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Leading the way in Wine Country

  • Restaurateur Sondra Bernstein and her executive chef at The Girl and the Fig, John Toulze, cheers in Sonoma on Tuesday, August 13, 2013. (Conner Jay/The Press Democrat)

Sonoma Wine Country Weekend launches its weekend of events this Friday with a trio of honorees in the spotlight: Phil Coturri, owner of Sonoma's Enterprise Vineyards, is the honorary winegrower chair; the Gallo family with its E & J Gallo Winery arm in Healdsburg is the honorary vintner chair; and Sondra Bernstein, owner of Sonoma's Girl & the Fig, is the honorary culinary chair.

The honorees are chosen because of their commitment to their craft and their community leadership.

<strong>SONDRA BERNSTEIN, The Girl & The Fig</strong>

Get ready to fly down to Rio, as the Sonoma Wine Country Weekend breaks out the samba drums and feathers for a vibrant, Brazil-themed benefit auction dinner this Sunday.

Heading up the team of chefs at this year's event is Sonoma Valley restaurateur Sondra Bernstein, a visionary chosen as the weekend's Honorary Culinary Chair due to her innovation and long-time commitment to the region.

"Sondra has been a leader when it comes to using local ingredients and partnering with local wineries to use produce from the garden," said Maureen Cottingham, executive director of the Sonoma Valley Vintners & Growers Alliance, which hosts the benefit event in partnership with the Sonoma County Vintners.

Over the past two decades or so, Bernstein has nurtured a thriving food business anchored by her flagship Sonoma restaurant, The Girl & The Fig, known for its French-inspired country cuisine and wine list of mostly Rhone varietals.

With help from her executive chef John Toulze, Bernstein's expanding "Fig" empire now includes two restaurants and a catering company plus a sharecropped farm at Imagery Estate Winery that produces vegetables for all three.

Along the way, the entrepreneur launched a line of gourmet condiments and wrote two cookbooks: "The Girl & The Fig Cookbook" in 2004 and, in 2011, "Plats du Jour," which honors the region's food purveyors.

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