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4 Wineries That Think Outside the Tasting Room

These wine country operations offer concerts, art, workshops and picnics.

Old-fashioned tasting-room hopping can be fun, but these four wineries in Napa and Sonoma supplement the sipping and swirling with complementary activities, from music and classes to photography and wine-cave movies.


Catch Dinner and a Show in this Downtown Napa Venue

City Winery
(©Mitchell Glotzer)

Once sleepy, downtown Napa has seen a renaissance of late, with a crop of new tasting rooms, watering holes, restaurants and now, a new music venue. The revered Napa Valley Opera House has reopened as the West Coast outpost of City Winery (other locations include New York and Chicago), hosting jazz, rock, indie and funk concerts. The place is a feast for the senses, serving fine wine and food to consume along with the live music. The restaurant on the main floor has a river-facing patio, 500-bottle wine list and 30-barrel tap system, and the stairs lead to an intimate concert hall with seating for 300 and state-of-the-art acoustics. 1030 Main St., Napa, 707.260.1600 

Play Winemaker for the Day

Wente Vineyards
(©Wente Vineyards)

Ready to venture beyond the typical tasting routine? Make a trip out to lesser-known Livermore Valley for the new Winemakers Studio at Wente Vineyards, the country’s oldest continuously operating winery. Begin your experience with the interactive Aroma Seminar, complete with fun sniff tests and a colorful take-home chart with handy sensory notes. You’ll also have a chance to test your skills at iPad stations equipped with games and quizzes. Use your newfound knowledge to create your own blend in the Winemakers Lab, where friendly wine masters offer advice. You’ll choose, measure and pour the varietals, insert and seal the cork, stick on the label and sign the bottle with a gold pen. (The only hard part: waiting a couple of months for your bottle to age.) 5565 Tesla Rd., Livermore, 925.456.2385

Get your Rock ‘n’ Roll Fix

(©Graham Nash/San Francisco Art Exchange)
Neil Young (©Graham Nash/San Francisco Art Exchange)

Two-time Rock and Roll Hall of Famer and acclaimed photographer Graham Nash unveiled his latest exhibition at Mumm Napa in September 2014. The world-renowned sparkling wine house known for its property's scenic views and fine art photography gallery has partnered with San Francisco Art Exchange to present “My Life Through My Lens: Photographs by Graham Nash,” on view through May 2015. Nash worked with legends like Buddy Holly and Neil Young during his music career, and this show encapsulates his last 40 years of work and life through photographs. On Sept. 18, the artist himself will make an appearance at the winery. –Jessica Volk 8445 Silverado Trail, Rutherford, 707.967.7700

Find Rustic Glamour in Sonoma

Hamel Family Ranch
(©Bruce Damonte)

Hamel Family Ranch in the Mayacamas Mountains opened its doors summer 2014 with a splash of high-profile parties catered by SF culinary luminary Gary Danko and produced by the city’s designer du jour, Ken Fulk. Operated by two generations of the Hamel family, the ranch covers 124 acres and is located just five miles from the Sonoma Town Square. Its focus is premium small production wines, mainly Bordeaux blends, and the by appointment tastings are limited to small groups, meaning no crowding around the tasting bar waiting for a sip. Tastings can involve barrel samples, library vintages, tours and charcuterie plates. The modern and stylish winery also offers elegant boxed picnics and hosts campfire concerts as well as movies and art installations in its stunning 12,000-square-foot wine cave. 15401 Sonoma Hwy., 707.996.5800.