Wine lover’s guide to the inaugural Healdsburg Wine & Food Experience

Here are the top wine events not to be missed at the inaugural Healdsburg Wine & Food Experience|

If you’re an oenophile who wants to taste your way through the inaugural Healdsburg Wine & Food Experience, here’s a wine lover’s guide.

The three-day event Friday through Sundayshowcases growers, winemakers and chefs while celebrating the region’s sustainability’s efforts.

“We’re proud of hitting 99% certified sustainable in our (Sonoma County) vineyards,” said Karissa Kruse, president of the Sonoma County Winegrowers. “This has led us to envision the farm of the future right here in Sonoma County and support our growers with the resources that they need to be leaders in climate stewardship and farming now and in the future.”

The event — with its string of tastings, dinners, vineyard tours and seminars — will funnel the lion’s share of its fundraising dollars to organizations that support farmers and their families, such as the Sonoma County Grape Growers Foundation.

“Our whole event is a celebration of the agricultural roots of Sonoma County, supporting growers and farmworkers and these essential workers make all the abundance of great wine and food possible,” explained founder Steve Dveris, CEO of SD Media Productions, who envisions the fundraiser to be an annual event. “These workers need our support.”

Steve Dveris, CEO of SD Media Productions, has organized the Healdsburg Wine & Food Experience, which he envisions as a celebration of the county’s agricultural roots. (Ken Goodman/SD Media Productions)
Steve Dveris, CEO of SD Media Productions, has organized the Healdsburg Wine & Food Experience, which he envisions as a celebration of the county’s agricultural roots. (Ken Goodman/SD Media Productions)

Healdsburg’s Chalk Hill Estate, celebrating its 50th anniversary, is one of the sponsors, donating $25,000.

“We view sustainability as going beyond the land and we take care of our farmers and land equally,” said Courtney Foley, second generation vintner of Chalk Hill Winery. “It’s a symbiotic sustainable relationship.”

For those with an eye on land stewardship, the seminar on Climate Change and Sustainability in the Wine Industry may pique interest. It will be held from 2 to 3:30 p.m. Saturday, and panelists include Kruse, Justin Seidenfeld of Rodney Strong Vineyards and Chris Carpenter of Jackson Family Wines. The discussion will focus on the region’s efforts with sustainability and what consumers can do to make conscious choices in protecting the planet.

“There’s been a philosophical shift in how we’re farming, and we’ve come light years,” said Seidenfeld, senior vice president of winemaking and wine growing for Healdsburg’s Rodney Strong Vineyards. “We’ve been awakening to what it means to be sustainable.”

Rodney Strong Vineyards, he said, is undergoing a 485-acre redevelopment, using technology like moisture sensors to irrigate.

“We only want to water as needed, based on what technology is telling us,” Seidenfeld explained. “With the sensors, we can tighten up water usage to a great degree.”

Kruse said she hopes the takeaway from the seminar will be Sonoma County’s progress with sustainability.

“Back in 2014, when Sonoma County was the first wine region in the world to make a bold commitment to sustainable farming, I don’t think we fully understood the positive impact that it would have on our local grape growers and on wine consumers,” Kruse said. “Back then, sustainability wasn’t part of the daily conversation. Now it’s the primary part of the conversation.”

Another hot ticket with palate appeal is the Vintners Plaza Grand Tasting Experience. This premier tasting will be from noon to 4 p.m. Saturdayat the West Plaza Parking Lot behind Hotel Healdsburg where the farmers market is held. The band Wobbly World will be playing while more than 100 wineries pour bottlings from Sonoma, Napa and renowned wine regions across the globe. Celebrity chefs will offer their creations to marry with the wine.

The seminar “Legends of Chardonnay” on Saturday no doubt will appeal to those who fancy the multifarious styles of this varietal. Located in Hotel Healdsburg, the seminar will be 11 a.m. to noon, with wine writer and speaker Ray Isle moderating. His lineup of wines will include chardonnays from Chalone Estate, Rombauer and Stonestreet.

Exploring the 88-bottle Wine Wall at the Matheson restaurant with be another draw for wine lovers. As part of the Culinary Chef Demonstrations on Saturday, sommeliers from around the country will guide guests with selections of 10 to 12 bottlings from the Wine Wall to pair with the dish they learn how to make and sample. The wines expected in the lineup include Cliff Lede, Kosta Browne, Rombauer and Vérité, among others.

Those fond of pairing music with wine will gravitate to the outdoor concert at Rodney Strong Vineyards. The Grammy-winning The Band Perry will play Saturday. Doors will open at 5:30 p.m. and the concert will begin at 6:30 p.m., with a lineup of wines to pair with fare from food trucks.

Wine writer Peg Melnik can be reached at or 707-521-5310.

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