This year, the Starlight Sonoma dinner outdoors at Francis Ford Coppola Winery will have a more casual feel, with lots of small buffet stations filled with foods to pair with wines arranged by varietal rather than appellation.
Sondra Bernstein and John Toulze of The Girl & the Fig in Sonoma are harvesting fresh veggies from their farm to create a fun array of stations, from vegetable skewers and salads to wood-fired pizza and salads in Asian to-go boxes. There will also be charcuterie and slider stations for meat lovers.
“It’s a bit more of a walkabout, with lots of places to pick up food,” she said. “Last year, we had a big salad and dinner buffet, and everybody was waiting in long lines. This should be easy, and you can go back and forth.”
Although it’s usually toasty into the night in Geyserville over Labor Day, you never know when the fog is going to creep in, so remember to dress in layers, just in case. And if you don’t want to drive that far, you can take a round-trip shuttle from Sonoma and Santa Rosa for just $35.
Here are some other tips for Friday night and some of the smaller barbecues and dinner parties surrounding the big keynote events on Saturday and Sunday:
- Tamara Stanley of Santa Rosa believes that all events are better when you volunteer, so don’t be afraid to sign up and show up.
“You not only get to have the best parking, because you always get there early, you also get to know the behind-the-scenes fun,” she said. “Not to mention that you get in free. Friday night is a great volunteer gig due to the live band.”
If you’re interested in volunteering, e-mail the volunteer coordinator Leslie Murray at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- If you’re a film buff, be sure to keep your eyes open for vintner and Academy Award-winning director Francis Ford Coppola, as well as his wife Eleanor, who say they may be at the event. They have shown up in the past. Who knows what other notables may be in the crowd? Nicolas Cage, nephew of the Coppolas, was a former guest, and the actor is a wine enthusiast with an impressive wine cellar.
- When it comes to pours, a savvy tip is to get your tasting strategy in order. Each winery is featuring one wine, so you’ll want prioritize your pours based on your favorites among the 25 wineries participating.
- After dinner, some may want to cap off the evening in the Cigar Bar on the premises with a smoke.
- Meanwhile, those with stamina will gravitate to the dance floor. The band Notorious, known for their 1980s dance music, will begin playing at 8 p.m.
- A final word for the well-heeled from Kathleen Inman of Inman Family Wines: “Since the Starlight event is poolside and on the terrace at Coppola, the option to wear heels exists,” Inman said. “The other two events are on the grass and every year I see ladies who are new to the events tottering on high heels and either aerating the grass or turning their ankles.”
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