Forget the trinkets. This summer wineries are getting people together to tell stories, show their art and otherwise mingle over meaningful shared experiences.
Jessup Cellars in Yountville is among those leading the charge. In June, the winery kicked off its TasteMaker Speaker Series with chef, author and artist Bob Blumer around an art exhibition called "Surrealism Decanted," a collection of 30 surreal wine glasses and decanters.
They include the "Lungs" decanter (to let the wine breathe) and the "Cloud," which rains into your glass, in addition to Blumer's "Ros?Colored Glasses," a pair of glasses made from the bottoms of two wine bottles.
With an emphasis on whimsical wine-related objets d'art, Blumer's creations are inspired in part by meals he has made for the Salvador Dali Museum. The Airstream trailer he used to promote his cookbook "Off the Eaten Path," nicknamed the ToasterMobile, is inspired by sculptor Claes Oldenburg's soft toaster art installation.
In addition to his cookbooks, including one called "Glutton for Pleasure," Blumer has had three television shows air on the Food Network: "Surreal Gourmet," "Glutton for Punishment" and "World's Weirdest Restaurants."
Blumer's art exhibition will be at Jessup Cellars through July. The August installment of the series is set to focus on the art of fashion, entitled "Defining Wine Country Fashion: The Who, How, When."
It will include a moderated discussion on Thursday, Aug. 15, with Kaye Cloutman of "Gastronomique En Vogue" magazine and fashion stylist Karri Grant. They will talk about designers who have been influenced by Wine Country, how that has taken form and how to dress when visiting here, from tasting tours to spa treatments to fine dining.
But that's not all. The event will also include a fragrance and wine pairing tasting led by Mary Orlin of WineFashionista and winemaker Rob Lloyd, designed to enhance scent memory.
In October, TasteMaker moves on to "The Ancient Art of Fermentation: From Then to the Here and Now," with fermentation revivalist Sandor Katz. His books "The Art of Fermentation" and "Wild Fermentation" have been on the New York Times best-sellers list. Master pickler Alex Hozven of Berkeley's The Cultured Pickle will join Katz in discussion and serve some of her fermented creations paired with Jessup wines.
Jessup's sister winery, Handwritten Wines in St. Helena, is meanwhile hosting a Storytellers Series, inviting one and all to break bread and drink wine with great writers. The series kicked off in May with John Lescroart, a New York Times best-selling author of legal thrillers.
"The Storytellers Series features the literary and visual arts, outstanding food and wines, a fantastic cross-section of cultured humanity and a Napa Valley setting that could be featured in films," said Lescroart. "This is an event to be treasured and preserved."
The winery's general manager, Judd Wallenbrock, concurred.
"Handwritten is all about enriching lives through wine and the literary arts," he said. "What an honor to introduce our literary series with one of the world's top legal thriller novelists."
The winery also is launching a Reading Glasses wine and book club.
If food is your art, consider Seghesio Family Vineyards' Chef's Summer Dinner Series, the second Saturday of July and August, each an extended meal with wine pairings served among the vines of the family's historic properties.
The July 13 meal will take place at Westphall Ranch in the Rockpile appellation, accompanied by Rockpile zinfandels. The Aug. 10 dinner is slated for Rattlesnake Hill at the family's Home Ranch in Alexander Valley, paired with Home Ranch zinfandel, Venom sangiovese and other wines.