IF WE COULD ONLY BE A LADYBUG... riding on the inside of a windshield of a car headed to Temecula Valley during the heat of crush. Harvest time in a wine-rich area presents the chance to have many unusual conversations with your wine-loving friends, such as "will you be trying a new wine this year or sticking with your go-to?" or "are you going to buy a case to give away as holiday gifts?" or "who is removing their shoes and stepping inside the barrel to squish grapes?" This last question isn't asked all that often, truth be told, but some wineries love to go the old-school, old-fashioned, old-tried-and-true grape-crushing route, for fun and to give their guests a taste of how wine production has truly changed over the years. South Coast Winery Resort & Spa throws such a squishy day, and we don't need to be a ladybug riding inside any cars to know that the conversation on the way to the winery holds a lot of laughs. In fact, is it impossible to not giggle before, during, and after your first -- or fifty -- inside-the-barrel grape-stomping experience? We say it is impossible. You will laugh, your pals will take a ton of snapshots, and you will retell the moment at a few dozen dinner parties to come.
SUNDAY, SEPT. 20... is the date for the vineyard-set soiree, which also includes the Temecula Valley staple's annual Blessing of the Grapes. It is a moving benediction in a sometimes unpredictable business, a business that relies on the earth and the ever-changeable weather in addition to human smarts. There shall be live tunes, there shall be chefly bites, there shall be face-painting for the wee (or grown-up) revelers, and, yes, there shall be showdowns where grape stompers go heel-to-heel for glory and giggles. Oh yes, a whole lot of juice, which spills out of a spigot attached to the barrel. If this has been a bucket-list-y sort of thing for you, but each fall finds you too busy with the usual into-fall things, well, enough of that: Do it already. You and your friend can laugh all the way up at the prospect, and all the way back home at the stories of what went down. Cost for the winery-winsome day? Fifty five bucks.