Celebrate with Sonoma County's grape growers, winemakers, and chefs at the inimitable Sonoma Wine Country Weekend, which is expanding for 2017: the usually sold-out Taste of Sonoma will be spread out over two days on Labor Day Weekend, Saturday, Sept. 2, and Sunday, Sept. 3, 2017, with the distinctive Sonoma Harvest Wine Auction set for Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017.
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. Tickets go on sale in mid-May 2017. Get tickets here.
First up is the expanded format for the popular Taste of Sonoma, to be held for the first time at the world-class Donald & Maureen Green Music Center on the beautifully landscaped Sonoma State University campus in Rohnert Park.
Taste of Sonoma guests will be able to sample wares from wineries across the county's 17 diverse wine regions, engage in conversation with Sonoma County's winemakers and winegrowers, and nibble locally sourced and exquisitely prepared food served by the county's premier chefs.
At a past Taste of Sonoma 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.
And with wines from every one of Sonoma County's 17 distinct wine regions, it's easy to sip and nibble your way around Taste of Sonoma.
“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.
Next up is the 2017 Sonoma Harvest Wine Auction on Saturday, Sept. 16, at the La Crema Estate at Saralee's Vineyard, a new hub of wine education and culinary exploration located in the heart of Sonoma's Russian River Valley.
This isn’t a staid, highbrow event. Bright colors, happy themes — for 2014, From Sonoma to Serengeti; for 2015, From Sonoma to the World's Fair; and for 2016, From Sonoma to Marrakech — entice guests to open their wallets and bid high and often. Named one of the top three charitable wine auctions by Wine Spectator, the Sonoma Harvest Wine Autcion brings the wine industry, chefs, and guests together to support the local community.
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 County 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.
Get tickets for the Sonoma Wine Country Weekend Sept. 2-3, and Sept. 15, 2017 (tickets available starting in mid-May 2017).