This is the second post in the West Coast! A Week in San Francisco and Sonoma Series. Other posts in this series include the first event of Sonoma County Wine Weekend: Sonoma Starlight at Francis Ford Coppola Winery.
Where else can you get the most comprehensive tasting of Sonoma wines all in one place in a single afternoon?
Welcome to the Taste of Sonoma.
Every year on Labor Day weekend, Sonoma throws a huge weekend-long fundraising wine even called Sonoma Wine Country Weekend. It is a phenomenal weekend filled with various food and wine events, all focused on local producers from Sonoma County. All proceeds go towards a variety of community charities and local community services.
We first came two years ago and totally fell in love with the wine, the food, and the entire region.
The Taste of Sonoma is the main event that occurs on Saturday, starting at 11AM and ending at 4PM.
It's located at MacMurray Estate Vineyards, a gorgeous space in Healdsburg (pretty far north in Sonoma County!) that's only open once a year to the public for this huge event.
Over 200 wineries from Sonoma County participate in this event, and most wineries bring several bottles to share, resulting in 700+ different wines you could theoretically try. It's quite mind-blowing, really.
Once you get inside, enter the MacMurray Ranch house to learn a bit more about the terroir of the different Sonoma landscapes.
Sniff various jars filled with elements of each region's terroir.
A fun place to start is the Bubble Lounge sponsored by Gloria Ferrer, one of the most prominent sparkling wine producers in the region. Sample some freshly shucked West Coast oysters paired with bubblies.
Tents are separated by regions (e.g., Sonoma Coast, Russian River Valley, Sonoma Valley, etc) and wine types. Inside each tent, food and wine tables are strategically placed next to each other, often to form good pairings.
The previous year had been sweltering hot, so this year many food stations were serving cold, refreshing dishes, like gazpacho, cucumber soup, and other cold dishes.
Bryan couldn't resist the Mac & Cheese "Lollipops" and I love a good, fresh tomato gazpacho, especially in the peak of tomato season!
I also really enjoyed tasty paella from these huge pans!
There are all sorts of fun small bites, like the heirloom tomato salad on the left and the sweet corn bisque pictured at right.
One of my favorite desserts was this liquid nitrogen ice cream from Sub Zero Ice Cream made right on the spot. It was incredibly creamy yet light at the same time. It was really, really good!
There are several smaller events that occur during the event, like a Blind Taste Challenge, Sensory Exploration of Sustainable Wine, and other fun workshops. You purchase tickets for these events separately.
We spent most of our time in the Grand Reserve Tent. Grand Reserve ticket holders (who pay an additional $30 on top of the $165 entrance price) are entitled to taste wines at Club Reserve, where wineries pour their limited production, reserve, and award winning wines.
There are three one-hour "sessions." Each session features a different set of ~ 15 wineries. That means, within a span of 3-4 hours, you can sample top reserve wines from over 45 different wineries.
The wines were excellent, and we discovered some new favorites, like Three Sticks and Cenyth, as well as some favorites we had discovered the last time we were there, like Pride Mountain Vineyards and Soujourn. We were bummed that some of our other favorites from last time, Kamen Estate Winery and Peter Michael, were not present this time.
The Reserve Tent only has one food station, though the dishes are a bit fancier, like the Porcini Mushroom and Lobster Risotto that Chef Adolfo Veronese from Aventine Glen Ellen is preparing.
These delicate bites also came from the Reserve Tent.
We learned you can buy pre-cut eggs from chickens who have been bred to lay extremely durable shells.
Near the end, when we were stuffed from all the food sampling and pretty much done with wine, we checked out the Marketplace, which includes various ice cream, coffee, and snack vendors. We fell in love with this nitro cold brew from Petaluma Coffee, which was made with beans that had been aged in rye whiskey barrels for two weeks! The resultant flavor was phenomenal. In fact, we went back to the coffee shop the next morning (our hotel was in Petaluma, so it was very convenient!), and got some for the road. We also bought two bags of the rye whiskey aged beans to take back to Boston with us.
Just like two years ago, we had a great time at the event. I would highly recommend coming if you're visiting Sonoma over Labor Day weekend.
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 very good. I'm personally a huge Pinot Noir fan, and the climate in this area is perfect for that type of wine.
After the event, we drove around the area, soaking in the gorgeous landscape. We ended up exploring the tiny town of Occidental before heading to Glen Ellen for dinner.
Disclaimer - I received press passes to this event and thus did not pay for the tickets. All opinions are my own.