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2011 Sonoma Coast Wine Festival: August 5-7, Occidental, CA

west_of_West_logo.jpgRegular readers know that I'm a fan of large public wine tastings, and that I recommend them highly to all wine lovers, beginners and experienced drinkers alike. They're simply the best way to educate yourself and your palate about wine, because they afford an opportunity to taste a lot of wines from a specific category at the same time, and to learn something from the comparison.

These types of tastings tend to be split amongst those focused on a single grape or grapes (Rhone Rangers, ZAP - Zinfandel Advocates and Producers, Pinot Days, etc.) and those focused on a specific wine growing region. The regional variety have been popping up more and more lately, but I'm particularly excited about the newest addition to the California wine festival scene: West of the West, a wine festival devoted specifically to the wines of the Western Sonoma Coast.

Why the Western Sonoma Coast as opposed to just the Sonoma Coast? Well, in its infinite wisdom, the government established the Sonoma Coast American Viticultural Area over a wide swath of Sonoma County, including a lot of land that is really nowhere near the coast, especially as it concerns the primary climactic influences that mark a coastal region. There's the Sonoma Coast, and then there's the part of the AVA that actually IS on the coast.

In a (somewhat reasonable) attempt to distinguish themselves and the unique aspects of their wine growing area, one of the coolest in the country, a group of winemakers and winegrowers have banded together to create the West Sonoma Coast Vintners. And this group has decided to throw a wine festival that they are calling West of West, highlighting the wines from roughly 30 different producers in the region.

In my opinion, this is likely to be one of the highest quality collections of wine in a single festival up and down the coast. As a region, this cold fringe of Sonoma hosts some of the best vineyards and wines made in the county, in my not so humble opinion.

The chance to taste all these wines side-by-side, not to mention a pig roast and live music is definitely my idea of a good time.

The festival begins on Friday night, August 5th, with a series of winemaker dinners at the homes or wineries of several of the association's members. Saturday, August 6th begins with a series of seminars, followed by the grand tasting event and hog roast. Sunday, the 7th all the participating wineries throw open their doors for barrel tasting, free to anyone who has a ticket to the Saturday grand tasting.

This is the first time this event has been put together, so I can't vouch for the quality of the experience, but I can vouch for the quality of the wine (here's a list of producers). The ticket price is a little steep, but I suspect it will be a great event.

2011 West of West Sonoma Coast Wine Festival
Grand Tasting: Saturday August 6th
3:00 PM to 6:00 PM
Occidental Center for the Arts
4008 Bohemian Highway
Occidental, CA 95465 (map)

Tickets are $125 for the grand tasting, and $150 for the hog feast, with various packages and combinations that provide a discount for those looking to go to multiple events. Tickets are available for purchase online.

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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