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'Tis the season for... fall wine festivals

Fall is the time when leaves turn shades of gold and crimson…a season of new beginnings for wine lovers, who can celebrate their favorite drink with new wine releases and a variety of festivals and tastings across the country. The festivals celebrating the harvests started in early September, and stretch late into October and early November.

If you're not a connoisseur, wine tastings are a great way to learn more. And if you're already a wine lover, these events give you a chance to sample new varieties. Not into wine? No problem. Most festivals also feature entertainment, food and a myriad of other activities.

Although two-thirds of the wine made in the U.S. is from California, you can find wine festivals from coast to coast. Washington, Oregon and New York are the biggest wine producing states outside of California. There are even companies that specialize in wine tours. And if you want a little more action, try your hand -er, foot - at grape stomping. Once you've learned a little more about wines, you'll want to know which wines to pair with which foods/ cheeses. The heavier foods of fall call for full-bodied wines:

Red Zinfandel
A deep red wine with bold fruity and spicy flavors, Zinfandel goes well with roasted turkey, cranberry sauce, pastas with tomato-based sauces, lamb, venison, eggplant, prime rib and stew. Pair with harder, saltier cheeses.

American Gewuztraminer
Gewurz is German for "spicy". This full-bodied white wine ranges from very dry and crisp to quite sweet. Its floral and citrus flavors pair with pumpkin pie, turkey with gravy and traditional trimmings, sweet potatoes, and caramel apples. Pair it with Emmental cheese.

Pinot Noir
Depending on age, this lighter red wine can have a hint of berries, plums and cherries or more earthy flavors of wild mushrooms. Pot roast, meat loaf, gumbo, squash and Brussels sprouts are ideal partners for this wine. Pair with your favorite Goat Cheese.

Fall wines should compliment the hearty dishes and many events of the season. You'll be sure to find the perfect wine for everything from Halloween treats to Thanksgiving dinner visiting your local festival.