After the Harvest: Meet the Winemakers at the Vintners’ Holiday in Yosemite National Park

YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK, California – For the past 30 years, the grand Ahwahnee Hotel on the floor of magnificent Yosemite Valley has hosted the exclusive Vintners’ Holiday event.

Held each autumn after the harvest and during one of the most colorfully dazzling times in Yosemite, this renowned annual get-together of wine lovers is without parallel. It is an opportunity for the devotees of exceptional wines, whether novice or master, to listen, mingle, and talk with the best of California winemakers.

Starting in early November and continuing through early December, wine aficionados can select from eight two and three day sessions and choose from a program involving 33 different and prominent winemakers. Each vintner discusses the latest trends in viticulture, showcases his/her vintages, conducts tastings, and answers questions in four group gatherings per session, all held in the elegant and spacious Ahwahnee Great Hall.

About our session

We attended the 3rd session in November and one of our four seminars was about sparkling wines. Moderated by lively and informed Evan Goldstein, president of Full Circle Wine Solutions, the Mumm Napa presentation was co-chaired by wine expert Rob McNeill from the Mumm Napa winery.

The discussion was enlightening and the audience was delighted with each momentary pause in teaching to lift a glass to savor another delicious sample of sparkling wine – seven in all. In the course of this one-hour seminar, we learned about and tasted Mumm Napa’s 2006 Blanc De Blanc, Brut Prestige, Brut Rose, 2008 Sparkling Pinot Meunier, 2005 Devaux Ranch, and the exquisite 2003 DVX.

Talk to the experts

Each of the eight sessions has four group seminar/tastings similar to the one described above. Each seminar is led by a skilled moderator and an expert winemaker. Both are most willing to teach and discuss the fine points of any participant’s personal opinions and interests in any of the many wines exhibited and savored.

There is also ample time to meet and chat the winemakers at the “Meet the Vintners Reception,” as well as before and during the candlelight five-course gourmet dinner created by Ahwahnee Executive Chef Percy Whatley.

This extravagant affair is lavishly carried out in the capacious Ahwahnee Dining Room – possibly the most enchanting dinner setting anywhere.

During each session of the Vintner’s Holiday, Chef Whatley takes on the challenge of creating courses to complement the wines presented – instead of the usual other way around.

The feast

Our finale Gala Dinner including pairing Mumm Napa DVX, 2001 with King Crab Leg en Gelee, Villa Toscano Winery Estate Pinot Grigio, 2010 with Butternut Squash Risotto, Provenance Vineyards Merlot, 2008 with Rotisserie Cuban Style Pulled Pork and Grilled Pork Belly, and Sbragia Family Vineyards Zinfandel, 2008 with Roasted California Squab Breast. Of course, all the dishes were abetted by a carefully compiled group of delicious accompaniments.

For dessert, we had Chocolate and Guajillo Chile a treat of Dark Chocolate Ganache, Guajillo Gelato, Yogurt Cream, and Balsamico.

What to wear

As elegant as this affair might sound, the creators of the Vintners’ Holiday remembered the environment and surroundings of the rich-rustic Ahwahnee and the special atmosphere reflective of Yosemite’s natural beauty.

For the seminars and tastings, casual dress is la regle. For the Gala Dinner it’s ‘Resort Casual,’ which means collared shirts and long pants for the gents, and dresses, skirts or slacks and blouses for the ladies. Nevertheless, there were a number of guests in more formal dinner attire.

Depending upon when you read this article, there may still be time to take part in this year’s Vintners’ Holiday. The last session is in the first week of December. You can get pricing information and do a quick check of availability by calling 801.559.4903 or visiting

This time of year Yosemite is an amazing place that does not resemble an overcrowded summer park. There is little traffic, no crowds, and the vibe is serene and relaxing. The crisp fall air is invigorating, and the billowing clouds frequently touch the tops of Half Dome and El Capitan adding to camera interest.

If you have not been to Yosemite in the fall or winter, be sure to put it and the Vintners’ Holiday on your bucket list.

Click * here * to see our photo gallery of the Vintners’ Holiday.

Happy travels!

The authors suggest reading their other articles about Yosemite:

The Ideal Setting for the Perfect Wedding

A Yosemite RV Park with Something for Every Level of Camper

Take Your Family to Yosemite – Include the Dog

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