Organizers of the Taste of Sonoma are taking precautionary steps to cool off the 2,000-plus guests expected Saturday afternoon at Sonoma State University’s Green Music Center, where sizzling triple-digit temperatures could prove the hot potato for the food and wine event’s first-time venue.
Jean Sessions Arnold, executive director of the Sonoma County Vintners, which produces the charity event, said that the organizers have ordered extra water and are researching the possibility of bringing in water misters and a cooling tent.
“We do have much shade naturally and with the umbrellas,” Sessions said in an email. “We have the seminar rooms in Green Music Center and Prelude that are air-conditioned.”
National Weather Service on Friday predicted that temperatures in Rohnert Park would soar to 108 degrees on Saturday. The event takes place from noon to 4 p.m. at the indoor-outdoor concert venue, with Club Reserve VIP ticket holders admitted early at 11 a.m.
One hundred and sixty-five wineries and more than 30 chefs and food purveyors are participating this year, which marks a big move for Taste of Sonoma away from its longtime home.
For the past 12 years, the event was held at the bucolic MacMurray Ranch in Healdsburg along the Russian River. Last year the winery’s owners, E. & J. Gallo, let organizers know it would be the final year they could host the event, which often coincides with the busy harvest season and limited parking to serve thousands of guests.
The Green Music Center offers plenty of paved parking adjacent to the center and even more spread out on the campus.
Events held in the air-conditioned venues — the wine talks and blind tasting as well as the Club Reserve, require a VIP ticket that includes limited production wines with food pairings in Prelude restaurant — require additional passes that must be purchased. On Friday afternoon, the Club Reserve had already sold out.
A few spots remained for seminars and a waiting list was made available on the event’s website.
Meanwhile, as part of the revamping of the Sonoma Wine Country Weekend this year, the Sonoma County Wine Auction will be held two weeks later than the Taste of Sonoma, on Sept. 16 at La Crema Estate at Saralee’s Vineyard in Richard’s Grove. In recent years, the two events had both been held over Labor Day Weekend.
Last year, the organizers of the Sonoma Wine Country Weekend gave away $3.1 million to charities from a gross of $5.7 million from the weekend. The auction by itself raised $4.6 million.
Although attendance normally increases on the day of the Taste of Sonoma, Sessions said, the weather this year is putting a damper on those hopes.
“Might the numbers go down given the heat? Of course,” Sessions said in an email. “Two weeks ago (it was) projected to be 80.”