Part one of this week’s “Wine and Film, A Perfect Pairing” on reVolver Podcasts we discussed one of Gary’s favorite films so far this year, “Sully,” pairing the film with Jordan Wines from Sonoma. Part two celebrated a fantastic weekend in Sonoma County traveling as guests of the #SonomaWineCountryWeekend.
To listen to the show, including great tips and tastes we experienced throughout the four-day holiday weekend, click here and listen to “Episode 12.” More on each of the events and some great travel tips for anyone visiting Sonoma below. It truly was a beautiful weekend toasting with old friends and new. Cheers!
Sonoma Wine Country Weekend has been an annual event taking place over Labor Day weekend throughout Sonoma County with the goal to raise funds for various non-profit and charitable groups helping the people of Sonoma.
The festivities, including a grand “Taste of Sonoma” tasting and indulging event at MacMurray Estate, as well as the lavish Sonoma Harvest Wine Auction at Chateau St. Jean, has raised over $24 million since its inception. Thankfully, this year did not disappoint, as the record breaking amount raised exceeded $4.6 million, with the majority of funds raised directly going to help the main focus of this year’s special event, an effort to fund the future by ending a terrible problem of illiteracy in Sonoma County among the children of the region.
Over half of the kids in Sonoma can not read at their grade level, and as the campaign to change this said, if you can’t read you can’t succeed. The wineries, vintners, winemakers and guests of the event are determined to see this change, raising $2.7 million just for the “Fund the Future” auction lot. Incredible, heart warming and tearful as these funds will truly go to something life-changing for the kids of Sonoma.
And, of course a lot of fun. I have had a chance to attend Auction Napa Valley several times in the past few years and love it, as it similarly has the goal to raise funds for the people of the region, but this was my first time to experience the event in Sonoma. I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect, and can only celebrate how fantastic the weekend was.
A few tips if you are interested in attending, which is mainly to bookmark the website now and sign up for their newsletter, as the locations and date for next year’s events are changing, so when they announce the new event dates make sure to check it out.
If you can’t attend both days, the “Taste of Sonoma” event is the one must attend if you really want an opportunity to taste the different, diverse regions of Sonoma. Over 200 wineries pour at the event, accompanied by various chefs and restaurants pairing bites from each region. There will likely be many well recognized wineries pouring, but then you’ll be lucky enough to stumble on a new find that will knock your socks off, like the stunning Reuling Chardonnay or Phendler Pinot Noir or the Trombetta wines from mother-daughter team, Rickey Trombetta Stancliff and her daughter Erica, or a Malbec from Imagery Estate. And, of course, having a chance to interact with the winemakers and owners pouring their wines, telling their stories of passion for the grape, makes this grand tasting event feel very intimate and special.
If you can attend the whole weekend, the excitement under the tent of the live auction makes this one of the best celebrations of the year. With this year’s theme, Sonoma to Marrakesh, adding in the exotic, complete with a camel, lots of belly dancers and of course, great wines. Tasting some of the selections at our host table, Buena Vista Winery with our charming friend, Jean Charles Boisset and his lovely wife, Gina Gallo or Gallo Family Wines, it is easy to see why there is so much love for Sonoma. From his spectacular Beuna Vista Chardonnay to sister winery DeLoach Pinot Noir to a new Cabernet blend, not yet released, called The Revenge, the wine was flowing as fast as the money was being raised.
Though it was difficult to tear myself away from Jean Charles, I had to momentarily to toast with another Sonoma favorite, Pierre Seillan and his dear wife Monique, pouring their incredible 2005 Verite La Joie. Predominantly Cabernet Sauvignon the 10 year old wine was balanced, rich and velvety with ripe red berry and cherry fruit, toasted spice and a touch of earthiness. Elegant, refined and noteworthy, always a wine to sip and savor.
As the evening came to a close and final tallies were being counted the celebration proved how when a community comes together they can move mountains, transform lives and change the future.
It was an incredible weekend be a part of.
If you are heading out to Sonoma anytime, a few places that should be on your to visit list that we experienced either this trip, or when we have visited in the past.
Where to visit:
Kosta Browne, co-owned by Dan Kosta this year’s event Honorary Wine Chair. Their wines are allocation only, and it takes a few years to get on the list, but once you’re on you will enjoy every bottle as the special Pinot Noir wines tell the story of cool climate Sonoma.
One of the most beautiful gardens in Sonoma is at Arista Winery with tranquil, Japanese style water gardens inviting guests to relax and enjoy a glass at their leisure.
