Sonoma Wine Country Weekend—the name says it all. Hosted over the final holiday of summer throughout Labor Day weekend, Sonoma Wine Country Weekend is Northern California wine country’s most anticipated event of the year. Beginning with exquisite lunches and stunning winemaker dinners, then culminating in the grand tasting of all grand tastings—and an epic auction, to boot—this 3-day wine country extravaganza offers attendees one of the most incredible food and wine experiences you could ever imagine.
Taste of Sonoma
Saturday’s grand tasting, appropriately named Taste of Sonoma, brought together more than 200 of the county’s best wine producers, as well as more than 60 local chefs and artisan food producers, to offer guests an indulgent exploration of the art of winemaking and food production. With wine tasting tents organized by appellation and food stations scattered throughout each tent, the options for sipping, tasting and pairing were endless. This organization allowed guests to explore premier Sonoma County appellations and get to know characteristics varietals of each region, while simultaneously learning about the intricacies and varying styles of the individual wines.
Taste of Sonoma is just as much a wine lover’s heaven as it is a foodie mecca. With everything from delicious sliders to smoked ribs to macaroni balls to fresh oysters, as well as refreshing craft beer and iced coffee, there was a satisfying bite and sip for every tastebud, every palate. In addition to the abundance of wine and food, educational opportunities also abounded in just about every direction you could look. There were wine talks, tours, blind tasting challenges, exploration of sustainable wines and even a Sonoma County marketplace to buy delicious foodie goods to take home with you.
Featured Reserve Wines: Silver Oak Winery & Emeritus Vineyards
In the reserve wine tent, a number of premier producers from various Sonoma County appellations poured some of their most acclaimed wines, as well as some of their older vintages. Silver Oak Winery, situated in the northeastern appellation of Alexander Valley, poured their 2005 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. The nose boasts vivacious aromas of herbes de Provence, leather and blueberry, while the palate follows suits with similar herbal flavors, mint, leather and dried fruit. The full mouthfeel possesses chalky, soft tannins that round out the body and provide complexity to the overall texture.
Emeritus Vineyards, located in Russian River Valley and producing wines from this appellation, the sub-appellation of Green Valley, as well as the Sonoma Coast, showcased their stunning 2012 William Wesley Pinot Noir. The William Wesley bottling hails from Sonoma Coast vineyards that are planted in Goldridge sandy loam soils with a sandstone sublayer. The nose of this incredible Pinot Noir expresses aromas of blackberry, raspberry and orange zest. The palate brings together flavors of orange zest, red raspberry, red cherry, dried fruit and mushrooms—enveloped in a light body with gentle tannins and acidity.
Dry Creek Valley: Collier Falls
Representing the illustrious Dry Creek Valley, Collier Falls’ wines showed incredibly well. Collier Falls uniquely offered the experience of tasting Primitivo, a classic Italian varietal; they are one of few local producers who make this grape in its Italian form. The American counterpart to Primitivo is Zinfandel, and most would agree when tasting both side by side, that each varietal has a distinct taste profile. The 2012 Primitivo expresses mixed berry aromas with some herbal characteristics and black pepper. The palate of this luscious Primitivo boasts soft, mellow tannins with excellent structure and body; flavors of mixed red and black dried fruit mingle with black pepper and a touch of leather.
Russian River Valley: Bacigalupi Vineyards
In the Russian River Valley tent, Bacigalupi Vineyards showcased their exquisite Pinot Noir. Their 2013 Russian River Valley bottling distinguishes itself right away as Burgundian in style, with its classic earthy aromatics. Aromas of raspberry, orange zest, wet earth and dried leather leap from the glass. On the palate, the wine continues to highlight a Burgundian style of winemaking, with its light body and flavors of earth, gravel, raspberry, orange zest and cherry cola. This wine is an excellent choice for those who favor French Burgundy, but still love a classic California style with nice fruit and a touch of well-integrated new oak—all perfectly balanced in beautiful synchronicity.
Sonoma Valley: Dane Cellars
Dane Cellars was perhaps one of the smaller, more exclusive wineries showcasing their wines at Taste of Sonoma. All of Dane Cellars’ red wines are made with grapes sourced from premier Sonoma Valley vineyards—a result of Winemaker Bart Hansen’s longstanding career in the Sonoma Valley wine industry and cultivated relationships with many of the well-known winemakers and wineries in the appellation. Hansen’s passion for winemaking inspired him to open his own winery, Dane Cellars, in 2007. Dane Cellars’ new 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon release is richly textured with great finesse; flavors of mint, blackberry, currant and cocoa abound with a touch of blueberry in the background. This Cabernet is quite complex with a lot of depth for such a young bottling—it will no doubt develop even more complexity as it ages.
Foodie Favorites: Seghesio Family Vineyards & Earth’s Bounty & Kitchen Wine Bar
Seghesio Family Vineyards’ Chef Peter Janiak dished up delicious pit-smoked ribs, smothered in sweet, sour and sticky Seghesio Zinfandel BBQ sauce. Tender, juicy, full of flavor and perfectly messy, these pit-smoked ribs were an absolutely favorite by all who indulged. Earth’s Bounty & Kitchen Wine Bar, located in Santa Rosa just off Highway 12, served up smokey pork sliders with fennel slaw and tomato bacon jam. These little sliders were delightfully fresh and packed with a lot of flavor; the depth of the tomato bacon jam and and zesty freshness of the slaw was definitely enough to keep attendees coming back for more.
The Proceeds Matter
It’s safe to say that all who attended Taste of Sonoma were able to experience the pure bounty of this abundant county. From wine to craft beer to decadent cuisine—and just about everything in between—Taste of Sonoma was a feast for all.
Certainly not to go without mention, is the wonderful cause for which the entire Sonoma Wine Country Weekend is hosted—the luncheons, dinners, grand tasting and culminating auction raise funds for local charities. Since its beginning, Sonoma Wine Country Weekend has raised more than $16 million dollars to directly assist charities that support students, children, farm workers and people in need in Sonoma County.
This year alone, the auction raised $4.5 million dollars; Fund the Future, an auction lot that supports children’s literacy, raised more than $1.9 million dollars—totaling an excess of $5.5 million dollars and setting an incredible record for funds raised. Certainly, this immense amount of fundraising shows that the abundance of support for the Sonoma County community is equally as abundant as the wine and food that its many talented winemakers and chefs produce.
*Originally published on Examiner.