Holiday Events in Sonoma

Christmas season is upon us in Sonoma.  Here are a few great events to check out over the holidays!


Sonoma Plaza Christmas Lights

My favorite part of the holiday season in Sonoma are the lights in Sonoma Plaza.  Grab dinner or drinks downtown and take an enchanted walk through the Square.  It’s a time of year you don’t want to miss!

December 3 – Lighting of the Snowmen Holiday Festival at Cornerstone Sonoma

The 12th annual Lighting of the Snowman takes place Saturday December 3rd at Cornerstone Sonoma.  The festival will feature music, crafts for kids, wine + beer tasting, warm drinks, delicious food, festive decoration and more.  For more info, visit Cornerstone Sonoma.

Winery Holiday Open Houses 

Throughout the holiday season, many Sonoma wineries will be hosting open houses.  The wineries offer seasonal specials & gift ideas and the events often include live music & food.  A few Sonoma wineries that hold fun, holiday events include Gundlach Bundschu Winery, Larson Family Winery, and Fulcrum Wines.  Even if there isn’t an open house when you are visiting, most Sonoma Valley wineries are beautifully decorated for the holidays!



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Rhone Rangers San Francisco – June 10-11, 2016

Hey Bay Area…Rhone Rangers is coming to town this week!  This year, there will be over 60 wineries in attendance for Saturday’s Grand Tasting along with a winemaker dinner & auction on Friday evening.  Rhone Rangers is a non-profit organization dedicated to “advancing the knowledge and enjoyment of Rhone wines produced in America” and they do a fantastic job.  The San Francisco event will be held at The Golden Gate Club at The Presidio and showcases some of the best Rhone winemakers in the US (think Bonny Doon, Two Shepherds, and Tablas Creek).  A complete list of the Friday and Saturday’s events are below!

Rhone Rangers

Friday, June 10

Winemaker Reception, Dinner and Auction – Winemakers pull out all the stops from library wines to barrel samples for the reception and dinner catered by Girl & the Fig Caterers. The auction will have you at the edge of your seat as you bid for rare and unique items only found on the auction block. Tickets are limited to the first 180 persons. Reception begins at 5 pm with dinner at 7 pm.

The list of wineries for the winemaker dinner are:

Anglim, Bonny Doon Vineyard, Caliza Winery, Jaffurs Wine Cellars, Pomar Junction Winery, Qupe Wine Cellars, Ridge Winery, Rune Wines, Summerwood Winery, Tablas Creek Vineyard, Tenet Wines, Terre Rouge, Thacher Winery, The Withers Winery, Westwood Wine Estate

Saturday, June 11
Saturday Pass – Spend the day with the Rhone Rangers and kick off your Saturday with a seminar moderated by Sunset wine editor, Sara Schneider. Join the Rhone Rangers for an in-depth look at Syrah with a panel of winemakers who push the conventional styles of Syrah across California and beyond. Join us for a lively discussion and tasting of up to 10 Syrah wines and taste the difference. Then spend the afternoon VIP style at the Grand Tasting, which gives you an early start to tasting more than 60 Rhone wineries. Seminar begins at 11 am followed by VIP Grand Tasting.

The list of seminar wines:

Bonny Doon Vineyard, Caliza Winery, Crux, Jaffurs Wine Cellars, Qupe Wine Cellars, Rune Wines, Skinner, Stolpman, Tenet Wines, Terre Rouge, Westwood Wine Estate, Wrath

VIP Grand Tasting – Membership has its privileges especially when it comes to VIP status at the Rhone Rangers San Francisco event. In addition to an early start to the tasting of more than 60 Rhone wineries, VIP ticket holders will have access to a special lounge area featuring unique wines, appetizers and seating. VIP guests may enter at 1:30 pm.

Grand Tasting General Admission – Join the Rhone Rangers for their annual celebration of American Rhone wines during the grand tasting. Enjoy wines from more than 60 Rhone Rangers wineries from 2:30 – 5:30 pm.

Weekend Pass – The Weekend Pass includes one ticket to the Friday, June 10 Winemaker Reception, Dinner and Auction AND one Saturday Pass.

