This summer wine-related activities are popping up everywhere. Concerts, courses, tastings, festivals and auctions top a list of vintner-sponsored events that add a rich dimension to the pleasures of the grape. Here are a few:
At Saratoga, Paul Masson Winery renews its annual music festival with a varied and distinguished list of artists in 90 mid-summer performances beginning today and ending Sept. 20.
Commencing with Ray Charles today through Sunday, the concerts are held at the historic Paul Masson Mountain Vineyard. Held in three parts, the series features "Music at the Vineyards" (classical music); "Vintage Sounds" (concerts by folk, jazz and pop musicians), and the Valley Shakespeare Festival. A color brochure is available by writing to Paul Masson's Summer Series, P.O. Box 2279, Saratoga, Calif. 95070. Net proceeds will benefit the local chapter of United Way. Each function will include complimentary wine and free parking.
On July 26 Sonoma Cutrer will host an international croquet championship and weeklong series of activities to benefit children affected by Down's syndrome. For information, write to Sonoma Cutrer Winery, 4401 Slusser Road, Windsor, Calif. 95492; (707) 528-1181.
California's most successful charity wine sale, the Napa Valley Wine Auction, is set for June 18 through June 20 at Meadow Wood Resort Hotel in St. Helena. Many tasting and seminar winery events are scheduled by the wineries, in addition to the sale of old, rare and yet-to-be-bottled wines, donated by the Napa Valley's Vintners Assn. This is as close as the Napa Valley gets to a wine festival. For a list of hospitality events and auction reservations, write to the Napa Valley Wine Auction, P.O. Box 141, St. Helena, Calif. 94574; (707) 963-5246.
UC Davis' University Extension will offer a variety of one-day wine courses, including "The Taste of Spoilage" July 17; "Topics in Wine Production--Late Harvest Dessert Wine" July 18; "The Taste of the Barrel" July 24; "Successful Home Wine Making" Aug. 1, and "Step by Step Wine Making" from Aug. 15 to 22. To enroll, or for more information, write to Wine Making Courses, University Extension, University of California, Davis, Calif. 95616; (916) 752-0880.
For touring, take a detour from San Francisco and head for Livermore, to visit Concannon Vineyards and Wente Brothers Winery. A new restaurant overlooking the vineyards has been created at Wente. Also, the historical Cresta Blanca Winery building has been restored as a new Wente tasting room, gift shop and hospitality center. For restaurant reservations, call (415) 447-3696.
50 Wineries Near San Jose
Those visiting San Jose should take into account that 50 wineries still produce wines within the area, including Jay Lohr and Mirassou. For a complete list of Santa Clara County wineries and festival events, write to the San Jose Convention and Visitors Bureau, P.O. Box 6299, San Jose, Calif. 95150-6299; (408) 295-9600.
Those with more time can visit Germany's 11 wine-producing regions in conjunction with classes and seminars at the German Wine Academy at Kloster Eberbach, a 12th-Century monastery. Classes are conducted in English. Write to the German Wine Information Bureau, 79 Madison Ave., New York, N.Y. 10016; (213) 213-7000.
On July 25 and 26, Maui's Kapalua Wine Festival will feature a variety of tastings, including 16 heralded California Cabernets, seminars, wine-food pairing dinners and luncheons. Write to Eric Hansen, Kapalua Bay Hotel, Maui, Hawaii.
On Aug. 13 through 16, Sonoma County Wineries Assn. will host its annual wine showcase and charity auction, featuring seminars, wine tasting, vineyard visits and an auction program with a bidders' pre-tasting of more than 200 quality select lots of wine. Write Sonoma County Wineries Assn., 50 Mark West Springs Road, Santa Rosa, Calif. 95401.
Closer to home and scheduled for Aug. 14 to 16 in Avila Beach is the 1987 KCBX Benefit Wine Auction Classic and Tasting. This open house features wineries from Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties. Featuring barrel tastings and receptions, the auction will be held on Aug. 15 by J. Brian Cole, managing director and president of Christie's East Gallery, New York. After the auction, chef Dean Fearing of the Mansion on Turtle Creek in Dallas will prepare a five-course vintage dinner preceded by a Champagne extravaganza in the indoor atrium and ballroom of the Park Suite Hotel in San Luis Obispo. All proceeds benefit KCBX. As a wine auction festival-type event, this is one of the best because local wineries have the time and the attitude for leisurely, in-depth tastings. It is the best time to become acquainted with wineries that will soon have national reputations the equal of Napa and Sonoma. Write to KCBX Wine Auction, 4100 Vachell Lane, San Luis Obispo, Calif. 93401; (805) 546-WINE.
For even closer to home leisurely wine sipping, the Hollywood Bowl 1987 Summer Festival Concert Series is a must. Picnicking with food and wine under the stars while listening to the world's finest classical music, seems to make wine taste better. The classical music series featuring the Los Angeles Philharmonic begins on July 7 with an all-Beethoven concert with Alfred Brendel at the piano. For information, contact Hollywood Bowl, P.O. Box 1286, Los Angeles, 90078; (213) 850-2020.
For stay-at-homes, write to your favorite wineries and ask when vintners will be in the Los Angeles area for tasting seminars and dinners. Most wineries are staging these events at a host of local restaurants.