SAN FRANCISCO — If your New Year’s resolution is to live life to the fullest all year-long, California has the perfect way to help you get started. The state’s world-renowned wine and food take center stage throughout January during California Restaurant Month, featuring gourmet prix-fixe dinners, wine-pairing specials, celebrity chef events, and exclusive seasonal offerings in more than 30 destinations around the state. With more than 3,600 wineries and 400 specialty agricultural crops, California chefs source fresh ingredients and a diverse selection of delicious wines from their own backyards making the state a magnet for food and wine travelers.
In addition to enjoying California wine flights and pairings at many of these restaurants, wine lovers won’t want to miss the opportunity to visit the places these vintages were grown. Savvy culinary travelers know that winter is a great time to do just that in California’s wine regions, when hotel rates and visitors are at their lowest, and chances to meet winemakers are at their highest. Several wineries with restaurants are participating in California Restaurant Month, as an added incentive to explore the state’s amazing wine and food scene. To help inspire you to pack your bags, Wine Institute recently launched a California Wines Food Tour video, complete with recipes and wine pairing suggestions.
San Francisco Bay Area
If you’re visiting the San Francisco Bay area, you won’t want to miss San Francisco’s Dine About Town, which offers a variety of restaurants featuring special discounts, deals and packages to satisfy your cravings. While in the area, we recommend venturing out to celebrated wine regions such as Napa Valley, or hidden-gem regions such as Livermore Valley.
Napa Valley Restaurant Month, taking place throughout January, offers special menus and pairings that highlight the local wines and artisanal products, as well as enticing “dine-and-stay” lodging packages. Combine an outstanding winery experience with delectable dining at Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch, which is offering a two-course fixed lunch menu including soup and roast beef sandwich for just $19, or special themed three-course menus every Tuesday night for $35. Pair either menu with the winery’s Sauvignon Blanc for $7, a varietal that grows well in the region best known for its Cabernet Sauvignon and other red varietals.
In Livermore Valley, about an hour southeast of San Francisco, Eat Tri-Valley Restaurant Month, focusing on a different city each week, is offering special menus benefitting charities. A sure bet for an amazing wine and food experience is The Restaurant at Wente Vineyards, where Chef Matt Greco created a special prix fixe menu ($22 for two-course lunch or $30 for three-course dinner) using the very best sustainable and organically grown local ingredients from Jan. 14-20. Pair your meal – such as tagliatelle with braised duck or roasted salmon with charred brussels sprouts, sunchoke, blood orange and chestnut — with a variety of wines from this historic estate, the country’s oldest, continuously operated family-owned winery. More than 80 percent of California Chardonnay can be genetically traced to Wente and other vineyards in Livermore Valley.
Santa Barbara County
The Hollywood glamour of Los Angeles spills over into Santa Barbara County 90 minutes north, with many celebrities taking part in the Santa Barbara International Film Festival. The region is pairing films with great wine and food during their Santa Barbara Film Feast, a promotion offering moviegoers exclusive prix fixe menus and tasting flights prior to special premieres, as well as hotel deals for cinephiles. Participating in the program is Wine Cask Restaurant, which is affiliated with the Margerum Wine Company. Grassini Family Vineyards and Winery is also participating, offering up decadent chocolate and wine pairings. Although many varietals and blends are made in the region, Santa Barbara is known for its signature Pinot Noir, immortalized in the film Sideways.
El Dorado County
Over in the Sierra Foothills wine region southwest of Lake Tahoe, the El Dorado Epicurean promotion celebrates the El Dorado County’s local cuisine with dozens of culinary deals, exclusive offers and special discounts on food, wine and lodging Jan. 20-27. As part of the promotion, Fitzpatrick Winery & Lodge, which features wines made from organically grown winegrapes, is offering a complimentary glass of wine when you buy a ploughman’s lunch on Saturday or Sunday. The region is especially known for Old Vine Zinfandel.
Los Angeles County
If you’re in the City of Angels this January, better save your appetite for the DineLA Restaurant Week, LA’s largest county-wide food event of the year, which allows guests to sample specially priced menus in a wide variety of cuisines, dining neighborhoods and restaurants Jan. 21-Feb. 1. While in town, pay homage to fromage during Downtown Long Beach Cheese Week Jan. 21-27, where restaurants create cheese-centric menus from flaming cheese to wine and cheese pairings. Savor a step further by checking out nearly 20 intimate high elevation wineries in nearby Malibu and Ventura. As in many other regions, here you can taste a wide variety of varietals and blends, from rosés to dessert wines.
About 90 minutes southeast of L.A. is Temecula Valley, best known for Italian and Rhône varietals—and the annual Balloon and Wine Festival. Several winery restaurants are featuring special prix fixe and specialty menus as part of Temecula Valley Restaurant Month, such as Creekside Grille at Wilson Creek Winery and Vineyard Rose at South Coast Winery.
For the details about California Restaurant Month, go to http://www.visitcalifornia.com/Restaurant-Month. For the latest scoop on California wines, wineries and wine regions you can check out during your visit this month and beyond, go to https://discovercaliforniawines.com/.
About Wine Institute
Wine Institute is the association of 1,000 California wineries and wine-related businesses dedicated to enhancing the environment for the responsible production, consumption and enjoyment of wine. California’s 3,600 wineries located in regions throughout the state are primarily family businesses that welcome nearly 21 million tourists each year to explore and enjoy the wines, the cuisine and cultural offerings associated with California’s signature industry. September, during California Wine Month, is a great time to visit to experience the annual winegrape harvest first hand. Down to Earth Month, in April, focuses on California vintners and grower’s leadership in sustainable and green practices and commitment to environmental stewardship.