Bucket List: 10 Races for Wine Lovers

Once you finish these events, feel free to open a bottle.

Thursday, June 23, 2016, 12:55 pm
Harvest Stompede race
KATHLEEN SWINEHEART

Inspired by the world-famous Marathon du Medoc, in which runners can sip France’s beloved vins at nearly every mile along the course, wine-centric races have stormed onto racing calendars as of late. It’s no surprise why, with courses that run through stunning landscapes—and, often, the vines themselves—a convivial atmosphere with costumes galore, and, of course, free-flowing wine at the after-parties, many of which are held at vineyards. Here, 10 races that any wine lover should raise a glass to.

1/10 Darren Robinson
Half Corked Marathon 18K

Where: Oliver, British Columbia 
When: May 26-28, 2017
Approximate Number of Finishers: 1,000
Register:  oliverosoyoos.com/halfcorked
Why Run It: Inspired by France’s Marathon du Medoc, the race—which calls itself a marathon but is actually an 18K—winds its way through some of the top vineyards in the Oliver Osoyoos Wine Country, located in British Columbia’s renowned wine region. Up to a dozen wine and refreshment stations sprinkled throughout the course offer clever, wine-centric creations to taste, like wine slushies and sangria. After you cross the finish line, grab a glass and settle in for the real tasting, where you’ll sample the robust reds and full-flavored whites the region is famous for, along with live music and cuisine from local food trucks. Sign up early, as the event has become so popular it uses a lottery system. Don’t plan on a PR, either, as it’s an untimed race.

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2/10 Frank Miller
Fueled by Fine Wine Half Marathon

Where: Dundee, Oregon
When: July 9, 2017
Approximate Number of Finishers: 1,200
Register: fueledbyfinewine.com
Why Run It: You’ll work for your tastings at this one, with a mostly off-road course that winds through the scenic but hilly terrain of the Dundee Hill American Viticultural Area. The course changes every year, but count on testing your quads and lung capacity, as the elevation gain can be as much as 1,000 feet. But the views along the way and the wines at the end are well worth the effort, with 25 Dundee Hill wineries that keep your etched Pinot Noir glass from the swag bag full. Race medals are worth toasting, too: Designed to look like wine labels, their vintage date changes every year. Sign up early, as the event has sold out in recent years.

3/10 Photograph courtesy of Run Wine Country
Water to Wine Half Marathon

Where: Fulton, California
When: August 6, 2017
Approximate Number of Finishers: 1,500
Register: runwinecountry.com
Why Run It: This blazing fast course cruises through the property of three wineries in the heart of Sonoma Wine Country—Kendall Jackson, La Crema, and Saralee—before finishing at the grounds of Kendall Jackson Wine Estate and Gardens, where you’ll celebrate your accomplishment (and maybe a new PR) with local wines and cuisine. A new course introduced in 2015 is almost all road, with two hard-packed dirt sections through actual vineyards. Toast-worthy swag includes a custom race-logo glass, as well as a wine stopper finisher’s medal. Complete all three half marathons in the Run Wine Country series, all in Northern California, and you’ll earn a custom labeled bottle of wine. 

4/10 Photograph courtesy of Idaho Wine Run
Idaho Wine Run

Where: Caldwell, Idaho
When: August 19, 2017
Approximate Number of Finishers: 2,500
Register: idahowinerun.net
Why Run It: Idaho may be better known for its potatoes than its grapes, but its fledgling wine industry still makes a great excuse for a visit. In addition to the half marathon, runners can also pick from a 5K or 10K, all with routes that wind through Idaho wine country in the Snake River Valley. The races kick off at Ste. Chapelle Winery, Idaho’s largest, atop its “Winery Hill,” which boasts views of orchards, vineyards, and the Snake River, as well as moderate hills along the paved course. The races also finish at Ste. Chapelle, with more than 15 local wineries pouring and live music.

5/10 Photograph courtesy of AMCM: de Tienda
Marathon du Medoc

Where: Medoc, France 
When: September 9, 2017
Approximate Number of Finishers: 9,620
Register: marathondumedoc.com
Why Run It: World-class wine and food served at every step along the course, themed costumes—the 2016 theme is “Tales and Legends,” while the 2015 theme was “Dressed to the Nines”—and a boisterous atmosphere overflowing with French joie du vivre: the Medoc is no doubt the gustatory granddaddy of wine-centric races. Now in its 32nd year, it’s grown from a well-kept secret among French running circles into an international shindig, with free-flowing fun along a hilly course that winds along paved roads and gravel driveways through the renowned Bordeaux region and boasts wine and refreshment stops at nearly every mile, including esteemed names like Chateau Lafite Rothschild. But don’t get too tempted by all the wine and culinary treats (steak, cheese, or oysters, anyone?): There’s a 6.5-hour time limit, and plenty of postrace partying at the finish line.

