Most people typically do not try to visit wineries in the winter. Other seasons are more action-packed, to include the budding season of spring, the growing season of the summer, and the harvesting season of the fall. However, people can visit in the winter.
There are still very important activities which happen during the winter at a winery, which keep them open and running. Specific benefits like smaller crowds and cheaper hotel rooms provide benefits which might make people consider going this time of the year. The winter season provides a unique opportunity for people to see the winery in a different light.
What Do Wineries Do During The Winter?
Wineries definitely are not as active during the winter as they are during the rest of the year. In the spring, the vines begin budding, and workers must spend time pruning and shaping the new shoots.
In the summer, the vines are fully grown, and workers must continuously maintain the health of the plants. And finally, the fall months are spent harvesting the grapes. Compared to these seasons, it may seem like winter would be relatively quiet in a winery.
That being said, there are several important activities which take place during this time of the year. Wine is typically stored in oak barrels, meaning some of the wine will leave the barrel while it is being aged. Workers at the winery will need to periodically refill the barrels with more wine to ensure that the barrels remain full.
Also, it is important for workers to continue to taste the wine to monitor their aging and progress. Vineyards will have a chance to fix much of the equipment in the fields, such as posts and wires, and will also be able to till the soil, etc. They will also be doing various administrative tasks such as planning and conducting financial/budgeting operations.
There are a few benefits specifically with visiting wineries in the winter. First, there will be fewer crowds at these locations, which could make the experience a lot more pleasant for many people.
It can also be much cheaper to visit at this time of year. Airplane tickets to a wine-rich area may be much cheaper. Hotels immediately surrounding the vineyard will probably have rooms at much lower rates.
There are other additional benefits to visiting during the winter. For vineyards in hot climates, winter might be the best time to visit. These include places such as European vineyards around the Mediterranean (in Italy, Southern France, Greece, and Spain), Australia, and California.
It may be too hot for some visitors to come at other times of the year. For people who are thinking of visiting wine making areas further South (or further North in the Southern Hemisphere) and at lower altitudes, it may be wise to potentially consider visiting in the winter.
Other Activities Happening in the Area
Wine Making areas may have various other activities which are still open in the winter. Visiting off season can allow tourists to enjoy these non-wine related activities as much as the vineyard itself.
The location may even have festivals or other events which specifically happen only in the winter. People thinking about visiting a wine region may consider researching the area to see if there are any fun activities which are happening in the wintertime.
What is it like in the winter?
A winery can look very different in the winter, compared to the other seasons. The grape vines will be dormant and bare of any grapes or leaves. Depending on where it is located, the vineyard could be covered in snow.
On the other hand, winter could be a great opportunity to see certain cover crops. For example, in Napa Valley, there is a flowering of the wild mustard, used as a cover crop, which occurs during the winter.
Will The Wineries and Vineyards Be Open?
Although a few wineries and vineyards may be closed to the public during the winter, a surprising number of them will be open for visitors. The safest bet would be to call the winery before visiting to make sure that it is open for visitors. Many wine making areas will even provide special winter-specific passport programs for visiting multiple local wineries.
Case Study: Bordeaux
The Bordeaux region, the largest wine making region of France, has many activities which are amazing to do in the winter. For example, the Pyrenees mountains have several ski resorts, and are only 2.5-3 hours away by car from Bordeaux. Bordeaux also has an annual art festival called TrenteTrente, which celebrates upcoming artists in the region. This festival takes place in January.
The Bordeaux rock festival also takes place in January. If someone is visiting France in the winter and is interested in being in the general vicinity of Bordeaux for these various reasons, it may be a good idea to at least consider visiting the wineries in the area to complement the trip.
Case Study: Napa Valley
There are various amazing things to do in Napa Valley during the winter months. As previously mentioned, In December, the wild mustard plants which act as cover crops bloom within the vineyards. This causes the vineyards to be completely carpeted in a field of yellow flowers.
Adding onto the amazing visuals, the winter rains often create rainbows to appear in Napa Valley in the winter months. The Calistoga Inn has an annual “Pauper’s Feast” during the winter, which allows visitors to enjoy an affordable meal and live music. Various events occur in the winter in Napa Valley, to include the Holiday Tractor Parade in December, as well as the Napa Lighted Art Festival in January.
Case Study: La Rioja
La Rioja is the largest wine making region in Spain, which is itself the third largest wine producing region in the world. Like Bordeaux, it is a quick 2-2.5 hour drive away from the ski resorts in the Pyrenees. Various events occur in nearby Bilbao in the winter, to include the Fair of the Black Truffle, where truffles are bought and sold.
La Rioja is also a 3.5 hour drive from Madrid, which is full of activities in winter. This includes the Naviluz, or Christmas Bus, which drives tourists around to show people the different Christmas themed sights to see in the city.
The City also has a famous 10K race, known as the San Silvestre Vallecana, which takes place on Christmas Eve every year. As these examples show, there are winter specific events which a visit to a winery in La Rioja would be a good compliment to.
Winter initially may not seem like a fun time to visit a vineyard, compared to other times of the year. In the spring, the vines and cover crops come into action, signaling a time of rebirth and growth. During the summer, the plants are growing in full swing and fruits are growing as well. The fall is an action-packed time, as this is the time when many wines are harvested.
Compared to these seasons, watching bare vines in the dead winter may seem like a boring experience. However, there are several great benefits to visiting in the winter. There are still various activities which happen at a winery during the winter months, to include topping wine barrels and tasting the different wines.
Wineries tend to be much emptier in the winter and hotel rooms tend to be cheaper, meaning it can be a much more convenient experience for many people to go through. Many wineries are still open – although you should call a winery first before visiting, it is safe to assume a large percentage of the wineries in a region will be open for visitors.