In July, I wrote about the two big San Francisco events that always makes for a fun holiday—the July 4th festivities and fireworks and the Fillmore Street Jazz Festival. Both draw thousands of people to the city and provide a good time for all.
These events, however, draw people out of town, over the Golden Gate Bridge to Sonoma County and Sausalito. They also have different focuses. While The July 4th weekend festivities are focused primarily on fireworks and jazz, the Labor Day weekend is also built around two hallmark activities. These, however, are based primarily on wine (along the food that goes along with it) and art.
As I wrote in last September’s blog, we have developed something of a ritual around these events, dedicating:
- Saturday to the Sonoma Wine Country Weekend Taste of Sonoma event; and
- Sunday to the Sausalito Art Festival
Although we unfortunately, could not make the Art Festival this year, Taste of Sonoma certainly did not disappoint. You can, meanwhile, be sure that we will return to Sausalito for next-year’s Art Festival.
The wine activities are focused on the Sonoma Wine Country Weekend. The festivities include:
- Winemaker lunches in which 15 Sonoma vintners host guests to lunches that are prepared by local chefs around a particular vintner’s premium wines;
- Winemaker dinners where 13 winemakers partner with local chefs to prepare blow-out dinners that pair Sonoma wines and ingredients;
- The Starlight Supperclub, where Francis Ford Coppala’s beautiful grounds and pool serve as the venue for a multi-course dinner in which a restaurateur prepares a multi-course meal that is accompanied by wines from 15 local vintners;
- Winemaker barbeques in which two winemakers pour wines that complement barbeque lunches;
- The huge Taste of Sonoma, where MacMurray Ranch plays host to thousands of quests who come together for an afternoon in which they get a chance to taste wines from 170 different wineries and pairings with dishes from 60 local chefs. The day also provide a number of learning venues, including Crushpad-sponsored winemaking lectures and demonstrations, cooking demonstrations and competitions and a number of directed tasting seminars where sommeliers and winemakers discuss and answer questions on specific types of wines; and
- The Sonoma Valley Harvest Wine Auction, the grand finale of the weekend in which hundreds of guests pay handsomely (starting at $450 apiece) to be dazzled by spectacle, eat some of the best foods, and drink some of the best wines in the valley, meet with host winemakers and bid on wines, special events, feasts, winemaker evenings and dozens of other special offerings.
Although we have gone to lunches, dinners and barbeques in previous years, there is one event that we never miss. Taste of Sonoma is a wonderful event, filled with wonderful wines, delicious foods, learning experiences and fun, all in the middle of MacMurray Ranches’ lovely vineyards and beautifully rustic facilities. Tents, each dedicated to one of five Sonoma appellations (Alexander Valley, Dry Creek, Russian River and Sonoma Valley) contained the wineries and paired foods—not to speak of all the people anxious to sample them. A special area outside the tents was dedicated to Sonoma food producers who were sampling their wares and other sections to a Gloria Ferrer-sponsored sampling of sparking wines and paired foods and special tastings for premium wines.
This is the first year in the last en that we were not able to go to one of the oldest (60 years) and largest (270 artists) juried arts festivals in the country. Although the art, which includes paintings, sculptures, drawings, ceramics, glass, fashion, wood, photographs and mixed media is certainly the highlight, there is virtually continuous across three stages. These include a number of contemporary groups (Smash Mouth, Frontline, etc.), a number of 60s and 70s-era bands (America, The Yardbirds, Herman’s Hermits and so forth), plus samplings of jazz, folk and classical.
And since this is the Bay Area, sparkling and still wines are flowing, artisan beers are being drawn and a range of foods are served.
The entertainment does not, however, end with the outdoor public celebration. The weekend kicks off with a Friday evening black tie gala. Transportation can also be part of the fun. You can bike in from the city, tour and have lunch in downtown Sausalito, enjoy the festival and load yourself (along with your bike) onto a ferry for the return. You can also take regularly scheduled ferry to and from downtown Sausalito and walk or bus to the event or take a special ferry directly from Pier 41 (in SF) to the festival. Rumor has it that you can also drive.