Winter is coming… and it tends to evoke a variety of feelings from merriment to dread, and depending on where you live the season can be short or seemingly endless. However, winter can actually be an amazing time to travel, explore new regions and seek out unique seasonal experiences.
We’ve recently highlighted the charm to be found throughout the winter season in Europe as well as the romanticism of the many Christmas Markets across the continent, but what if a European vacation isn’t in the cards for this winter? Or perhaps you’re traveling to the United States from elsewhere. Well, Winetraveler has you covered.
10 Winter Wine Festivals
1. Christkindlmarkt – Chicago, Illinois
Yes, the U.S. has Christmas Markets too! In fact, you’ll find four locations between the Chicago and Milwaukee metropolitan areas. The original location lies in the heart of Chicago’s Loop and was inspired by the Christkindlesmarkt in Nuremberg, Germany. In 2016 and 2017, the Christkindlmarket opened two other locations at Naper Settlement (in the burbs) and Gallagher Way in Wrigleyville (Chicago’s North Side), and 2018 marked the inaugural year of the Christkindlmarket Milwaukee at the entertainment plaza outside Fiserv Forum.
Dates: November 16 – December 24, 2018
Food and Drink: You’ll find a large assortment of savory and sweet foods, drinks and candied treats including sausages, potato pancakes, Strudel, Glühwein, German beer, roasted nuts, sweet cakes and pastries.
Cost: Admission is always free with various pricing for food, drink and crafts.
(Winetraveler tip: Reserve a table in advance if visiting the Loop location!)
2. Winter Wine Festival – New Castle, New Hampshire
A month-long celebration of wine and food, the Winter Wine Festival is held in the luxurious comfort of the historic Wentworth by the Sea Hotel. On a tiny island off the coast of New Hampshire, you’ll experience the cuisine of the Wentworth’s culinary team alongside premium wines from vintners around the globe.
Dates: January 18 – February 17, 2019
Food and Drink: Multi-course Grand Vintner’s Dinners, A Big Tasting in the Grand Ballroom, weekday Flight Nights, Shell-Shocked (an oyster event in SALT’s lounge), and lavish Bubbles and Jazz Brunches
Cost: $49 to $269
3. Winter Wineland – Northern Sonoma County, California
Travel from winery-to-winery for two days in sunny California along the Wine Road in Northern Sonoma County to visit participating vendors (last year there were more than 200!). In its 27th year, the Winter Wineland is a great opportunity to meet winemakers, taste limited production wines, new releases and library wines. All participating wineries will highlight a vintage, varietal or vertical tasting. You can even join winemakers for a casual morning breakfast and Q&A before heading out to Winter WINEland.
Dates: January 19 – 20, 2019
Food and Drink: Northern Sonoma County wines, food available for purchase at various wineries
Cost: around $60 (discount for designated drivers)
(Winetraveler tip: This event is only open to those 21 and up, children are not permitted.)
4. St. Paul Winter Carnival – St. Paul, Minnesota
Although not a wine festival, how can you pass up the romanticism of an ice castle and winter carnival that dates back to 1886. In fact, it’s the oldest winter festival in the United States! Events include ice carving, outdoor entertainment, the ice bar, ice throne, Kids’ Day, Family Day, Snowpark at the Fair and many events inside the Landmark Center including the memorabilia display. You can also attend or participate in parades, brunches, a casino night, a symphony, contests and of course, sledding!
Dates: January 24 – February 2, 2019
Food and Drink: Dine on small bites from local restaurants at the casino night, enjoy a brunch with the Past Princess Association and bites and pours from many food and beverage distributors.
Cost: Free – $50
5. Naples Winter Wine Festival – Naples, Florida
The Naples Winter Wine Festival is one of the world’s most prestigious charity wine auctions. Guests enjoy world-class food and wine during intimate dinners in private homes, and are invited to bid on once-in-a-lifetime travel and wine experiences during a live auction. Tickets do not come cheap for this prestigious, and limited-ticket event, which has raised more than $176 million since 2001. Proceeds from the event benefit the Naples Children & Education Foundation, making a profound difference in the lives of hundreds of thousands of children.
Dates: January 25 – January 27, 2019
Food and Drink: Various wines and tasting experiences, meals and events are available and included in the purchase of festival tickets.
