The first of two fabulous Northern California wine country fund raising wine events occurred on Labor Day Weekend. Sonoma Wine Country Weekend (Sonoma WCW) raised over $4.5 million dollars, a new record, for its various community charities and, by all observations and accounts, exceeded every other possible expectation of the attendees, organizers and sponsors.
The weekend kicked off with a stunning variety of winemaker’s lunches and dinners and Friday evening was capped off by the elegant Sonoma Starlight at Francis Ford Coppola’s winery in the Alexander Valley.
Winemaker’s lunches were hosted by such all stars as Benovia, Kosta Browne and Keller Estates. Stone Edge Farm, whose winery and estate are located in the Sonoma Valley, hosted a luncheon at their recently established culinary center, The Edge, a private tasting lounge on East Napa Street located just off the Plaza in downtown Sonoma. Philippe Thibault, Hospitality Manager for the estate, greeted guests at this sleek bar/restaurant which is housed in a charming Victorian house that was formerly the home of an Italian restaurant. Guests were offered a Nicolas Feuillatte Champagne, not from Stone Edge, and exquisite passed hors d’œuvres prepared by Estate Chef John McReynolds and his staff. After a brief period of mingling Philippe introduced winemaker/estate partner Jeff Baker whose pedigree includes a list of exceptional wines. Jeff introduced the wines to be tasted and invited the guests to retire to the dining area. What followed was nothing short of an elegant pairing of ‘Heirloom tomato with pickled melon and burrata’ with the 2013 Stone Edge Farm, Sauvignon Blanc, followed by ‘Bistecca alla Fiorentina with ricotta gnocchi and braised short rib ragu’ with 2011 Stone Edge Farm, Surround (a red blend) and 2010 Stone Edge Farm, Cabernet Sauvignon and, finally, capped off with ‘Spiced red wine poached pear with crème fraîche ice cream’. YUM!
Friday evening at Francis Ford Coppola Winery featured food prepared by Sondra Bernstein of ‘the girl and the fig’ fame, music by Notorious and the wines of Sonoma County distributed by varietals around the shimmering pool. Cabernet Sauvignon from Alexander Valley, Zinfandel and Sauvignon Blanc from Dry Creek Valley, Pinot and Chardonnay from Russian River Valley and wonderful Rhone varietals from Sonoma Valley were de rigueur. Of course each AVA also offered other varietals to demonstrate their grape growing and wine-making prowess.
The evening breezes and the lines did not discourage the avid attendees. The food was fun and added to the evenings pleasures. Perhaps most enjoyable, however, was the opportunity to dance the night away under the stars with your fellow revelers. Notorious did not seem to take a break during their 3 hour set because the dance crowd would not let them. The dance floor was constantly in motion and the one time the band suggested ‘slowing it down’, the crowd roundly rejected the idea.
Saturday’s excitement was all about Taste of Sonoma at MacMurray Ranch on Westside Road in Healdsburg. Now a property of E&J Gallo, the ranch is a well preserved icon of Sonoma County wineries. About 2500 people attended and they were not disappointed. The four extra-large tasting tents housed the wines representing the four major American Viticultural Areas of the county: Alexander Valley, Dry Creek Valley, Russian River Valley, and Sonoma Valley. Each tent hosted at least 60 wineries and included several food purveyors (either restaurant or caterer). Also included were Gloria Ferrer’s Bubble Lounge with oysters, sliders and other nutritious delectables, the Market Place where vendors offered samples of their wares, the Reserve Tasting, the Sommelier Challenge, wine seminars and the Chef’s Challenge.
Sunday saw many wineries hosting barbecues and wine tasting and ended with the elegant Sonoma Harvest Wine Auction at Chateau St. Jean in Kenwood. Chateau St. Jean is an amazing venue with beautiful grounds. The auction is glamorous and the capstone to this wildly popular weekend.
Sonoma WCW is jointly produced by the Sonoma County Vintners and the Sonoma Valley Vintners & Growers Foundation, all proceeds benefit local Sonoma charities including youth education and literacy programs, Girls and Boys Clubs, senior care, the arts and many more.