8 Novel Wine Country Holiday Party Ideas

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Anyone can book a private room or event space with an open bar. Why not do something different this time, something your group will truly never forget? Maybe you’d like to cook a meal together at the uber cool new cooking club, Kitchen Collective. Or stage a moving dinner party on the Napa Valley Wine Train.

Added bonus: our local businesses need our support more than ever following the wildfires, and a great way to help is to think Wine Country as you plan your next holiday party, corporate team building or special occasion get-together.

We’ve rounded up eight of the most out of the box Wine Country options we could find for group events and activities. Many of these businesses have already given back to their affected communities, and this is a chance to thank them right back. Plus, your event is guaranteed to be fun, educational, memorable, and before you ask, yes, booze is usually included.

All Aboard the Wine Train

Dining Car of the Napa Valley Wine Train

The famed Napa Valley Wine Train generously offered a free meal and ride on their Gourmet Express Train to first responders, fire fighters, all branches of law enforcement and public agencies who were directly involved in the fire relief efforts (with a guest) through the end of the November.

If you haven’t yet done this quintessential Napa Valley experience, your group can charter either one 20th century railcar or a whole train for you party or event (special group rates available for 33 or more). Enjoy the gorgeous Napa Valley scenery as the antique train chugs along in style from Napa to St. Helena, and dine on a multi-course gourmet meal along the way. You can also book a variety of tours for both day and night, from wine trips that stop at some of Napa Valley’s most iconic wineries—like Charles Krug, Robert Mondavi and Castello di Amorosa—to murder mystery dinner journeys. Make sure you check out the Champagne Vista Dome car, which offers the best views by far.

1275 McKinstry St, Napa, CA 94559, Tel (800) 427-4124

Get Wild and Go On a Safari

Giraffe at Safari West near Santa Rosa

This was one of the most heartwarming stories to come out of the California Wildfires. The 77-year-old Safari West owner Peter Lang stayed behind when everyone else evacuated and managed to save all 1,000 animals. Starting November 20, they are hoping to be back up and running, so this is the perfect time to visit.

Dubbed the “Sonoma Serengeti,” Safari West has a 400-acre savanna of animals — 90 species that range from wildebeest, rhinos and big cats, to giraffes, elephants and zebras. Small groups (up to 12 max, prices vary) can book a private, wild adventure in an open-air vehicle. We suggest looking into the cleverly-named Winos & Rhinos, Brews & Buffalo, or the Cheetahs & Chardonnay tours. Another option is to schedule a twilight dinner to enjoy right in “the bush.” Don’t worry—you’re not the dinner.

3115 Porter Creek Rd, Santa Rosa, CA 95404, Tel (707) 579-2551

Blend Your Own Wine

Conn Creek Barrel Blending

What’s a better party favor than a bottle of wine you blended yourself? Bring a group together (up to 30) to play winemaker for the day at Conn Creek Winery. Their Barrel Blending Experience ($125 per person) is a fantastic opportunity to learn about how wines are blended together and their nuances in taste coming from different regions. Participants get to sit down with beakers and eye droppers to make their own custom blend, then hand cork the bottle, design their own label and take it home to drink during their next celebration. Or, here’s an idea: Get the group back together after the holidays for a blind tasting and find out who did the best job.

8711 Silverado Trail, St. Helena, CA 94574, Tel (707) 963-9100

Craft Your Own Cocktails

Cocktails and Spoonbar in Healdsburg, CA

Sometimes a little friendly competition is a good thing, especially when everyone wins with a buzz at the end. Engage up to 20 of your team members in a make-your-own-cocktail competition (90 minutes and $55 per person, plus a $500 event fee) at Healdsburg’s libation hot spot, SpoonBar. Hosted in the restaurant’s Green Room lounge, you’ll select your main choice of spirit (rum, tequila, vodka, whiskey, pisco, or mescal), and with guidance from a mixologist, each participant will combine fresh, seasonal ingredients and a variety of mix flavors, liqueurs and other spirits to create their own signature cocktail.

