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Sonoma Wine Country Weekend: Aug 29-31, 2008

swcwLogo.pngMost people, when they come visit me in San Francisco and ask to be taken to wine country, assume that they're going to Napa, but at least half the time, that's definitely not where we end up.

These well meaning tourists aren't the only ones who seem to forget that Northern California has many different "wine countries." Napa casts a long shadow, as it were.

I've got lots of love for every piece of wine country we've got, and a special place in my heart for Sonoma County, both because it is the place of my birth, but also because I think sometimes it gets short shrift compared to its more famous neighbor.

Sonoma County is several different wine regions rolled up into one -- from the chilly fog of the Sonoma Coast and Carneros, to the cool Green Valley and Russian River Valley, to the warmer climes of Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma Mountain, Alexander Valley, and the Sonoma Valley -- there's something for everyone in Sonoma.

The main problem however, is that all these regions are spread out over a wide area, much wider than the relatively (in comparison) compact Napa Valley. So experiencing the breadth of Sonoma can be time consuming, no matter how fulfilling it ends up being.

So while it's a good idea for wine lovers to pay more attention to Sonoma in general, there is one weekend this year when any self respecting wine lover shouldn't be thinking of anything else: The Sonoma Wine Country Weekend.

The first event of its kind, this weekend celebration of Sonoma County wine is a combination of what have been two separate annual events up until now: The Sonoma County Showcase of Wine and Food and the Sonoma Valley Harvest Wine Auction. These two events have been combined into a single weekend that is the single best opportunity in existence for anyone to learn a thing or two about Sonoma wine.

The weekend starts on Friday August 29th, with winemaker lunches at various wineries around the valley. On Saturday the 30th, the grand tasting will take place from 11 AM to 4 PM, where more than a hundred Sonoma County wineries will offer their wines for tasting along with food from more than 60 of the regions top chefs and artisan food purveyors. Sommeliers (apparently some of them famous) will be conducting wine seminars, and almost every wine that you might taste is available for sale (or shipping back home) with the help of the event staff.

The evening of Friday the 29th and Saturday the 30th will also involve winemaker dinners at some of Sonoma's most spectacular wineries, including Pride Mountain Vineyards at the top of the Mayacamas mountains.

And if that weren't enough, on Sunday the live Harvest Wine Auction, whose proceeds go to local charities, offers chances at bragging rights and some amazing prizes (and wines) for those who can afford to be generous, as well as a blockbuster meal cooked by some serious Sonoma culinary heavyweights. Rumor has it that there will be just a tad of wine poured at this event as well.

While attendance at the auction and dinner on Sunday is a somewhat pricey proposition ($650 a head) the rest of the weekend's events are a relative steal at between $75 and $150 bucks.

This is a huge opportunity to soak in the breadth and depth of Sonoma County wine without spending 4 days and 8 hours in the car zipping all over the place. It comes highly recommended by yours truly.

Find out everything you need to know on the event web site.

Sonoma Wine Country Weekend
August 29-31, 2008
MacMurray Ranch, Cline Cellars, (and individual wineries)
MacMurray Ranch
9015 Westside Road, Healdsburg, CA 95448

Tickets, which can be purchased online, are priced as follows:

Friday Winemaker Lunches: $75
Friday Winemaker Dinners: $160
Grand Tasting: $150
Saturday Winemaker Dinners: $160
Sunday Auction: $650

Additional VIP packages are available.

This event will almost certainly sell out, so purchase your tickets now. September just before harvest is one of the most beautiful times to be in Sonoma County.

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Required Reading for Wine Lovers

The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson Wine Grapes The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson to cork or not to cork by George Taber reading between the vines by Terry Theise adventures on the wine route by Kermit Lynch Love By the Glass by Dorothy Gaiter & John Brecher Noble Rot by William Echikson The Science of Wine by Jamie Goode The Judgement of Paris by George Taber The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil The Botanist and the Vintner by Christy Campbell The Emperor of Wine by Elin McCoy The Taste of Wine by Emile Peynaud