Sonoma Wine Country Weekend will unveil a tempting menu of wine and food events this week, bringing back beloved favorites like the Taste of Sonoma at Healdsburg's MacMurray Ranch, while launching a new dinner under the stars at the Francis Ford Coppola Winery in Geyserville.
Produced for the past five years by the Sonoma County Vintners in partnership with the Sonoma Valley Vintners & Growers Foundation, the three-day fundraiser weekend has grown into Sonoma County's premier annual event, showcasing the region's diverse seafood, cheeses and produce along with its renowned chardonnays and pinot noirs.
"Every year it grows and continues to get better, with more chefs and vintners," said Honore Comfort, co-director of the weekend with Maureen Cottingham. "Ticket sales are well ahead of last year, and there are a lot of people flying in from out of the area."
To mark the 20-year milestone of the Sonoma Valley Harvest Wine Auction, the weekend culiminates on Sunday with a spicy "Bollywood" party, complete with bustling bazaar and sensual, five-course feast served al fresco at Kenwood's Chateau St. Jean Winery.
In the past, the weekend kicked off with a series of small winery dinners accommodating just a few guests. Those are still happening, but this time around, organizers wanted to make a bigger splash.
The new Sonoma Starlight Supper Club on Friday night will feature a deluxe, Patron Dinner for 100 served by chef Mark Stark at the iconic Francis Ford Coppola Winery.
"We wanted to kick off the weekend by showcasing the best we have to offer," Comfort said. "There will be signature wines and chefs, and one of the most gorgeous views in the county."
Stark's dishes for the Patron Dinner will provide an ideal canvas for wine, ranging from Caramelized Tomato Tart Tatin to Sea Scallops a la Plancha with Charred Baby Leeks, Pancetta and Romesco Sauce.
Around the swimming pool, 400 additional guests will also enjoy a casual barbecue dinner dished up by chefs Jeff Mall of Zin restaurant in Healdsburg and Carlo Cavallo of Meritage in Sonoma.
While tickets to the Patron Dinner sold out in July, there were still tickets left at press time for the poolside dinner.
Mall, whose forte is regional American cuisine, will roast a whole rotisserie pig and serve up forkfuls of the porky goodness with all-American sides such as Sweet Corn and Basil Salad.
Cavallo will parry with some tasty, Tuscan fare: Pollo al Mattone (chicken under a brick) with Cannelini Beans and other sides.
A roster of 25 wineries will be stationed around the pool, serving two wines each, plus sparkling wines, for guests to enjoy. Entertainment includes bocce ball and dancing under the stars to the music of the band, Pride & Joy.
Saturday's signature event, the Taste of Sonoma County, held at the storied MacMurray Ranch in the Russian River Valley, has expanded its programs this year, especially for those who pony up for Grand Reserve tickets.
An expanded lineup of 40 wineries will pour in the Club Reserve area, which will move to a shady area between the barns at the entrance to the Marketplace. In addition, three of Sonoma County's best chefs will serve food pairings in Club Reserve: Steve Litke of the Farmhouse Inn, John Toulze of The Girl & the Fig, and Jesse Mallgren of Madrona Manor.