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A celebration of Sonoma County wine and food

  • Bart Hansen, winemaker/owner of Dane Cellars, pours a 2008 Sonoma Valley Zin Saturday for Kari Crowley of San Jose at the Taste of Sonoma at MacMurray Ranch in Healdsburg. (CRISTA JEREMIASON / The Press Democrat)

Organizers of the immensely popular Taste of Sonoma wine and food extravaganza on Saturday knew they had another hit on their hands when they saw their $150 tickets selling on Craigslist for $400.

All of the more than 2,500 tickets to the event — held amid the rolling vineyards and Redwood groves at MacMurray Ranch in the Russian River Valley near Healdsburg — were sold out last Monday.

Taste of Sonoma, now in its 33rd year, is part of Sonoma County Wine Country Weekend, a massive fund-raising event that includes today's Sonoma Valley Harvest Wine Auction. With 206 wineries and 70 restaurants participating, Taste of Sonoma has become the biggest one-day, one-stop showcase of all things wine and food related in Sonoma County.

“It's literally the most incredible snapshot of Sonoma County,” said Maureen Cottingham, who with Honore Comfort is co-executive director of Wine Country Weekend.

Under an impressive complex of white tents, visitors tasted the area's best wines, sampled exotic appetizers and watched wine-making demonstrations or nail-biting cooking competitions between area chefs.

Kari Crowley of San Jose sampled a glass of Zinfandel from Dane Cellars of Sonoma Valley after prepping her palate with Veracruz-style spicy fish tacos made by Christopher Greenwald, the chef and owner of Bay Laurel Culinary, a boutique catering company based in Petaluma.

“It's an awesome complement to the spicy tacos,” Crowley said of the Zinfandel.

Crowley, who was attending the event for the first time, said she was impressed by how well it was organized.

“It's a nice opportunity to explore new wines and spend time with our friends,” she said.

A 15-minute cooking competition offered observers a behind-the-scenes look at local culinary expertise and creativity. In the first round of the Sonoma Steel Chef Competition, Steve Rose, chef/owner of the Vineyards Inn Spanish Bar & Grill in Kenwood, faced off against Carlo Cavallo, chef/owner of Meritage Martini Oyster Bay & Grill in Sonoma.

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