Summer between the vines

I can already feel it — summer in San Francisco.

Karl the Fog tickles my neck, and I’m walking around The City in a cashmere sweater and a scarf each morning, waiting for the sun to appear. Most nights I feel compelled to sip a hot cup of tea rather than a Russian River pinot noir or crisp chardonnay. Luckily, our microclimate is just that — micro — and sunny, wine-themed escapes overflow just a short drive north, south and east of San Francisco.

From dinner and dancing to star-studded concerts to elbow-rubbing events, here are several reasons to ditch the cashmere and raise a glass to summer in the Bay Area and to Karl, wherever he might be.

Back in 1958, Paul Masson built a concert vineyard at his eponymous winery, setting the stage for what would become the Bay Area’s most famous winery concert series. World-class musicians still make their way there from June to October each year to entertain revelers at the now-named Mountain Winery. This year’s rich array of artists includes Sheryl Crow (Aug. 4-5), Chris Isaak (Aug. 14) and Chicago (Oct. 3), to name just a few. Prices vary by concert and dining option.

Located in the heart of Livermore Valley’s underappreciated wine country, The Concerts at Wente Vineyards draw huge crowds for the warmer summer evening climes with dinner-under-the-stars ticket options and a lineup of showstoppers at the gorgeous vineyard setting. Acts this summer include Steve Martain & The Steep Canyon Rangers (Aug. 19), Peter Frampton and Cheap Trick (Aug. 25) and Smokey Robinson (Sept. 3).

Drop in to the historic cellars of Testarossa Winery in Los Gatos at 1 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays to learn about Testarossa’s winemaking process, the Jensen Family history and how two high-tech professionals turned a weekend hobby into one of the most celebrated wineries in California. A salon-style tasting of five Testarossa wines paired with four artisan cheeses also is part of the love fest, which costs $65 per person. Also: Don’t forget to check out the winery’s Wine Bar 107 and its weekly live music lineup.

Just up U.S. Highway 101 from The City, Francis Ford Coppola Winery invites visitors on select Saturdays (through Sept. 12) for salsa or swing dancing under the stars. Dance lessons in the outdoor performance pavilion are offered from 6-7 p.m. and live music follows until 10 p.m. General admission tickets are $30 per person for salsa and $20 per person for swing, with food and wine. Guests must be 21 and over.

Looking to add a little sparkle to your workout? Head to Domaine Carneros in Napa for intervals and stretching on the grand staircase and drills in the gorgeous gardens at Brut-camp. This custom workout led by certified personal trainers is a rigorous, high-intensity workout for the entire body, followed by a cool-down walk through the estate vineyards and guided tasting of three sparkling wines. By appointment only, Monday-Friday, for groups of six, $175 per person. Reserve at (707) 257-0101, ext. 122.

A new offering at Flowers Vineyards and Winery brings together three of the Bay Area’s favorite sports: kayaking, foraging and wine tasting. The full day “triathlon” begins with a guided kayaking tour on the Pacific Ocean. Next is a picnic lunch with local forager Gerard Nebesky, with whom guests gather local ingredients that will later appear in the third leg of the race — the evening’s menu, a three-course wine-pairing dinner and cooking lesson held at Flowers’ Camp Meeting Ridge vineyard in Sonoma County. Monday-Friday only, April-November, by appointment for groups of six. $500 per person. Reserve at (707) 847-3661.

Meet and mingle with Dutton-Goldfield’s growers, winery team and other members at their inaugural Summer Soirée in Sebastopol from noon to 3 p.m. Aug. 15. The event includes local food, live music and wines at the famous Dutton Ranch. A whole pig from Devil’s Gulch Ranch will be roasted and served along with the vineyard’s pinot noirs. Local Santa Rosa band Da Puna Bruddahs will perform at the event. Tickets are $25 for wine club members and $50 for non-members.

The signature Sonoma Wine Country Weekend, Sept. 4-6, is a top charity wine event benefiting students, children, farmworkers and people in need in the local community. The weekend includes exclusive lunches and dinners with the area’s top chefs and winemakers followed by the Sonoma Harvest Auction on Sept. 6. Tickets range from $85 to $500.

Summer camp for grownups! During the weekend of Sept. 20-22, Sonoma Grape Camp offers a hands-on experience for wine lovers to learn winemaking while enjoying a series of intimate lunches and dinners with local grape growers and winemakers over the course of three days. Rates are $2,000 per person or $3,700 per couple and includes three nights at Vintners Inn, all meals, tastings and transportation during the camp.

Kimberley Lovato has been writing about travel, food and drink for the last 20 years and has never met a happy hour she didn’t like. She writes at

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