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08.13.2010

2010 Sonoma Wine Country Weekend, September 3-5, Healdsburg

sonoma_weekend_2010.jpgMost 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.

My well meaning friends 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 a bit of love for every piece of wine country we've got here in California, but there's 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 -- many different micro-climates and many different wines, from sparkling to Pinot Noir to Zinfandel to Cabernet.

The main problem, however, is that all these regions lay 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 usually 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.

Now in it's third year, this weekend celebration of Sonoma County wine is a combination of two previously separate annual events: The 31st annual Sonoma County Showcase of Wine and Food and the Sonoma Valley Harvest Wine Auction. These events are now combined into a single event that represents the best opportunity in existence for anyone (who isn't planning on being on the Playa) to learn a lot about Sonoma wine in the space of a couple of days.

The weekend starts on Friday September 3rd, with winemaker lunches at various wineries around the valley, followed by dinners that evening.

On Saturday the 4th, the grand tasting will take place from 11 AM to 4 PM, where more than 200 Sonoma County wineries will offer their wines for tasting along with food from more than 100 of the regions top chefs and artisan food purveyors. Saturday evening will feature winemaker dinners at some of Sonoma's most spectacular wineries.

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 a little wine poured at this event as well.

While attendance at the auction and dinner on Sunday is a somewhat pricey proposition at $500 a head, the rest of the weekend's events are a relative steal at between $75 and $195 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
September 3-5, 2010
MacMurray Ranch Winery
9015 Westside Road
Healdsburg, CA 95448

Tickets for the grand tasting, which can be purchased online, are $150 ($90 of which is tax deductible!). Those who are into something more exclusive can purchase "Grand Reserve" tickets for $195, and get the chance to taste higher-end wines from the likes of Flowers, Pride, Hanzell, and Joseph Swan, all paired with food from Sonoma's Farmhouse Inn restaurant.

This event will almost certainly sell out, so purchase your tickets now. Shuttle service from Santa Rosa (recommended) is provided.

The weather will likely be gorgeous, but given our chilly summer thus far, it could also be cool and windy, so wear sunscreen and have a sweater or jacket in the car, if not around your shoulders. Wear comfortable shoes that you can walk on a lawn and on gravel with. My usual tips for public tastings apply: get lots of sleep the night before; wear dark clothes to avoid red wine disasters; drink lots of water; make sure your belly is full -- plenty to eat there; ladies (and gents) leave the cologne and perfume at home; and spit if you actually want to learn something.

Comments (8)

Martin Silva wrote:
08.14.10 at 9:42 AM

Excellent recommendation! The Showcase is one of the better winetasting events in Sonoma County and the public. It's also very nice to see that they moved the tasting from mid-July to early September - a few times, I thought I was going to die of heat stroke!

Kimberly wrote:
08.14.10 at 12:58 PM

The only place I've ever done wine tasting in California was in Sonoma, and I wasn't the least bit disappointed to not have ventured into Napa. My god, all the great wine and the beautiful scenery there! It's one of my best memories of all time, and I keep saying to myself that one year I'll get to do the Wine Country Weekend -- it's been a long-time fantasy of mine. : )

Mart S. wrote:
08.16.10 at 7:19 AM

Good point Martin. It's really taste when your perspiration is mixing with the wine. ;) Cheers!

Anonymous wrote:
08.17.10 at 5:29 AM

Thanks for the tip, looking to take a trip out to California for some wine tasting. Will add this to the 'To-Do' list.

Rick D wrote:
08.17.10 at 10:10 AM

Napa Valley Wine Library, Family Winemakers, and Sonoma WCW ... a fun run of tastings. I'm going to be wiped out when it's over.

08.19.10 at 12:39 PM

Alder -- From all of us who work to make Taste of Sonoma and Sonoma Wine Country Weekend come together, a big thank you to you for your thoughtful description of our events and what Sonoma County is all about. We appreciate your support very much.

08.19.10 at 3:12 PM

I grew up here in Sonoma County and I work in the wine biz. I love how this event showcases the place I call home. Thanks for capturing that, Alder.

Jason Enos wrote:
08.22.10 at 11:40 AM

Sonoma Wine Country Weekend may be the single best wine tasting event of the year! I've been 3 times now, and it keeps getting better and better. This is definitely become a special weekend that my friends and I look forward to each year!

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