This is the seventh post in the “An Unforgettable Anniversary Weekend In Sonoma” series highlighting Sonoma Valley and surrounding areas. Other posts in this series include Addendum, El Dorado Kitchen, Basque Boulangerie. A Cycling Wine Tour Through Sonoma Valley, Pride Mountain Vineyards, and Blue Bottle Coffee.
Then there are the artisanal vendors and the Marketplace, where you can sample fantastic ice cream, delicious cold-brewed coffee, and buy all sorts of artisanal products.It's a full day event, starting at 11AM and ending at 4PM.We totally did not expect to stay for the whole time (who can imagine sampling wines for that many hours?), but shockingly, we did. There is really so much to do, you can easily spend all day there.Here's a detailed look at our day, including many photos of the wines, dishes, and other fun things we tried.
We left at around 10AM, since Healdsburg is pretty far north in the Russian River Valley, quite a distance from Petaluma where we were staying.
You know you're close when you cross this old bridge, so narrow that cars can only cross in one direction at a time. It's a bit scary and I'm not sure how everyone knows what to do. But you basically wait on one end until you think you can go.
We arrived pretty much right at 11:00, and even then, there were already hundreds of people lined up, ready to check into the event.
It was massive, with many outdoor tents full of different food and wine vendors.
It was so big, they even had "road signs" showing you which way to go. Grand Reserve ticket holders (who paid an additional $30 on top of the $165 entrance price) were entitled to taste wines at Club Reserve, where wineries poured their limited production, reserve, and award winning wines.
Personally, I would highly recommend this option if you really enjoy good wine. The prices of these bottles ranged between $75-$200, and there were close to fifty wineries represented in the Club Reserve. It's really a rare opportunity to be able to sample so many good wines at once for only thirty additional dollars.
My favorites were the 32 Winds Pinot Noir, Kamen Estates Kashmir, and the Peter Michael "Les Pavotes" Nights Valley.
Other ones we really liked included Macphail Pinot Noir, Pride Mountain Vineyards Claret Reserve, the Laurel Glen 1999 Sonoma Mountain Carbernet Sauvignon, Clouds Rest 2004 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, Hartford Court 2011 Fog Dance Vineyards Pinot Noir, Gary Farrell 2011 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, Soujourn 2011 Pinot Noir, and Chalk Hill Estates 2010 Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon.
Of course, even without trying the reserve wines, there are many, many other great places to visit. You could enter the "Bubble Lounge", where Sonoma's own Gloria Ferrer sparkling wines were being paired with a variety of tastes, such as oysters from The Oyster Girls, paella from The Paella Guy, and other bites from Feast Catering. Come early, though. This lounge had run out of bubblies by mid-afternoon, well before the event was over.
Even if you're not a wine lover, there is plenty of excellent food around to make this even still really, really fun.
After sampling many, many wines in the "morning" (well, from about 11AM to 1PM or so), we felt like we needed a break. Thankfully, there were tons of food vendors serving up all sorts of fantastic dishes from restaurants and caterers all around Sonoma County.
For meat lovers, there was plenty of barbecue, such as these St. Louis cherry-balsamic glazed ribs from Seghesio Family Vineyards and Chef Arthur Chang's delicious southern fried chicken from Drums & Crumbs.
Here is Chef Ken Tominaga and staff from Hana serving their Spicy Tuna Hand Roll (they are such hams!).
We sampled three different fun house-made hot sauces from Bay Laurel Culinary paired with Veracruz Style Fish Tacos from the Gastro Shack.
El Dorado Kitchen served their fantastic Soy Glazed Pork Belly over yuzu compressed watermelon (which we had enjoyed a few nights ago). Jordan Vineyard and Winery served Summer Poke. The Chilled Heirloom Tomato Bisque topped with caviar and creme fraiche from Peloton Catering was refreshing and delicious. There were so many great looking bites, we actually started to get full and had to start making decisions about what we had room to eat!
Bryan, who totally has a weakness for mac & cheese, gravitated towards these Fried Mac & Cheese "lollipop" bites.
We loved this Puffed Rice Cracker served with mushroom escabeche and pickled orange (upper left) from the J Culinary team. Jack & Tony's Restaurant & Whiskey Bar served mini house-cured Gravlax Tartlettes. Bryan grabbed himself a sandwich topped with pickles and sauerkraut from the Sonoma Brinery, and I nabbed one of the last Hamachi Tartare with jalapeno, avocado puree, and grapefruit from the local Healdsburg restaurant Chalkboard (so glad I did - they were fantastic!).
For sweets, we entered the Marketplace. Cold Stone Creamery was showcasing their "custom ice cream" service, where you can custom-order any ice cream flavor you want for about $200. They were serving a champagne sorbet, which was actually quite good.
Bryan loved the cold-brewed coffee at Petaluma Coffee Company, which was smooth, deep, rich, yet not a bit tannic or astringent at all. I think he went back for seconds, or maybe even thirds! We tried the Toddy Coffee Blues Breaker Blend, which was fantastic.
Three Twins Ice Cream was pretty tasty too.
We wandered into this huge barn to explore a never-before-seen exhibition from the MacMurray family about the history of this ranch.
There was open-air "kitchen" which had different scheduled cooking demonstrations throughout the day. We watched one on lamb burgers from Joe Pozzi of Pozzi Ranch Lamb and enjoyed a delicious sample (yes, an entire Grass-Fed Lamb Burger topped with sheep's milk cheese). It was excellent.
Overall, we had a great time and I would highly recommend coming to this event. The grounds are gorgeous, the food is excellent, and the selection of great wines is hard to beat. It's also a great way to really get to know Sonoma area wines, which are excellent. I'm personally a huge Pinot Noir fan, and the climate in this area is perfect for that type of wine.
We left the event happy, satisfied, and very, very full. We ended up not really eating a proper dinner that night because we couldn't imagine eating anymore after our afternoon feast. Instead, we took a fun drive along the Sonoma Coast in our rental convertible and just enjoyed the lovely scenery in the area.
I just love this region so much.
Disclaimer: this trip was organized by the Sonoma County Visitor's Bureau. Some of the activities and meals in this series, such as the cost of the entrance ticket to this event, were paid for by the organizers of the establishment.
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