HARVEST ON THE WAY: While "back to school" is ruling our minds, store shelves, and budget lists at the moment, the middle of August also sets a number of minds to thinking about something else: harvest. In several spots around the state and beyond, September is synonymous with "The Big Squeeze" or "Stomp Time" or all of that delicious grape squishing (squishing that is done in a very technologically advanced manner, nowadays, and not like Lucy Ricardo did on "I Love Lucy"). It's the time of year when winery traffic sees an uptick, the mellow days of early fall, and the plentiful passport weekends and tasting flower. But even better than a single winery, though, is a wine trail, and area or region that is devoted to the pursuit of lovely libations. Foxen Canyon Wine Trail is one of the prettiest of the Golden State's byways, running from Los Olivos to Santa Maria with a hello to Los Alamos along the way. Ready to wend away a late summer or fall harvest day? Then make for...
Byron: The winery sits "on the eastern edge of the Santa Maria Valley in Santa Barbara County." The wines? Chardonnays and pinot noirs are award-winning and notable. The winemaker recently debuted a new tasting room in Los Olivos, which is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day with later Friday and Saturday hours through October. (Cambria, which is in the same family of wineries at Byron, does have an on-site tasting room at its Foxen Trail location.)
Riverbench: Forty years in the wine-creating business is nothing to sniff at -- wait, sniffing wines is indeed part of the deal, so scratch that -- and Riverbench is going to party it up on Saturday, Aug. 10. A barbecue lunch, some "what's ahead" harvest chitchat, and, of course, vino round out the party.
U.S. & World
Fess Parker: One of the drink-perfecting doyens of the area has a number of to-dos ahead with the coming of harvest, including Summerfess over the Friday, Aug. 16-Sunday, Aug. 18 weekend. A harvest pig roast arrives later in the season, in October.
Koehler: One of the wineries on the southerly end of the trail. We do like a good vineyard-based concert and Koehler is set to deliver on Saturday, Aug. 17. Could you do both the music and a bit of Summerfess, which is just up the trail a bit? You definitely could.