded. The Fourth is usually not busy as people are BBQing, boating, etc. Some wineries close early on the Fourth.
Con: By mid-July the crowds are out as it's prime vacation season.
|Enjoy a summer afternoon at Domaine Carneros|
Image from sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com
Pro: Harvest begins for sparkling wine and maybe some still wines. The arrival of the first grapes of the season is an exciting time for the wineries.
Con: Vacationers pack the highways in Napa Valley and southern Sonoma County.
Pro: Harvest gets up to speed as you see grapes going up and down the roads and in the production areas of the wineries. A great time to take a winery tour that includes the cellar or crush pad. You can smell the harvest. Also, September is usually some of the nicest weather in the area. It's even warm in San Francisco! Usually. If you want to see the harvest the best time to visit is midweek in late September.
Con: Crowds! Everybody wants to see the harvest in action. Avoid weekends in Napa.
Pro: Harvest is still moving along and the weather is still good. Sonoma County Harvest Fair is the first weekend. Fall color in the vineyards peaks about mid-Oct to mid-Nov.
Con: There are still big crowds, but not as bad as in September though it's still a mess on weekends in Napa.
|October in the vineyards|
Pro: Crowds are gone, but so is the harvest probably. Weather can still be nice. Late Oct to early Nov is a great time to visit.
Con: Weather may also turn cold and wet--you never know.
Pro: Various holiday goings-on at some wineries including light displays and parties.
Con: Weather can be bad.
The weather in Napa and Sonoma:
Shipping wine home:
Heat destroys wine. Be wary of shipping wine from the wineries in the summer. Wineries should be able to hold your wine for a break in the weather to get it to you safely. Ask them to do this.