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Come along on a wine dream trip to Sonoma County

Wines 101

Posted: July 10, 2008 6:16 p.m.
Updated: September 11, 2008 5:02 a.m.

This Labor Day weekend, Aug. 29-31, when the skies are clear, vineyards are displaying a mosaic of fall colors, and the smell of harvest is in the air, make the trip to Sonoma County and visit "a country within a county" in just one weekend.

My husband and I are headed to Northern California, for the first time in 20 years to Sonoma, for a weekend of events. We start as guests for the evening at Phifer Pavitt winery on the Silverado Trail in Napa with only an idea of what "guesthouse" comforts we will find there.

"We can chef it up at the house," Suzanne Phifer-Pavitt said. "We are happy to host you." And we are happy to have the opportunity to sample a meal along with her top-scoring "Date Night" Cabernet Sauvignon. What an excellent start.

The next day we will head across to Sonoma bright and early to visit all of Sonoma wine country in one weekend, all while supporting local charities for students, children, farm workers and others in need. (Just like we do at almost every wine event in the SCV.)

Located just 30 miles from San Francisco, Sonoma boasts hundreds of award-winning wineries, spas, resorts, hotels and inns.

All of Sonoma county's varied wine regions, prominent local chefs and artisan producers will be represented as well as all of Sonoma's 13 American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) such as the famed Russian River Valley, Carneros and Alexander Valley, prominent local chefs and world-renowned sommeliers.

Visitors will be able to experience winemaker lunches and dinners, chef competitions and tastings, impressive seminars with some of the industry's top names, intimate vineyard tours, freshly harvested grape tastings and hands-on winemaking.

Winemaker lunches will be hosted Friday, and winemaker dinners on both Friday and Saturday nights will be held at several prominent wineries.

These include Ferrari-Carano, Gloria Ferrer, Gallo Family Vineyards and Francis Ford Coppola. Guests can meet the actual winemakers in an intimate setting normally reserved for those in the industry only.

Saturday afternoon is the main tasting event with over 110 wineries, 60 regional chefs and several other local artisan companies at MacMurray Ranch, normally closed to the public, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Some of the nation's top sommeliers will also be on hand to do guided food and wine pairings and tastings of new and/or hard-to-find wines. You can also catch a seminar with Wine Spectator's Director of Wine Education, Gloria Maroti Frazee, or catch a glass during the Russian River Pinot Noir breakout with Hartford Court Winery.

On Sunday you can attend the Sonoma Valley Harvest Wine Auction, renowned for its wild themes and winemaker skits, at Cline Cellars.

The biggest wine and food event in Sonoma County, it is now a combination of two former events, the Sonoma County Showcase of Wine & Food and the Sonoma Valley Harvest Wine Auction.

There are also many hotels in Sonoma. Look for me at the event's host hotel: Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa, (707) 939-2467,

If I can find the time to pull myself away from the event I will be enjoying the ancient thermal mineral waters in the spa or the baby back ribs at one of the restaurants.

Then look for me again back at the event - or from your La-Z-Boy armchair - as the story will soon follow me back home to Santa Clarita Valley and The Signal.

For Homebodies
This homebody, when she returns from her big out-of-town weekend, is looking forward to the biggest in town wine event:

The inaugural Tournament Players Club and West Ranch Art & Wine Gala will be held on Saturday, Sept. 20, at 6 p.m. Benefiting the arts in the Santa Clarita Valley, the 2008 recipient will be the Joe Ranft/Alumni Scholarship Fund at CalArts.

You will enjoy a reception, dinner, wine, art, live entertainment and an auction held by Sotheby's Inc. The Honorary Chairman is Roy E. Disney.

Other chairmen and chairwomen include Dave Bossert, Don and Cheri Fleming, Guy LeLarge, Ken McMahan and Greg McWilliams. The event director is Jeffrey Shapiro and the coordinator/contact person is Lesley Jacobs, 254-9300.

And, once again, look for Eve at the event juggling pen, pad and ever-present wine glass. Just for you.
Of special note: At press time I have another event, just as honorable a mention as any other.

The Betty Ferguson Foundation's 2008 Woman of Honor dinner honoring Liz Seipel.

I have volunteered for this event in the past and it is remarkable with elegant food, live auctions and entertainment. Contact 702-8712 or

Bushman is a resident of Newhall. Her column represents her own views, and not necessarily those of The Signal.


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