Ram’s Gate Winery in Carneros. Wow, potentially one of the most beautiful wineries we have ever visited, with a double bonus, they make really, really good wine. The winery, designed by famed California architect, Howard Backen, showcases a modern look at classic, weathered farmsteads of old Carneros so it is both very elegant and refined, while being welcoming and rustic. Located right at the entrance to Carneros the small-production, ultra premium winery specializes in single vineyard Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines. Favorites include their fresh, clean and elegant Hyde Vineyard Chardonnay and stone fruit, melon and honeysuckle filled Ulises Valdez Vineyard Chardonnay.
Open for appointments only, MacMurray Estate toasts both great wine and a great family as the former cattle ranch owned by the late actor Fred MacMurray produces vibrant, luscious wines with character. Owned today by Gallo Family Wines, but with Fred’s daughter Kate MacMurray still a part of the team as the brand ambassador of the winery, stepping on to the property while listening to Kate speak about the love she had for both her parents, but particularly her father, makes you feel the joy, love and laughter that was surely felt throughout the years the family lived there.
With history dating back to 1857, yet filled with the modern day splendor that Boisset Family Wines, and its owner Jean Charles Boisset, brings to every occasion, Buena Vista Winery is a must visit. Book the barrel tasting experience to truly understand why this historical place is so special.
The Sonoma House of Patz & Hall Winery. Relaxed and inviting, pouring their small production, single vineyard Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines from vintners the winery has worked with for decades. Consistently one of the stand outs of Sonoma County.
If you prefer a heartier wine head up to Dry Creek and visit Sbragia. Long time winemaker for Beringer, known for really helping develop some of the wineries most well known, award winning wines, Ed Sbragia opened his own winery looking out to old Lake Sonoma several years ago really to fulfill a promise he made to himself many years before, to put his grandfather and father’s name on the bottle. Sbragia today produces several different selections, from Chardonnay to Cab, but my favorites are his delicious Zinfandel wines from old vine vineyards throughout the region.
If you can get an appointment at Verite when Pierre is in town, book it fast, as the winemaker is one of the true gems of Sonoma. Celebrating his 50th vintage this year, the international winemaker is often on the road traveling between his Sonoma Verite, Chateau Lassegue in Bordeaux and Arcanum in Tuscany. So, if you catch him, pull up a chair beside him and listen, as his passion is unwavering and his knowledge is unending.
We always love a chance to visit our friend and incredible winemaker, Mac McDonald of Vision Cellars producing some of the finest Pinot Noir wines in California from prized vineyards. Mac and his wife Lil are two of our favorite people, both for the great wine they make and their sincere, genuine charm.
Amapolla Creek from celebrated winemaker Richard Arrowood, once winemaker for Chateau St. Jean and then his own, Arrowood, which he sold to Jackson Family Wines and opened Amapolla Creek. He is always a delight to taste with and the wine will never disappoint.
Our last post discussed the incredible hospitality at Jordan Wines, so always adding them to your to visit list is a good idea.
Where to stay:
We have had a chance to stay at a few spots in Sonoma over the years. This was our first time to stay with the hotel host of the event, Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn, which was beautiful, lovely and very accommodating. Though we didn’t try any of their spa services, this is one element that is much celebrated by the property. We did take a dip in their pool, which was ideal on a hot Sonoma day. The hotel is also known for their award winning restaurant, Sante, focusing on farm to table cuisine celebrating the best flavors of the region.
One of the most romantic places Gary and I have stayed in the Kenwood Inn & Spa in Kenwood. Focused on relaxing and quiet, the no-TV B&B takes luxury to a new level with overstuffed canopy beds, fireplaces, a gorgeous spa and always, a great breakfast to start your Sonoma tasting day.
Hotel Healdsburg is a perfect location for enjoying the energy of the town of Healdsburg, as it is one of the best places to go for dinner in Sonoma with options ranging from Willi’s Wine Bar to the stand out Charlie Palmer’s Dry Creek Kitchen.
In Sonoma town a modern yet rustic, beautiful spot is the MacArthur Place with a great pool for relaxing, good location just off the Sonoma town square, and one of the best bathtubs in any hotel in the region.
If you are traveling with a group and want to rent a house, Cline Cellars has a fantastic, well appointed guest house available for rental. In Carneros, so you can easily enjoy both Sonoma and Napa during your stay, with a kitchen meant for entertaining and 4 comfortable guest rooms, each with private bathrooms.
Where to eat:
A few stand outs include the delicious restaurants of Mark & Terri Stark of Stark Restaurant Group, including their latest venture Bird & The Bottle, with possibly the best barbecued octopus I have ever had.
Charlie Palmer’s Dry Creek Kitchen in Healdsburg.
ZaZu Ktichen & Farm owned by Celebrity Chef Duskie Estes and her hubby with a focus on tail to snout cooking, utilizing every element of their featured proteins, mainly piggies.
Farm at Carneros Inn, and make time to sit outside by their firepits for a cocktail.
And El Dorado Kitchen in Sonoma, always a favorite.