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Wine Event – Rhone Rangers is coming to Los Angeles!

Hey LA…one of my favorite wine events is rolling into Downtown LA November 6-7, 2015!  This year, there are going to be 50 wineries in attendance.  Weekend events include a series of in-store tastings and winemaker dinners on Friday evening, as well as a seminar and a walk-around tasting reception on Saturday.

Rhone Rangers is a non-profit organization dedicated to “advancing the knowledge and enjoyment of Rhone wines produced in America” and they do a fantastic job.  Their event in Los Angeles showcases some of the best Rhone winemakers outside of France (think Qupe, Two Shepherds, and Tablas Creek).   A complete list of events is below.  For tickets, visit Rhone Rangers.  Use discount code “GrenacheIsGroovy” for $10 off of VIP tickets.

From last year's Rhone Rangers
From last year’s Rhone Rangers Grand Tasting


Whole Foods, 225 Lincoln Boulevard, Venice CA, 5-8 PM. Join us for a tasting of Rhone-varietal wines with Bonny Doon Vineyard and Michael-David Winery. For more information contact the Wine Department at Whole Foods, (310) 566-9480.
K&L, 1400 Vine Street, Hollywood CA, 5:30 – 7 PM. Join us for a tasting of Rhone-varietal wines with Quivira, Qupe and Vina Robles. For more information contact the store at (323) 464-9463.
WINEMAKER DINNER, FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 6, 6:30 PM, Parkway Grill, Pasadena. Featuring the wines of kukula, Pomar Junction and Ridge Vineyards.  This will be an intimate dinner hosted by Sommelier Emmanuel Gonzalez, and Winemaker Kevin Jussila from kukkula, David Gates, VP of Vineyard Operations at Ridge Vineyards, and Mark Stern (CSW, CS), Director of Hospitality and Sales at Pomar Junction. You’ll enjoy a 3-course seated dinner at Parkway’s private dining room; to make a reservation call the restaurant at (626) 795-1001 and ask to reserve a seat at the Rhone Ranger Dinner on November 6th. This will sell out, only 24 seats available, don’t delay!

WINEMAKER DINNER, FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 6, 7 PM, Redbird, downtown LA. Featuring the wines of Eberle, Kita and Tablas Creek.  Chef Neal Fraser, Bravo TV Top Chef, has designed a 3-course seated dinner for you at The Nest, Redbird’s private dining space and outdoor deck overlooking the LA skyline at Vibiana. Sommelier Ben Teig will be featuring the wines of Eberle, Kita and Tablas Creek for you to enjoy with Chef Neal’s special pairing menu. This is an intimate dinner for just 30 guests, along with representatives from each of the wineries. Reservations may be made by calling the restaurant at 213-788-1191, and asking to reserve a seat at the Rhone Ranger Dinner November 6th. This will sell out, do not delay!

SEMINAR: “GRENACHE ON THE RISE.” SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 7, 10:30 AM. This seminar will focus on Grenache Blanc, Grenache Noir and Grenache-dominant blends. Our moderator will be Patrick Comiskey. Winery participants include Andrew Murray, Bernat, Kenneth Volk Vineyards, Lightning Wines, Mounts Family Winery, Petrichor, Tablas Creek Vineyard, Tercero Wines, Terre Rouge and Vines on the Marycrest .

GRAND TASTING, VIP TICKETS, SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 7, 2-6 PM. This event takes place at The Reef, 1933 S Broadway in downtown Los Angeles.Taste from over 200 wines poured by more than 50 wineries. Bid on wine and wine-related items at the silent auction; a portion of the proceeds from the auction will benefit the Rhone Rangers Scholarship Fund. Winery participants are listed to the left.

GRAND TASTING, GENERAL ADMISSION TICKETS, SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 7, 3-6 PM. This event takes place at The Reef, 1933 S Broadway in downtown Los Angeles.Taste from over 200 wines poured by more than 50 wineries. Bid on wine and wine-related items at the silent auction; a portion of the proceeds from the auction will benefit the Rhone Rangers Scholarship Fund.

