Celebrating the ‘bounty of Sonoma’

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A taste of paradise: On a recent warm Saturday afternoon, the Taste of Sonoma was hosted in the heart of Russian River Valley at MacMurray Ranch. | Photo by W. Peter Hoyne

Chateau St. Jean Winery in Kenwood, Calif., was the epicenter of jubilation over the Labor Day Weekend, Aug. 30-Sept. 1. A Rio-like carnival atmosphere provided the backdrop for the Sonoma Harvest Wine Auction, which energized nearly 600 people to bid a historic, record breaking $1.4 million dollars to support childhood literacy and other vital non-profit organizations in Sonoma County. The Sonoma Wine Country Weekend encompassed three days of barbecues, luncheons and intimate dinners in winery settings where vintners from Sonoma County and Sonoma Valley pooled their resources and shared their hospitality for a worthy cause.

Taking center stage were Honorary Culinary Chair Sondra Bernstein of famed Girl and the Fig Restaurant, along with Culinary Director Bruce Riezenman, Honorary Vintner Chair Gina and Matt Gallo of the Gallo Family Vineyards, and Honorary Winegrower Chair Phil Coturri of Enterprise Vineyards.

The gateway for this year’s opening festivities began on Friday evening with the romance of the “Sonoma Starlight” supper club at Francis Ford Coppola Winery. After a sparkling wine reception, guests were introduced to a sumptuous poolside offering of culinary delicacies presented by Sondra Bernstein and Chef John Toulze. Afterwards, dancing took place under the stars with vibrant Motown renditions performed by Pride and Joy, a group whose original garage rock music style originated in Chicago.

On a warm summer Saturday afternoon, the Taste of Sonoma was hosted in the heart of Russian River Valley at MacMurray Ranch. Kate MacMurray appropriately described it as a “celebration of the bounty of Sonoma.” A gathering of 2,500 shared in seasonal presentations by local chefs while attending wine discovery tours, cooking demonstrations and food pairing seminars. People strolled the grounds of the ranch previewing wines from Sonoma’s individual appellations of Dry Creek, Russian River, Sonoma and Alexander Valleys. Some stunning examples that showcased Sonoma’s unique characteristics were the vibrant 2010 MacMurray Ranch Reserve Pinot Noir, a minerally framed 2011 Dutton Goldfield Rued Vineyard Chardonnay, the exotic red fruit driven 2011 Arista Two Birds Pinot Noir, and the 2010 Peter Michael Les Pavots Estate Red blend. “Perfect Pairing” foods were provided by 60 area chefs to complement the flavors of these Sonoma’s wines.

Sonoma was energized and aglow the following day as enthusiastic bidders sipped bubbly before gathering under the large white tent on the lawn of Chateau St. Jean Winery. Samba dancers dressed in colorful feather costumes were serenaded by the sounds of Latin-inspired percussion as they danced through the crowds. As people feasted on a four-course luncheon presentation by Sondra Bernstein, auctioneer David Reynolds set the tone for the 34 one-of-a kind and lifestyle lots. The top lot was the “Fund-The-Future” project benefiting childhood literacy, which raised $691,251 from a collective group of altruistic bidders including Joe Anderson of Benovia Winery, the Gallo Family, Katie Jackson of Jackson Family Wines and Tom Klein, owner of Rodney Strong Wine Estates. The second highest bid was $125,000 for a Barn Dance and Barbecue Dinner for 50 couples at MacMurray Ranch with Kate MacMurray and the Gallo Family, with each couple receiving an etched magnum of wine. A complete kitchen makeover with Thermador Appliances along with a dinner with the dynamic Jean-Charles Boisset secured $55,000.

The 2014 Sonoma Wine Country Weekend will be held on Labor Day Weekend, August 29-31st, 2014. Information about this wine weekend of community spirit is available at www.sonomawinecountryweekend.com