6/10 Kathleen Swineheart
Harvest Stompede

Where: Suttons Bay, Michigan
When: September 9-10, 2017
Approximate Number of Finishers: 650
Register: lpwines.com/harvest/
Why Run It: Get your grape-stomping and guzzling on at this festive seven-mile or 5K race through the rolling hills and vineyards of Michigan’s Leelanau Peninsula. The course starts and ends at Ciccone Vineyard (heads-up, Madonna fans: the winery is owned by her father) and takes runners through rows of plump grapes right before they’re harvested. The finish involves jumping into a large hole full of grapes. Participants can then join the Harvest Stompede Wine Tour, a self-guided outing along the Leelanau Peninsula Wine Trail with stops at 22 wineries for fresh local fare and vino, served in your souvenir glass. 

7/10 A.D. Wheeler
Wineglass Marathon

Where: Corning, New York
When: October 1, 2017
Approximate Number of Finishers: 1,960
Register: wineglassmarathon.com 
Why Run It: Immerse yourself in the pastoral beauty of New York’s Finger Lakes region, learn about its rich glass-making history, and, of course, savor local wines. The scenic course begins in Bath, continuing through the upstate New York countryside at the peak of fall foliage. But many runners also have their sights on a Boston qualifying time, as the flat, fast course has attracted speedsters since it first started in 1982 (in January 2010, Runner’s World readers even voted it the “speediest” marathon). The race wraps up in the historic town center of Corning, world-famous for its dinnerware, where postrace festivities include a special wine tasting for runners at the Rockwell Museum and a “Wine Down” party at the Radisson Hotel Corning. The swag bag also has plenty of local flavor, complete with a wine glass and small bottle of wine from Pleasant Valley, the oldest vineyard estate in the Finger Lakes region.

8/10 Photograph courtesy of Texas Wine Series
Llano Estacado Winery Half Marathon and Vintage 5K

Where: Lubbock, Texas 
When: October 14, 2017
Approximate Number of Finishers: 210
Register: texaswineseries.com
Why Run It: To get a taste of the growing wine industry in Texas (the fifth-largest wine-producing state, to the surprise of many a wine-lover) while helping contribute to charity. As part of the Texas Wine Series, which donates proceeds to local charitable organizations, this is one of the five (and counting) wine runs showcasing Texas wines. Each event offers a 5K and half marathon (some 10Ks are in the works, too), plus a postrace party at the hosting winery. Llano Estacado is Texas’s largest premium winery, with nearly 40 years’ history of production in the High Plains growing region, which produces 80 percent of the state’s grapes. After crossing the finish line, runners can enjoy a flight of wines and catered food at the Food & Wine Festival, which organizers plan to add to other races in the series.

9/10 Photograph courtesy of Destination Races
Healdsburg Wine Country Half Marathon

Where: Healdsburg, California
When: October 28, 2017
Approximate Number of Finishers: 2,500
Register: destinationraces.com/runhb
Why Run It: One of a series of eight half marathons in wine regions across the country, the Healdsburg race showcases the spectacular Sonoma County during fall harvest. Runners dress up for the Halloween theme before taking the starting line at Francis Ford Coppola’s new winery, with the route winding through two of Sonoma’s most revered appellations, Alexander Valley and Dry Creek Valley. Grab a splash of white or red at one of two wineries pouring at mile 8.5 and 10, or wait to toast your finish at the postrace Wine and Music Festival at Trentadue Winery, known for its zinfandels and ports. Not up for a half marathon? The race also features a Hallowine 5K and costume contest. 

10/10 Photograph courtesy of runDisney
Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon

Where: Lake Buena Vista, Florida
When: November 2-5, 2017
Approximate Number of Finishers: 12,000
Register: rundisney.com
Why Run It: For the rare opportunity to dash through three night-lit Disney theme parks, capped off by an all-night party at the finish line. Now in its seventh year, the race, which often sells out, takes runners from the start at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex though Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park and Disney’s Hollywood Studios before finishing at Epcot. Then, it’s time to wine and dine at a private party for runners at the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, a culinary extravaganza that features 25 kiosks with food and wines from all over the world. Half marathoners receive a gift card upon registration that they can use at the party.

Next: 10 Big City Marathons
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