Wine festivals are a great way to immerse oneself in the world of wine—without forking out thousands of dollars on courses or trips to growing regions. In major cities and small towns across the country, festival attendees can taste wines made by producers they’ve never heard of alongside those they know and love.
These affairs come in all shapes and sizes. Larger events may boast thousands of wines to try, while smaller festivals may keep things local and highlight selections from a specific region or made in a particular style. Some of these gatherings include live performances and art installations, whereas others may focus on wine education and feature seminars throughout the day. And then there’s the culinary element—plenty of wine festivals focus on the relationship between food and wine through pairing demonstrations and delicious bites prepared by the country’s most celebrated chefs.
You May Also Like: The Best American Restaurants of 2023 Are Wine Bars
To figure out which ones are most worth the time and money, we spoke to wine professionals about the best American wine festivals to which they return year after year. These picks cover a broad spectrum of gatherings, from events that appeal to novices with additional entertainment elements to those that cater to longtime oenophiles and offer in-depth regional spotlights. Here are the wine festivals to add to your 2024 calendar.
When: March 6-10, 2024
Launched in 2005, the Charleston Wine & Food Festival (CHSWF) in South Carolina has become the “it” festival of the South. What started as a means to celebrate, promote and elevate Charleston’s culinary scene has blossomed into an annual multi-day affair that highlights Southern cooking alongside wines from across the globe.
“The team behind CHSWF does a tremendous job of showcasing the Holy City’s culinary diversity, high-quality local ingredients and reverence for top-notch food and drinks,” says Wanda Mann, a New York City-based wine writer. “From Lowcountry classics to haute cuisine, craft beer to Champagne, the festival covers all the bases, and challenges preconceived notions about southern cuisine.”
It’s also become a hotspot for celebrity chefs who host culinary activations and wine parties during the festival. Still, the main draw is the local talent—the food and beverage professionals who are shaping the culinary future of one of the premier culinary capitals of the U.S. “CHSWF feels like a genuine community event,” says Mann. “The Southern hospitality is the real deal.”
When: March 16-17, 2024
It would take a lifetime to experience all the splendor of Washington State’s food and wine scene. And yet, the folks behind Taste Washington have managed to successfully pack in the best of what the state has to offer all in one weekend.
The main event is a massive grand tasting featuring flights from more than 200 of the state’s wineries. For those seeking a more intimate or educational experience, there are several wine dinners and parties scheduled throughout the festival, as well as seminars and interactive panels hosted by masters of wine, master sommeliers, winemakers, growers and some of the state’s most savvy wine experts.
“It’s a great way to assess and taste the most recent vintage and start getting excited for the start of the new growing season,” says Sarah Timbrook-Nugent, a wholesale account manager for Elliott Bay Distributing in Seattle. “It’s the kind of event that can be as educational or as big of a party as you want.”
When: May 16-19, 2024
“The Healdsburg Wine and Food Experience stands out for me because it’s nestled right in Northern California’s famed wine region,” says Tara Herrick, the chief marketing officer of OMvino in Monterey.
Venues like Aperture Cellars, Rodney Strong Vineyards, Cyrus Creek Vineyards and others provide a beautiful backdrop for the weekend-long festival that shines a light on the farmers, growers, winemakers and chefs who support and sustain Sonoma County’s rich agricultural legacy. Festival-goers can meet, sip and party with some of the region’s most revered winemakers and farmers. Last year, country music stars Maddie and Tae performed. While the festival hasn’t announced an act for 2024, there’s no doubt it will have something fun in store again.
What makes this weekend shindig even more appealing, though, is that it’s also a vehicle for giving back. A portion of the festival’s ticket sales and sponsorships go toward local organizations shaping the region’s farming industry including Future Farmers of America (Healdsburg Chapter) and Farm to Pantry, which helps to ensure the legacy of the area’s agricultural heritage and bolster the community. “It’s a celebration that truly captures the essence of Sonoma’s wine culture,” says Herrick.
