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Out in Sonoma … and in the Vineyard!

How about a romantic picnic out in the vineyards?

Called “the source” for all things gay in Sonoma Wine Country, Gary Saperstein invites gay travelers to be Out in the Vineyard — which happens to be the name of the LGBT event and travel company co-founded by Saperstein and partner Mark Vogler.

Sapperstein is not only one of Sonoma County’s biggest cheerleaders, but also one of its pillars. A resident of the town of Sonoma for more than 17 years, the gregarious Saperstein is a fixture on the social scene. Spend a casual afternoon with him in downtown Sonoma and you’ll feel like you’ve met half the town between the flurry of “hellos” and introductions that take place over the course of the excursion.

His Sonoma street cred established, it stands to reason that Sapperstein has also become a social arbiter of sorts with the launch of Out in the Vineyard, which promotes positive LGBT lifestyles and offers exclusive, luxury itineraries and events to gay and lesbian travelers.

Not only does Out in the Vineyard (16926 Evanton Lane, Sonoma, 707-495-9732) create tailor-made tours and events, they also produce a series of annual events for the community, the most popular of which is the annual Gay Wine Weekend.

We chatted with Saperstein about everything from the perfect itinerary for a romantic getaway, to why Sonoma County is so special, and more.

What makes Sonoma County so gay-friendly and, more specifically, what makes it unique especially given its proximity to San Francisco?

Our uniqueness is in our Wine Country lifestyle. Here it is about gathering at each other’s homes for dinner parties or gatherings. Of course, they usually have a theme as we do love our theme parties!

Well who doesn’t love a theme? Since you bring up themes, let’s talk romance. If you had to draw up an itinerary for a couple looking for a romantic getaway in Sonoma County, what five things would absolutely be on it?

  • A drive around the winding roads of Highway 1 overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Stop whenever you can to take in the vistas of our amazing coastline.
  • Osmosis Day Spa in Occidental where you can relax and unwind in their calming cedar enzyme baths.
  • Sonoma Canopy Tours (a zip-line adventure in the redwoods) … for the romantic adventurer. There is something about being strapped into that suit as you soar above the redwoods together.
  • Wine tasting along the roads of Dry Creek and Russian River valleys with the top down on your convertible and Barbra Streisand music on the iPod as you stop at the many small family-owned wineries in the area.
  • There are a number of mountain-top winery tours that are so romantic from Kunde Family Winery (9825 Sonoma Highway 12, Kenwood, 707-833-5501) to B Wise Vineyards (9077 Sonoma Highway, Kenwood, 707-282-9169). Imagine sipping wine while overlooking the vineyards that make up Sonoma Valley.

What’s your best tip for a single gay traveler wanting to connect to or experience the scene in Sonoma County?

The best way to connect with other tourists and especially locals is to have a drink or dine at the bar at the many amazing restaurants we have. For example, the girl & the fig (110 W. Spain St., Sonoma, 707-938-3634) in the town of Sonoma has a fabulous antique bar to sit at for drinks, lunch, or dinner, and is quite the meeting place for all.

Why do you think Gay Wine Weekend is so popular?

Gay Wine Weekend is an annual event bringing together people from all over the country to gather and experience the best of what we have to offer; from winemaker dinners to winery tours to a dance in celebration of Gay Pride Month and a Wine Auction where 100 percent of the proceeds benefit Face to Face, our Sonoma County HIV/AIDS Network.

How did Gay Wine Weekend start?

Gay Wine Weekend grew out of our one-day event, The Twilight T-Dance. After two successful years of holding the T-Dance, we had a vision to grow from a one-day event to a weekend full of events. Eventually, we see it expanding beyond that, to a full week.

What myth, if any, would you like to dispel about Sonoma County?

We are not Napa!

Sonoma has come into its own over the course of the past decade but when I tell people I live in Wine Country, the first word out of their mouth is, “Napa." I have learned to say proudly that I live in the Sonoma Wine Country.

And indeed he should be!

Check our Sonoma County calendar of events for current events.