Celebrate with Sonoma County's grape growers, winemakers, and chefs at the inimitable Sonoma Wine Country Weekend, slated for Labor Day weekend, Sept. 2-4, 2016. Get tickets here.
Winemakers, chefs, and food producers will ply their respective crafts at events throughout Sonoma County, creating an intimate and direct connection with guests that is offered at no other wine event.
The big events of the weekend include Friday night's "Sonoma Starlight" at Francis Ford Coppola Winery; Saturday's "Taste of Sonoma" at MacMurray Estate Vineyards; and the "Sonoma Harvest Wine Auction" on Sunday at Chateau St. Jean Winery. The weekend's "menu" also includes a winemaker lunch series, winery barbecues, and winemaker dinner parties throughout the region.
Saturday's Taste of Sonoma party at MacMurray Estate Vineyards in Healdsburg attracts culinary enthusiasts from all over the world. Tickets typically sell out, so if you’re interested in attending this California Wine Country extravaganza, it's best to plan ahead.
The event caters to 2,500 guests with the opulence of more than 200 wineries and 60 of Sonoma County’s top chefs. And these aren’t just nibbles – it’s easy to make a full meal.
At a past festival, the aroma of fresh grilled meat lingered in the air, mixing with the perfume of a luscious Zinfandel served alongside.
“Is this the barbecue everyone has been talking about?” a woman wondered aloud as she approached the table hosted by Sebastopol’s Barbeque Smokehouse Bistro. She snatched up a paper plate of food and bit into the big, meaty rib. “Oh, I think it is,” she said, answering her own question, and scooping up coleslaw into her already full mouth.
Every year, in fact, barbecue is clearly a star, including past dazzlers like lamb burgers, succulent marinated lamb chunks from Joe Pozzi Ranch, and Cabernet-spiced lamb sliders slathered in K-J heirloom tomato jam from Partake by Kendall-Jackson chef Justin Wangler.
With so many top chefs, there is something for everyone, though, all the way through desserts like beautiful fresh peach cake drizzled in buttermilk cream from Dry Creek Peach and Produce, and local lavender and honey French macarons from Moustache Baked Goods.
On the wine side, guests wander the white tents, set up in honor of each wine region—including the Alexander, Dry Creek, Russian River, and Sonoma valleys—sipping and eating all along the way.
Some guests duck into the crowded tents, emerging with plates of food and glasses of wine, then settle onto the emerald green lawns to lazily enjoy. Others are more hardcore.
“I’m going to eat every single thing here,” said one man, his hands already laden with a plate of mocha cream pie from Petaluma Pie Company, and a bowl of marinara topped meatballs from Rustic. His companion laughed. “And then you’ll be in a food coma for the rest of the day,” she said.
Still, as it is every single year after year, one of the longest lines is guaranteed to be for the spicy tuna rolls handed out by chef-owner Ken Tominaga of Rohnert Park’s Hana Japanese Restaurant. He personally rolls each delicate seaweed cone, pausing now and again to take a sip of the Asahi beer he tucks into a bowl of ice next to the fish.
How many rolls has he done over the event history? He doesn’t know, he said, but certainly it is many, many thousands. “And it’s still fun,” he said.
There’s plenty more indulgence to explore throughout the weekend. Sunday's Sonoma Wine Auction at Chateau St. Jean Winery is wonderfully anti-snobby. Show up wearing a tie and chances are someone will cut it off.
This isn’t a staid, highbrow event. Bright colors, happy themes—like the 2013 Pan-Latin Celebration and taste of Brazil; the 2014 From Sonoma to Serengeti; and the 2015 From Sonoma to the World's Fair —entice guests to open their wallets and bid high and often.
Friday night's Sonoma Starlight Supper Club dinner, held at Francis Ford Coppola Winery, sells out as well. A past event saw 500 guests enjoy a poolside party complete with live music and dancing, 35 wineries pouring-a-plenty, and hearty Sonoma County food to tackle the refreshing chill in the air.
Sonoma Wine Country Weekend: What a show, what a weekend, and what a good cause. For the 2015 Sunday auction alone, all previous records were shattered as the gross total for the day rose to $4.5 million. To date, a cumulative total of more than $20 million has been donated directly to Sonoma non-profits that benefit students, children, farm workers, and other people in need.
All hail the chefs and winemakers and volunteers and generous donors, who make Sonoma Wine Country Weekend happen.
Want to feel the vibe of Sonoma Wine Country Weekend? Watch this 10 minute video clip for a taste.
Click here for info and tickets for Sonoma Wine Country Weekend Sept. 2-4, 2016.