Saturday, September 5, 2009
MacMurray Ranch, Healdsburg
The Annual Showcase Taste of Sonoma was a culinary, hedonistic heaven, and one of the best organized food/wine events I have ever attended. (and I have attended a LOT.) This event is part of series of Sonoma County activities hosted all weekend.
To start, it’s hosted at the beautiful MacMurray Ranch a venue only open for special events. Hidden from the road, nestled amongst hills, is an amazing valley with gorgeous views. It’s a picture perfect post card-like vista of Sonoma County.
It’s amazing how an event with 2,400 attendees, 120 wineries, and 60 chefs can feel so unhurried and un-crowded. Huge kudos to the organizers for their execution.
I loved the layout. Food and wine was organized into four main tents, one for each of the primary Sonoma regions: Dry Creek, Russian River , Sonoma Valley, and Alexander Valley. Since I live in the area and explore here often, I was more inclined to focus on Sonoma Valley , since it’s an area I get to less. Of course I went through all four tents. Repeatedly. Started with whites….made the rounds, paired with food. Next, Pinots. Rinse repeat. Then on to bigger reds, and I focused on less common varietals.
If you are a Signature Visa cardholder (like my United Visa) not only was the event discounted $50, you were also treated like royalty with a special area and gift. This event was a bargain at $95. (anyone who lives/visits Sonoma should have one for the winery bennies – click the link for details.)
Gloria Ferrer Bubble Lounge: REALLY nice setup area, right at the entry, complete with comfy chairs. What better way to start with bubbles and food pairings?! Gloria Ferrer was a class act as always, with three different bubble offers and food pairings. Pizza Politana had an INCREDIBLE thin crust fig pizza that was to die for, and paired well with their Royal Cuvee. Gloria Ferrer’s new Va Da Vi cuvee has been a smash hit for them. Production is currently ramping up, and is also just now hitting some retail venues. Its Cuvee Club pickup month, so looking forward to another visit soon!
There were also a number of seminars, chef contests, and other interesting activities if you could break away from eating and imbibing.
To keep up with Social Networking, there were ten laptops for patrons to update Facebook, Twitter, Snooth, and also to upload pics. For the technically challenged, friendly assistance was on hand. This turned out to be a godsend for any AT&T user, as there was almost no signal anywhere, and my iPhone was demoted to picture taking.
I was somewhat surprised to see people walking around with beer(!). Stella Artois was pouring Stella, Hoegaarden, and Leffe (the latter two being great beers) served in a free proper-style Belgian glass, with logo.
I will make a quick mention for some special things that caught my eye. My apologies to the many great others I didn’t get to. It may have been that I just got too carried away enjoying the event to take anymore notes.
– Autumn Barber at Aioli Deli/Catering did a delicious pulled pork slider with slaw. As a six year resident
of the Carolina’s, this was noteworthy stuff. Go Aioli!
– Epicurean Connection: Sheana again had great food, and a gelato people where hunting everywhere, and a line always in queue
– Hopmonk Tavern had a yummy lamb bite with pureed squash.
Many others as well. Everything I sampled was creative and delicious.
Sadly, I didn’t get to taste the fried chicken from Susan/Jeff Mall’s Zin Restaurant. The line was always long and I forgot to circle for the third time. (But I frequent Zin regularly, so I don’t feel too deprived.)
Again, a dizzying array of choices. I tried to stay away from usual faves, and explore new. I was pleased that I was usually able to engage in meaningful dialogue. Its always great to meet owners, wine makers, and other knowledgeable staff, and I enjoyed the chats almost as much as the wine.
Spann Vineyards: I made up for my faux pas of not tasting Spann at the Family Winery event, and was pleased to meet Peter in person. The chard/viogner blend was a hit on my palette, all fruit, great balance…will be coming soon to purchase. The Mo Jo Super Tuscan red blend was also great…but then I am a sucker for well- made Sangiovese. I wish I could attend Spann’s tasting event Sept 12th, but that Saturday is already quadruple booked. Do treat yourself if you can make it.
VJB Cellars: great Italian varietals: Barbera, Sangiovese. Well made, neutral oak, all fruit, palette pleasers. They also make (weren’t pouring) a Montipulciano. Guess I will be making a visit soon.
Soujorn Cellars: Three great Pinot offers, but hands down the Gap’s Crown Sonoma Coast. They were just awarded a 95 score by the Pinot Report, was a crowd pleaser, and my Pinot pick of the day. (Amongst many stunning choices.) This Pinot is under allocation, only three per purchaser – hurry!
I, of course, did stop for quick tastes of some of my usual Russian River and Dry Creek favorites that were there (some weren’t) including Kokomo, Acorn, Lynmar, Thomas George, and more…
I was thinking this morning on how fortunate I am to live in such beauty and great culture. To be surrounded by warm, fun people who love life is a blessing. Kudos to Signature Visa for pulling this together and to share with so many people the jewel that is Sonoma County is.