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The Taste happens this Labor Day Weekend!

Looking for something to do over the holiday weekend?  Look no further than The Taste, an epic culinary affair hosted by the Los Angeles Times.  The event is a gathering of some of the top chefs & restaurants from Los Angeles along with plenty of wineries, breweries, and other vendors.  This year, there are tons of great events occurring between Friday and Sunday.  Here are a couple not to miss:

imgresField to Fork – Hosted by Russ Parsons, Times Food Writer and Columnist, and Gary Menes, Chef/Owner of Le Comptoir; Sat., Sept. 5th, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

California’s bounty of fresh produce inspires this homage to seasonal cooking, punctuated with engaging demos from Jessica Koslow (Sqirl), James Beard Outstanding Pastry Chef Sherry Yard (Helm’s Bakery) and Niki Nakayama (n/naka). In addition to offering a glimpse into these locally-inspired perspectives, the event will feature a roundtable moderated by Parsons that examines the rise of the “root-to-stem” philosophy with Menes, Bruce Kalman (Union) and Ari Taymor (Alma). Restaurants include Hinoki & The Bird, Kye’s, M Café, Mayura Indian Cuisine, Michael’s on Naples and Westside Tavern, along with Choctal ice cream.

Flavors of L.A. – Hosted by Jonathan Gold, Times Restaurant Critic, and Carlos Salgado, Chef of Taco María; Sun., Sept. 6th, 7:30 to 10:30 p.m.

The depth, breadth and diversity of flavor that make Los Angeles one of the most exciting places to dine are showcased in the closing-night celebration. Taco maestros Salgado and Wes Avila (Guerilla Tacos), along with critically-lauded chefs Curtis Stone (Maude) and Suzanne Tracht (Jar), will each choose a favorite dish to demo for festival-goers. Delving into the latest SoCal culinary phenomenon, Gold will discuss Things in a Bowl with Alvin Cailan (Ramen Champ/Eggslut), Christine Moore (Lincoln/Little Flower Candy Co.) and Minh Phan (Porridge + Puffs). Restaurants include Bar Pintxo,CHAYA, Gasolina Café, Joe’s Restaurant, Madcapra, Racion and Worldwide Tacos.

For more info, including tickets, visit The Taste!

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The Los Angeles Food & Wine Festival is a Wrap!

The 5th Annual Los Angeles Food & Wine Festival was a food and wine enthusiast’s dream!  I attended two of the three evening events and tasted delicious food, sipped outstanding wine, and filled my iPhone with incredible pictures.  Here are some of my favorite shots from the event!

Opening night - "Ultimate Bites of LA" hosted by Curtis Stone
Opening night – “Ultimate Bites of LA” hosted by Curtis Stone
LA Food & Wine
Chef Curtis Stone, amazing bites, and Beastie Boys’ Mike D on the turntables!
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Epic setting, Chef Nancy Silverton, and delicious Spicy Lamb Burgers from Badmaash!
Salad Nicoise from Bouchon Beverly Hills
Salad Nicoise from Bouchon Beverly Hills
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Fantastic wines from California!
Citrus Marinated Hamachi from The Montage Beverly Hills is perfectly plated!
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The Roots rocking the stage on Night 3!
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Los Angeles Food & Wine Festival Starts Today!

Looking for something awesome to do over the next few days? If you are anywhere close to LA, you need to check out the 5th annual Los Angeles Food & Wine Festival.  The event takes place in several locations across LA and features a lineup that includes some of the most talented chefs in the world (think Curtis Stone, Nancy Silverton, and Thomas Keller) along with musical guests The Roots!!!  There are also tons of featured wineries, breweries, and restaurants hosting tastings and events throughout the festival.  I am particularly excited about the wineries in attendance this year.  Some of the wineries I will be checking out include Red Car, Tablas Creek, and DuMol.

LA Food and WineSome events not to miss include:

“Ultimate Bites of LA” hosted by Chef Curtis Stone

“Night Market” hosted by Chef Tyler Florence

“Lexus LIVE on Grand” featuring The Roots

For more information, including how to get tickets, visit Los Angeles Food & Wine.


