A Food Gal Contest: Your Chance To Win A Pair of Calistoga’s “Winter in the Wineries Passports”

Bennet Lane Winery is one of the participants in Calistoga's "Winter in the Wineries'' Passport program. (photo courtesy of Visit Calistoga)
Bennet Lane Winery is one of the participants in Calistoga’s “Winter in the Wineries” Passport program. (Photo courtesy of Visit Calistoga)

Psst, in case you didn’t know it, winter is an ideal time to visit Wine Country.

After all, it’s less crowded, and all those twinkling holiday lights adorning streets and winery entrances sure make everything extra festive.

What’s more, you can take advantage of the 14th annual “Winter in the Wineries Passport” program by Visit Calistoga.

The $75-per-person passport lets you receive complimentary wine tastings at 19 participating wineries in Calistoga, Lake County, Pope Valley, and St. Helena, from Dec. 2 to Feb. 4, 2024. That’s more than $750 worth of tastings alone.

Among the wineries involved are: Clif Family Winery and Farm, Clos Pegase, Merryvale Vineyards, and Raymond Vineyards.

Additionally, the passport gives you access to special discounts from participating hotels, spas, and boutiques. It makes for an ideal time for a getaway or to do some holiday shopping for gifts.

Many of the wineries also offer special little treats, tours or other experiences that you don’t get in a regular tasting.

Just remember that advance reservations are advised with most participating wineries, so do plan ahead.

Enjoy a visit and complimentary tasting at Fults Family Vineyard with your passport.
Enjoy a visit and complimentary tasting at Fults Family Vineyard with your passport. (Photo courtesy of Visit Calistoga.)

FOOD GAL CONTEST: One lucky Food Gal reader will win a pair of “Winter in the Wineries Passports,” good for two people to use, and valued at a total of $150.

The contest is open only to those who can make it to the Calistoga area between Dec. 2, 2023 to Feb. 4, 2024, when the passport program is active.

Entries will be accepted until midnight PST Nov. 11. The winner will be announced on this blog on Nov. 13.

How to win?

Just leave a comment on this post, telling me about one of your most memorable times wine-tasting anywhere. Here’s my own answer:

“Years ago, I was visiting the then Niebaum-Coppola Estate Winery, originally the historic Inglenook winery in Rutherford, when I noticed a sudden buzz of activity near the gift shop. It was Francis Ford Coppola, who then owned the winery, casually walking through the premises, as every eye turned immediately to get a look. I had just purchased a bottle of wine, so I thought what a perfect time to have him sign it. I pulled the bottle out of its bag, only to realize the label was entirely black. There was no way any ink, other than a metallic or glow-in-the-dark one would show up on it. I sighed, resigned to the fact that idea was blown. After that, I actually took to carrying a metallic gold pen with me whenever I visited that winery again. But of course, I never ran into Coppola again.”

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  • We visited Sterling Vineyards before the fires & are hoping they reopen soon. Love wine country & wine clubs, too! Love Food Gal reviews that include both food & wine pairings!

  • Here is my entry into the contest to win a couple of passports for “winter in the wineries.” Thank you.

    My lovely wife and I met at U.C. Davis in 1969. One our favorite springtime outings was a short trip over the hill, past Lake Berryessa, to the Napa Valley. The first stop, both by geography and by our preference, was the Nichelini Family Winery.

    Typically, we were greeted by an elderly man wearing a week’s stubble, almost-clean work clothes, and a smile. We presumed him to be the owner and referred to him as “old man Nichelini” because, despite his appearance, he was always the only other person around.

    He’d welcome us into a rough wooden shed right off the highway, overlooking the hillside, and grab us a couple of wine glasses from a window ledge. He’d typically clean them out with a blow, to remove any residual dust or debris, and then pour each of us a large helping of red wine. He had a wonderful ability to make us feel welcome, put us at ease, make us feel that we were in the company of a friend. We sipped and enjoyed the wine and the surroundings. Great memories of simpler times, which we still share 50+ years later!

  • One of my most memorable wine tastings was taking my beautiful daughter to Napa for her 21st birthday. Her birthday that year fell on a Saturday, so we knew it had to be extra special. She didn’t want to go to Las Vegas with the girls. Nope. She chose to hang out with ME, and I was over the moon! We made it a fun girls’ getaway filled with shopping, great meals, winery tours, and more. It’s one of those “Mom moments” that I will never forget. On her actual birthday day, I surprised her with a fantastic wine and food paring, and I picked the winery because its name started with the letter “B” my daughter’s first initial. I still smile when the memories come up on my social media or I think back about that fun weekend. One day, your child is in the stroller, taking in the world around her, and smiling at passersby, and the next she’s making memories with you and sampling what the great and picturesque Napa area has to offer.