219 Healdsburg Ave, Healdsburg, CA 95448, Tel (707) 433-7222

Take a Cooking Class

CIA Copia Cooking Class Ingredients

In place of their scheduled Oktoberfest on October 14, the CIA at Copia invited the local community to stop by for a free day of food, drink and wifi. As a result, they collected almost $12,000 to donate to the Napa Valley Community Foundation Disaster Relief Fund.

Both California campuses for The Culinary Institute of America—Downtown Napa’s CIA at Copia and St. Helena’s Greystone—offer private cooking classes for groups, ranging in size from small and intimate, to up to 150 people. Take a crash course in making pasta, cheese and even eclairs from scratch, learn the ins and outs of cooking with wine, or sharpen your knife skills (get it?). The kitchen is your oyster, as you can choose any theme you’d like.

CIA at Copia: 500 1st St, Napa, CA 94559, Tel (707) 967-2500
CIA at Greystone: 2555 Main St, St. Helena, CA 94574, Tel (707) 967-1100

Eat Your Way Through a Foodie Farm Tour

Beekeeping at Heidrun Meadery

Some of the best meat, produce and cheese that wine country has to offer is sourced from the beautiful Point Reyes, which we think of as honorary Wine Country. West Marin Food & Farm Tours offers the chance to embark on the ultimate foodie tour, by visiting the area’s top local, organic and sustainable farms. They have multiple tour options, like the Cheese Lovers Tour and the Taste of Point Reyes Culinary Tour. The Team Building Tour (up to 40 guests, available Monday-Friday, starting at $195 per person) is the great way to sample a little bit of everything. Though it can be tailored for each group, an afternoon may consist of a tour with wine and honey tasting at Heidrun Meadery, a shucking lesson and oyster tasting at Hog Island Oyster Company, and then a cheese tasting and private farm-to-table dinner at Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company. The experience even includes transportation to and from the office.

80 4th St, Point Reyes Station, CA 94956, Tel (415) 599-9222

Get Your Hands Dirty During a Day on the Farm

Goat at Toluma Farms

Sometimes, it’s important to put the phone down, roll up your sleeves, and get your hands dirty with some old-fashioned hard work. This can all be accomplished at Toluma Farms, located just outside of Tomales, and not to worry, you won’t be required to shovel cow dung or anything like that. Book a private group tour (minimum eight people, $40 per person), and learn all about the goat/sheep dairy farm and creamery. Visit the milking parlor—and maybe even give those udders a test drive—visit with the animals, hike the pastures and enjoy a cheese tasting in the creamery. Want to extend your stay? Rent out their 4,000 sq. ft. Farm House through Airbnb. It sleeps up to 14, has gorgeous views of the farm from all windows, and is the perfect chance to unplug from our tech-driven lives, if only for a few days.

5636-, 5798 Middle Rd, Tomales, CA 94971, Tel 707-878-2142

Hang Out at the First Cooking Club in the U.S.

Cooking class at Kitchen Collective

Kitchen Collective—it’s like a country club, but cooler and for foodies—has brought the innovative cooking club concept from Europe to Napa. They graciously opened up their doors to a group of first responders from Kansas City, treating them to a well-deserved meal after they worked eight straight days to save our wine country. Here’s a chance to thank them for giving back.

While it’s usually exclusive to members, you can rent out rooms for an event (prices vary based on space rented), which then gives you access to their state-of-the-art kitchen and professional team of chefs. How it works: Pick a cuisine, anything from Italian to Korean Barbecue, and your group can get down and dirty in the kitchen, working together to prepare a meal with the guidance of a chef. Then, without having to do any of the cleanup, everyone sits down to dig in and enjoy!

1650 Soscol Ave, Napa, CA 94559, (707) 690-9381


— More Group Event Ideas in Sonoma and Marin

Party in Napa Valley


Author

Jess Lander

Jess Lander is a freelance wine, food and travel writer based in Napa Valley and exploring all things California wine country. Follow her on Instagram at @willwrite4wine to get Napa and Sonoma #travelinspo.

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