Sonoma Wine Country Weekend
The beauty of Sonoma Wine Country Weekend is that while you have a grand time enjoying delicious food and wine in the Sonoma countryside, you are also contributing to the betterment of the youth of Sonoma County. The annual event is in the fifteenth year and the organizers and supporters have more than got it right! Every year, over Labor Day Weekend, Sonoma County welcomes thousands to enjoy Sonoma Wine Country Weekend. The extravaganza offers a variety of events from Chef Dinners and BBQs to the massive food and wine-tasting event that is Taste of Sonoma. The weekend cumulates with the Sonoma Harvest Wine Auction where millions of dollars are raised to help promote literacy to the county’s youth.
Sonoma Wine Country Weekend is a joint venture between the Sonoma Valley Vintners & Growers Alliance and the Sonoma County Vintners. The event has three honorary chairs representing vintner, grower and food community. This years honorary chairs were Sondra Bernstein as the Honorary Culinary Chair, Matt Gallo representing the vintners and Phil Coturri rounding out the growers.
To be a part of the festivities next year you should start planning now. The events are spread around throughout the county. The best place to make yourself at home for the weekend is the historic, recently renovated Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa. They’ve kept the Spanish style charm but paired it with advanced lighting and the latest technology in wine storage. You can book a private room off the side of the main lobby and be served from their 100+ bottle collection of wine. The rooms facing the front of the property seem to be the most spacious with big closets, huge beds and comfortable bathrooms with rain showers.
If you are interested in grabbing a picnic, you should visit The Girl & The Fig, a restaurant and catering company, owned by Sondra Bernstein, the Culinary chair of the Sonoma Wine Country Weekend. Sondra employs around 200 people in Sonoma County, and also contributes greatly to the farming community at large. She’s a force for good and has perfected the wine country picnic basket. If you like a salami sandwich or prefer to go vegan, she’s got the sandwich for you. Add homemade pasta or potato salad and homemade lavender lemon bars for the perfect, most delicious lunch. Her picnic packs are ideal for keeping spirits up while wine tasting throughout the county.
Taste of Sonoma at MacMurray Ranch
One of the highlights of Sonoma Wine Country Weekend is the Taste of Sonoma, held every year at MacMurray Ranch — the beautiful and enormous ranch that was once owned by Hollywood legend, Fred MacMurray. For those of you who are too young to remember, Fred MacMurray was very popular movie star, working on over 100 films. He and Bob Hope were best friends. In addition to his film work, he was also a nature lover. When he wasn’t working on set he was spending time in his favorite fishing hole up in the middle of the Russian River Valley in Sonoma County. A visit to the ranch is like going back to the wild, wild West but unfortunately for us and fortunately for the ranch, it is only open for Taste of Sonoma so this is your chance to eat, drink and enjoy a spectacular part of the world.
Kate MacMurray (Fred and June’s daughter) sold MacMurray Ranch to the Gallo Family. The MacMurrays and the Gallos worked out a plan to maintain the quaint history of the Ranch while also producing grapes in previously unused pastures. They also launched a MacMurray Ranch wine label producing delightful Pinot Noir.
Taste of Sonoma is one long day of massive indulgence. The MacMurray Ranch is transformed from a charming ranch set in the peaceful alcoves of the Russian River Valley, to a mass of visitors who enjoy the setting with acres of food and wine tastings. Over two thousand people attend Taste of Sonoma but it’s not too crowded as the Ranch is enormous and, if smaller is more preferable for you, there are special VIP experiences.
Sonoma Starlight Supper Club at Francis Ford Coppola Winery
The great filmmaker, Francisco Ford Coppola —lover of fun and adventure — has built a beautiful winery in the heart of the Sonoma County’s Alexander Valley. At this winery, guests can enjoy a day at the pool, wine tasting, delicious dining, bocce ball and more. If movie paraphernalia excites you then you’ll be glad to know that you can also check out the desk used in The Godfather: Part II.
On the Friday of Sonoma Wine Country Weekend the winery is transformed into a major party called Sonoma Starlight Supper Club with 30 different brands of wine tastings, loads of food and live entertainment. The best time was had enjoying pizza made onsite at the enormous outdoor pizza oven paired with some of the most interesting wines of the county.
The party is set around their gorgeous pool and offers a quite magical setting. In addition to pizza, culinary options include a cheese table, salads, and a main course table featuring chicken and a plethora of side dish options.
Sonoma Harvest Wine Auction at Chateau St. Jean
The weekend cumulates in the main event: the Sonoma Harvest Wine Auction held at the stunningly beautiful Chateau St. Jean estate on Sunday afternoon. Each year there is a theme and it was Sonoma Samba. We were greeted by women dressed in traditional Brazilian Carnival gear, think elaborate head dresses, skimpy outfits with lots and lots of flair. The auction raises a great deal of money, $1.4M to be exact.
Six hundred people gathered under a large tent on the main lawn to enjoy the flavors of Sonoma County while bidding on exciting auction lots. The largest grossing lot of the day, which was also the highest grossing lot in the 21-year history of the Sonoma Harvest Wine Auction, was “Fund the Future” presented by Kaiser Permanente. The lot raised $691,250, which will be divided between the Sonoma Valley Education Foundation’s Summer Reading Academy, Schools of Hope (United Way of the Wine Country) and Pasitos Playgroups (Community Action Partnership).
Hundreds of thousands of dollars were donated to “Fund the Future” by Sonoma County vintners: Joe Anderson of Benovia Winery, the Gallo Family and Katie Jackson of Jackson Family Wines each donated $75,000. Tom Klein, owner of Rodney Strong Wine Estates, made a commitment of $150,000 over three years. Some of the top lots of the day included the Gallo Family and MacMurray Ranch Barn Dance BBQ ($125,000), the Buena Vista/Deloach and Boisset Family Wines Thermador Kitchen and Dinner Party with Jean-Charles Boisset ($55,000), the Kosta Brown World Cup Soccer Trip to Brazil ($44,000) and the Ram’s Gate Trip to Scotland ($40,000).
The Sonoma Wine Country Weekend has become the regions largest and most fun charity event, celebrating the flavors of the community and the people who bring those flavors on to the plate and into the wine glass.It’s a sad fact that more than half of Sonoma County’s third graders current read below grade level but this is a significant way to combat crippling illiteracy, and give Sonoma County’s disadvantaged youth a chance at a brighter future.