When: June 14-16, 2024
Food + Wine Classic Aspen is arguably the most revered culinary festival in the United States. “It’s absolutely worth going,” says Kim Kachmar, the sommelier and content creator behind wine education platform Together With Wine. “The whole city comes alive with pop-up events in different restaurants and bars every night.”
There’s a lot to take in. The event offers more than 40 cooking demos hosted by renowned chefs, beverage seminars (sometimes featuring flights of rare vintage wines) and panel discussions with global leaders of the spirits and wine industries. The main event is the grand tasting, which combines jaw-dropping mountain views with dozens of tents where attendees can find dishes from some of the top restaurants in the U.S. and an impressive selection of beverages.
“The selection of brands in the grand tasting tents are pretty varied,” says Kachmar. “There are plenty of big brands, but also newer ones and a pretty wide selection of spirits too. It was fun to see a few local Colorado wineries there and try something new.”
When: July 2024
“To be able to see and meet so many of the Black professionals and wine enthusiasts who’ve inspired and motivated me to seriously consider working in wine is amazing,” says Michel. “This festival is important not only for the industry, but for Black folks who deserve to be seen in wine.”
It features a cookout, interactive sessions, plenty of parties and food and beverage tastings that includes rare selections. The highlight of the festival is the award ceremony, which celebrates the people of color who tirelessly advocate for economic inclusion and recognition for the underrepresented in wine.
You May Also Like: 8 Unusual Wine Tasting Experiences Around the World
When: August 24, 2024
If you’ve ever wanted to stomp grapes, you’ll get your chance at the Yonah Mountain Vineyards Crush Fest in Cleveland, Georgia. The annual one-day festival showcases some of the best grapes and wines Georgia has to offer and gives attendees a taste of harvest with its annual community barefoot grape stomp.
“It’s a festive afternoon that draws wine aficionados and those who are casually exploring wine [with] live music, food trucks, an artisan market and, of course, the chance to stomp some grapes,” says wine writer and Purchase College professor Amy Beth Wright.
When: October 17-20, 2024
Luxury and wine align at Destination Kohler, the iconic kitchen and bath company’s namesake five-star resort in Wisconsin. “I love that Kohler Food & Wine happens where the iconic brand has manufactured bath fixtures for 150 years,” says Ari Bendersky, the wine writer behind Something Glorious.
“The annual festival usually takes place when the leaves hit peak fall color, creating the most beautiful setting for wandering around the campus.” Faucets and kitchen fixtures aside, the event is both upscale and laid-back, encouraging guests to relax at the nearby spa and enjoy the golf course when they’re not attending demos and dinners with some of the world’s most celebrated chefs. As for the wine, anticipate more than 90 vintages to be poured by around 30 acclaimed wineries like Ken Wright Cellars, Ridge Vineyards, Banfi Wines, M. Chapoutier and Daou Vineyards. “It’s just an overall refined vibe that’s at the same time very comforting,” says Bendersky.
When: November 2024
Karakterre is a wine festival that shows off the organic, biodynamic and natural wines made in Austria and its neighboring countries. This annual festival—which also occurs in the spring in Austria—gives American consumers the chance to try Central and Eastern European grape varieties and wines that are rarely seen in the States.
“As an importer of Austro-Hungarian wines, it seems like heaven exists once a year at the top of 50 Rockefeller Plaza,” says Charles Damanis of Citadella Imports. “Producers come across the pond to pour wines for a mix of industry people like us—hoping they can connect and find a market for their wines—and enthusiasts of cool-climate wines from the region.”
When: November 2024
If you want to experience the best of the West Coast, there’s no better experience than the San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival. Producers from all over California come out to share their bottles with guests. These impressive selections are obviously a draw, but there’s a lot more to do than taste wine.
“I remember a whiskey brand converted a Port-o-Potty into a secret entrance to a hidden speakeasy one year,” recalls Devin Parr, wine consultant and co-founder of The Vintner Project and wine community platform Grapeloop. “Food is plentiful. There are lots of exciting demos and brand activations and cool regions like Baja and Temecula Valley are represented. All that with a SoCal, sun-kissed breezy vibe. I just love it.”
Published: November 30, 2023