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Cheese, Food and Wine Festivals in Sonoma This Spring

It’s one of the world’s favorite spring season pastimes: eating and drinking, and celebrating excellent food and wine. Sonoma County is one of the best places in the world to do it, too, since we grow and make our own, from meats, produce, seafood, grapes, artisanal breads and cheeses. Spring Break is a great time to visit Wine Country, too, with so many activities geared to fun. So ready your appetite, rev your spirits, and join us for these celebrations.

VinOlivo Weekend: Ticket to Sonoma Valley, Feb. 26-Feb. 28, 2016

More than 60 wineries and 20 top restaurateurs come together for an epicurean celebration of Sonoma Valley bounty. The thrill starts with the Grand Tasting on Friday evening (Feb. 26), then continue on Saturday and Sunday when some 40 wineries host open houses featuring exclusive VinOlivio offers and experiences. Evenings evolve in to intimate winemaker dinners, and throughout, there’s even more to explore with the online auction tempting with special winery and vacation experiences, and, of course, plenty of world-class Sonoma Valley wines. Details.

Eighth Street Wineries Annual Open House, Feb. 27, 2016

From noon to 4 p.m., this collective of six premium wineries near downtown Sonoma offers the rare opportunity to peek behind the scenes of their boutique operations. The names are some of the most coveted, including Tin Barn, Enkidu, Ty Caton, Patz & Hall, Talisman, and Stone Edge Farm. Details.

Taste of Healdsburg at Jordan Winery, Feb. 27, 2016

The event runs from 1 to 4 p.m., and it’s action packed with 11 leading Healdsburg chefs hosting a sumptuous feast showcasing sustainable food including locally raised meats, locally grown produce and ocean-friendly seafood. The elegant strolling reception delights with cooking demonstrations in the barrel room, tastes of Jordan's award-winning sustainable wines, and the opportunity to meet some of Healdsburg's most talented culinary leaders, while learning how to eat and drink well while protecting the earth. Jordan Winery.

37th Annual Barrel Tasting on the Wine Road, Mar. 4-6 & Mar. 11-13, 2016
Northern Sonoma County boasts more than 100 wineries, many of which come together each year to throw the spectacular Barrel Tasting gatherings over two beautiful spring weekends. From 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day, it’s an open house party where you can sample wines from the barrel, talk to the winemakers, and explore the beautiful Alexander, Dry Creek and Russian River Valleys.

Part of the fun is your chance to purchase "futures." That means you taste the barrel samples, find your favorites, and purchase wine now, often at a discount. When the wine is finished and bottled, typically 12-18 months later, you get the first shipments. Many wines are so limited that buying futures is your only chance to get them.

While there’s plenty of fun to be had, this is an event for serious wine lovers, and it’s all about the wine, evaluating it and learning more about its distinctive styles. You’re encouraged to pack your own picnic for nibbling throughout the day, and prime your palate to explore many extraordinary wines you might never be able to find otherwise. Details: www.wineroad.com.

Sonoma County Restaurant Week, Mar. 7-13, 2016
Wine Country is best known for its California cuisine, but really, our chefs look to all across the globe for inspiration. The common theme is using the best local ingredients and a commitment to farm-to-table cooking, yet you’ll find themes and recipes saluting Japanese, French, classic American, Italian, German, Peruvian, Puerto Rican, Latin American, Mexican, Vietnamese, Chinese, Greek and Thai and so much more.

The 7th Annual Sonoma County Restaurant Week is a wonderful way to get a taste of it all. Set over seven days, it’s feasting made easier with delicious discounts offered by more than 130 eateries presenting specially priced three-course dinners for $19, 29, or $39, plus two-course lunches for $10 or $15.

Perhaps you’ve been wanting to scoot out to Bodega Bay, for a day at the beach and some hiking or horseback riding. What better incentive to do it, than The Duck Club Restaurant at Bodega Bay Lodge’s $39 supper? The menu draws from the organic farmers, ranchers and artisan cheese producers right in the West County and just minutes from the lodge. Plan to stay the night, too, with a lovely room overlooking the bay and coast.

Plan your dining adventures through the week as easily as moving a mouse and clicking. Visit the Sonoma County Restaurant Week website for menu previews and to make reservations. Details: www.sonomacountyrestaurantweek.org.

Spring Shrubs, Mar., 12, 2016
Healdsburg’s popular Shed series continues with this interactive exploration of delicious, drinkable vinegars called shrubs. From 2 to 4 p.m., fermentation crafter Gillian Tyrnauer leads a stimulating class on how to use seasonal ingredients to craft the classic farmer’s tonic. It’s a great way to find new uses for that gorgeous herb garden in the back yard, citrus trees, and berries. Good sipped on its own, or make tasty shrub cocktails.

Artisan Cheese Festival, Mar. 18-20, 2016
Sonoma County boasts California’s largest concentration of artisan cheese makers, and one of the world’s largest cheese festivals to honor them all. More than 6,000 attendees converge here each year to learn how to taste, buy, serve, and perhaps even make distinctive artisan cheeses, as taught directly from the award-winning experts. As always, the grand marketplace and seminars take place at the Sheraton Sonoma County – Petaluma, and continue on various cheese-related field trips from the coast to the cities.

Over three-days, the Festival brings together artisan cheesemakers, chefs, brewers, master sommeliers and wineries, showcasing nationally recognized producers like Fiscalini Farmstead Cheese, Marin French Cheese, Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Co., Redwood Hill Farm & Creamery, Nicasio Valley Cheese Co., Sierra Nevada Cheese Co., and Laura Chenel’s Chèvre (Chenel produces that decadent Taupinière, an aged goat cheese with a bloomy rind and outer layer of ash, plus the new Blossom, studded with local figs and olives).

The grand tasting events, lavish dinner parties, tours of creameries and picnics remain a highlight of the weekend. This year, you can learn how enjoy cheeses in unexpected ways, pairing with pickled vegetables, smoked shellfish, chocolate, teas, sour beer, ciders, and tropical fruits. You can learn how to make cheese at the new Cowgirl Creamery warehouse just a short walk from the Sheraton. And you can eat cheese, glorious cheese, in hundreds of varieties served by the artisan producers themselves. Details: www.artisancheesefestival.com.

Savor Sonoma Valley, Mar. 19 & 20, 2016
What could make the work of 19 Sonoma Valley wineries even more delicious? How about live music, great food, and art shows, in an all-day-long party weekend?
The wineries will be showcasing 2015 vintage wines straight from the barrels, sampling new releases, and offering their award-winning wines paired with savory and sweet hors d’oeuvres crafted by local chefs. Many of the destinations also will offer behind-the-scenes peeks at how the wine is harvested and made, with tours led by the winemakers themselves. Details: www.heartofsonomavalley.com

April in Carneros, April 16 & 17, 2016
The wines of the Carneros region are renown for the unique characteristics, driven by a microclimate that marries warm and cold, still and windy, and sunny and foggy. The weather and terroir produces particularly exceptional Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and sparkling wines.

Find out for yourself, as about a dozen wineries host this open house weekend showcasing new releases, prized bottles pulled from the cellars, and insider’s looks at how it’s all done. Each winery offers something different and exciting, from live music, to art exhibits, food pairings, tours and fun treats like lawn games and bocce ball. Details: www.carneroswineries.org

Find more things to do, restaurants and hotels in Sonoma County.

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