Cost: $12,500 to $30,000
(Winetraveler tip: Only 600 tickets are available for purchase and auction items this year include a trip to the 2020 Olympics, a 12-night safari experience in Tanzania, and VIP Red Carpet Access to the 2019 or 2020 Tribeca Film Festival among others.)
6. Taos Winter Wine Fest – Taos, New Mexico
A four-day celebration of food and wine featuring 24 participating local Taos restaurants and 40+ national wineries. Events include Reserve and Grand Tastings, an auction and numerous seminars with noted winemakers from around the globe. Held in the scenic Village of Taos Ski Valley, it’s great for wine travelers and ski lovers!
Dates: January 31 – February 3, 2019
Food and Drink: 24 local restaurants, more than 40 wineries and numerous meals and events
Cost: $95 and up
7. New York Ice Wine & Culinary Festival – Fairport, New York
Located near Rochester, New York and just west of the Finger Lakes Wine Country region, the NY Ice Wine & Culinary Festival is held at Casa Larga Vineyards & Winery. The one-day celebration showcases traditional ice wines made in New York and features ice wine tastings, wine and craft beer tastings, ice wine infused small bites, ice wine seminars, horse drawn wagon rides through the vineyard, local vendors and more.
Date: February 16, 2019
Food and Drink: Ice wine, wine, beer and small bites will be available.
Cost: $65 presale/$75 at the door
8. South Beach Wine & Food Festival – Miami Beach, Florida
The Food Network and Cooking Channel South Beach Wine & Food Festival (SOBEWFF®) is a national, star-studded, five-day destination event showcasing the talents of the world’s most renowned wine and spirits producers, chefs and culinary personalities. The Festival attracts more than 60,000 guests annually to its 90+ events throughout the five-day weekend, which take place at various locations throughout South Florida. All proceeds from the Festival benefit the Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management at Florida International University.
Dates: February 20 – February 24, 2019
Food and Drink: Too many options to name!
Cost: $22 and up (varies by package and event)
9. Long Island Winter Fest – Long Island, New York
Entering its 11th anniversary year, Winterfest highlights the East End in the less-traversed winter season. A four-week, mid-winter music, wine and performing arts festival, Winterfest takes place throughout Long Island’s unique vineyard tasting rooms, legendary theatre’s, breweries, hotels and other historic venues. Guests can drink delicious and rare wines, enjoy local specialties and end the night at one of the East End’s romantic hotels or B&Bs. Featured events include wine and beer tastings, culinary experiences, live music, theatrical performances, art shows and more.
Dates: February 22 – March 24, 2019
Food and Drink: Choose from numerous wine and beer tastings, local restaurant options and culinary experiences.
Cost: Varies (packages available)
10. Jersey Shore Wine Weekend – Spring Lake, New Jersey
Hosted by the Jersey Shore Restaurant Week at the Breakers Hotel, the two-day Wine Weekend features wine luncheons and dinners, tasting seminars and the Grand Tasting where guests taste wines from the major regions of the US, France, Italy, Germany, Spain, Chile, Argentina and more.
Dates: February 23 – February 24, 2019
Food and Drink: Guests can taste wines from Burgundy, Cru Beaujolais, Bordeaux, Montalcino at the various meals and tastings. The Grand Tasting will feature numerous wines, cheeses and charcuterie, pates and passed hors d’ouevres.
Cost: $35 and up
And here’s two bonus Winter Wine Fests for Winetravelers visiting our neighbor to the north:
11. Niagara Icewine Festival – Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada
Details are forthcoming for this event, but you can bet it will celebrate the region’s superior ice wines and 0ffer a taste of winter in wine country.
Dates: January 11 – January 27, 2019
12. Vancouver International Wine Festival – Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
The Vancouver International Wine Festival is Canada’s premier food & wine event and is one of the biggest and oldest wine events in the world. The heart of the festival is the Tasting Room, where guests can choose from more than 750 wines at four International Festival Tastings, and industry professionals can sample those plus an additional 160 wines at two Trade Tastings. There are 45 special events that orbit the tasting room (seminars, vintage tastings, winery dinners, lunches, brunches, wine minglers, and more) at which another 550 other wines are served.
Dates: February 23 – March 3, 2019
Food and Drink: You won’t go hungry or thirsty here!
(Winetraveler tip: Winetraveler execs will be attending! Join us for tastings or find us and say hello.)
Happy winter wine travels!