  • Years ago we enjoyed wine tasting around the area of Los Olivos, CA. Stopped in at Fess Parker’s winery for their delicious Cabernets. Then we got to see some of his famous Texas longhorn cattle – such an unforgettable experience!

  • One of my favorite days was about six months after I had my daughter, and some of my other new-mom friends and I brought our babies with us to a few family friendly wineries. Since we were all new at this, we were nervous about having babies out at wineries, but we went for it, and had the best time! It was a gorgeous fall day, and we visited Larson, Scribe and Gun Bun. Everywhere we went, we met the nicest people, and we had so much fun taking pictures in the vineyards that were changing color. I always look back on that day fondly!

  • Patricia Robertson

    One of our most memorable visits was to Wilson Winery in the Dry Creek Valley near Healdsburg. It was opening day for the Tasting Room. We became wine club members that day, I think. We always feel like we’re coming home when we visit. Now, of course, they are Wilson Artisan Wineries. They bought several other favorites of ours including Mazzocco and Pezzi-King. Now we have several wineries to visit.

  • So many great memories, it’s hard to choose.. we have travelled to Italy multiple times and usually gravitate to wine regions rather than touristy cities. The small villages in the Verona area (Cavallo, Fumane, etc) are great.
    We have been members at many wineries in Napa, the standouts were Provenance, Biale, Beaulieu and Domain Carneros. Tasting ToKalon at Provenance with the winemaker has to be a highlight. We were so attached to Napa, we got married at the Harvest Inn in 2014. I would have to say that trip stands out.

  • So many great memories! Hard to choose just one. But I would say visiting Clos Apalta in Santiago, Chile’s Colchagua Valley with some wine snob friends over a decade ago was absolutely memorable. Clos Apalta is a 100% organic vineyard and the facilities/grounds are as stunning as they are impressive – vertical build so the water is reused as it naturally trickles downward, functions as a natural cellar, alpacas roaming about…! The owners are actually French (and used to own Gran Marnier before selling to Campari). I believe they were instrumental in introducing France’s Carmenere grape into South America as well. Winetasting in the region is less “sip-and-go” — you are encouraged to take a deep dive tour of the facility and stay on for a winemakers lunch. We may or may not have tried to snooker extra tastings of the reserved wine. I may or may not have dozed off in bliss during the lunch (!). Awesome experience all around! Oh, and the wines were great, too 🙂

  • Wow, your memory is hard to top, Carolyn! My most memorable wine-tasting experiences was very local at a small wine/cheese shop in San Jose. I went to try Innovatus wines by Cecil Park, the first Korean-American female winemaker and viticulturist in Napa. Not only was the wine AMAZING, it was so clear how much passion Cecil has for her craft and as a Korean-American myself, I felt such pride in seeing representation in the wine world and extra special that it was a woman to do it!

  • As staff of a men’s club deep in Russian River’s oldest grove I had the privilege of chatting with Robert Mondavi’s sons while he rested on the clinic’s couch, wishing I could bend his ear, but giving him the peace he regularly sought on walks (no motorized vehicles within the grove). A quiet giant.

  • I went to the first Vintners Holiday in Yosemite. Got the meet on heat talks from Robert Mondavi, and the owner wine maket from Duckhorn. We switched the Chef’s holiday and have going almost every year until COVID. That’s where we first saw Carolyn.

  • The year that Singlethread opened (in Healdsburg), before it had garnered any stars. We went for my partner’s birthday, and had the most spectacular dining experience, and indulged in the wine tasting. The highlight was a chenin blanc from an upstart winery, Pax Mahle. Pax Mahle is just down the road in Sebastapol, so we went the next day. We tasted literally everything they had over the course of the afternoon, and it was amazing. No pretension, just amazing wines (their Syrahs are truly special). We signed up for their wine club that day. We’ve joined & quit plenty of wine clubs over the years, but Pax Mahle continues to be our favorite.

  • Hi Janet: Ah, I miss Chefs’ Holidays, too. What a great event that was. Fingers crossed that one day, Yosemite will revive that wonderful wintertime event.

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