Biggest Wine Event: Taste of Sonoma in Rohnert Park
Taste of Sonoma is all it promises to be: No other event presents quite the number of wineries from across Sonoma County’s many appellations, matched with so many the culinary temptations from restaurants, chefs, and artisan makers. And it’s all in one beautiful location that’s easy to walk a lap or two around, glass in hand (or swaying in wine glass lanyard, if you have the skills), in one sunny afternoon.
This year’s signature Sonoma County wine tasting event takes place on Saturday, September 2, following winemaker lunch events throughout the county on Friday, September 1. Hold those paddles while longer, however: The fund-raising Sonoma County Wine Auction has been moved to September 16. Otherwise, same great event — but returning tasters will want to take note of the event’s new location.
This is the same event that was formerly held at the beloved MacMurray Ranch location near Healdsburg, where actor Fred MacMurray raised prized Angus steers in the 1940s. For the first time in 12 years, Taste of Sonoma has picked up and moved across the county to tonier digs at the Green Music Center at Sonoma State University.
Situated at the foot of the western flank of Sonoma Mountain (which appears as a series of golden, rolling hills in late summer) near the bedroom community of Rohnert Park, Sonoma State was founded in the 1960s. On-campus housing villages here are named for wine regions and varietal wines!
Built in the past decade, the Green Music Center has quickly become one of the premier concert venues north of the Golden Gate, hosting everything from piano recitals, the Santa Rosa Symphony and a roster of world-class performance and music acts. The Green Music Center at Sonoma State University is located in the northeast corner of the California State University campus, and is bordered on two sides by farms and pasture. One advantage of this new location is ample parking — and not necessarily in the dusty fields, like the old venue!
It’s easy to find: from the direction of San Francisco heading north, take the Rohnert Park Expressway exit heading east. The entrance to the event is just before Petaluma Hill Road. Alternately, take the Petaluma Hill Road exit for a more scenic drive to East Cotati Avenue or the Expressway, either of which will lead to the university and the Music Center’s entrances. From the town of Sonoma and points east, follow Highway 121 or 116 to either the 101 freeway or Adobe Road and Petaluma Hill Road.
The heart of the event is a walk-around tasting under big tents, where dozens of wineries, some large and well-known, others perhaps a new discovery, pour their latest vintages. They are grouped by appellation, allowing the Pinot Noir fan or the Cabernet fan to home in on their favored wines.
Aspiring wine geeks have the option to delve deeper with sommelier-hosted wine talks and tours, and three chances to show their tasting skills in the Sommelier Guides’ Blind Tasting Challenge. Can you guess what’s in the glass? Don’t let them fool you with that oak-aged Sauvignon Blanc! Sessions are offered at 12:30 p.m., 1:30 p.m., and 2:30 p.m.
What makes this wine tasting event even tastier is the food: In between wine tasting tables, chefs, restaurants, wine country caterers, and tasty bite creators turn out food samples apace with all the wine pouring. Each sample is paired with the wine from an adjacent winery for optimum taste sensation.
You may even find local breweries pouring IPA. You know the old saw, “It takes a lot of beer to make great wine!”
Lodging Near Taste of Sonoma
See guide to hotels in Sonoma County for more.
Restaurants Near Taste of Sonoma
Still hungry? Some of the best dining in Rohnert Park can be found at the Graton Resort and Casino, west of the 101 freeway on Rohnert Park Expressway, including 630 Park Steakhouse, Tony’s of North Beach and Boathouse Asian Eatery. Vegetarians harboring a fast food craving are in luck in Rohnert Park: it’s the home of Sonoma County’s homegrown natural foods producer Amy’s Kitchen, and their to-date one-and-only drive-through restaurant.
Details: Taste of Sonoma, Saturday, September 2, 12–4pm. Tickets are $180 general admission or $255 for the Club Reserve level, or purchase with Visa Signature for $150 and $225. Green Music Center at Sonoma State University, 1801 East Cotati Avenue, Rohnert Park, CA 94928. 1.866.955.6040.