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The Garagiste Festival is Coming to Los Angeles July 11th

Hey LA…one of the coolest wine festivals in California is coming our way this week!  The Garagiste Festival is arriving in Los Angeles on Saturday, July 11th.  This year, the festival will take place at The Wiltern and will feature over 60 of the area’s hard-to-find, micro-production commercial “garagiste” winemakers.  Each winery has a production of 1500 cases or less.

The Garagiste Festival: Urban Exposure
The Garagiste Festival: Urban Exposure

The event will take place from 2pm-6pm.  Here is more info regarding the tastings:

2:00-6:00pm – VIP Early Access – $99

This ticket allows attendees to enter the Festival one hour early to taste and meet the winemakers with a smaller group of tasters. Unlimited tastes of over 200 ultra-premium, hard-to-findwines provided by over 50 wineries, including exclusive tastes of “Rare & Reserve” wines* ONLY being poured from 2-3pm for VIP Attendees. Includes bread, cheese & charcuterie, as well as product samples provided by Artisanal LA vendors. These tickets are limited.

3:00-6:00pm – Grand Tasting – $69
Unlimited tastes of over 200 ultra-premium, hard-to-find wines provided by over 50 wineries from all over California. Includes bread, cheese & charcuterie, as well as product samples provided by Artisanal LA vendors.

If you would like to get tickets, visit The Garagiste Festival.  We will be pouring with Two Shepherds, so come by and say hello!

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Tasting Our Way Through The Garagiste Festival

Last weekend, Brandon and I had the chance to attend The Garagiste Festival “Southern Exposure” held in the Santa Ynez Valley.  There were many events held over the course of the weekend and we made it to Santa Barbara Wine Country just in time for Sunday’s Grand Tasting.  This event brought together 30 artisan ‘garagiste’ producers along with food vendors.  While most of the wineries were based out of Santa Barbara, there were a few labels from places like Sonoma, Paso Robles, and San Diego.

The Garagiste Festival

Brandon and I tasted our way through most of the wineries and there were definitely a few that stood out.  Our first stop was at J. Brix Wines and it ended up being our favorite tasting of the day.  J. Brix is a boutique winery based in San Diego (that’s right, San Diego!).  Winemakers Jody & Emily Towe started making wine in their garage and have since grown production to 700 cases.  While most of their grapes come from Santa Barbara County, they also produce “Rougarou” Carignan from McCormick Ranch in San Diego.  This unfined and unfiltered wine is balanced with tastes of red fruit and hints of earth.  A super impressive effort that will make you rethink San Diego’s potential.

Another winery that really stood out in the tasting was Ryan Cochrane Wines.  Owner and winemaker Ryan Cochrane was pouring his newly released 2013 Solomon Hills Chardonnay from Santa Barbara County (alongside Santa Barbara Pinot Noir) and it was showing really well.  Nice texture along with vibrant acidity and bright fruit.  A great wine from a winery that is only producing 150 cases!

Brandon and I wrapped up our tasting with bubbles from Flying Goat Cellars.  Their 2012 Cremant was an excellent way to rejuvenate our palates.  It is made from the Pinot Blanc clone 159 from Sierra Madre Vineyard in the Santa Maria Valley AVA.  This sparkling wine is refreshing and crisp with notes of melon and citrus.

Overall, The Garagiste Festival is an excellent way to explore wines from small production, artisan wineries throughout California.  If it comes to your town (Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, & Paso Robles), you should definitely check it out!

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The Garagiste Festival: Southern Exposure 2015

The 3rd Annual Garagiste Festival: Southern Exposure is coming to the Santa Ynez Valley March 27-29th.  This year, the festival will be held in Solvang and will feature over 60 of the area’s hard-to-find, micro-production commercial “garagiste” winemakers.


The festival will feature smaller, more intimate events beginning Friday, March 27th that include:

  • Happy Yeast Make Better Wine: an educational (but fun) winemaker symposium sponsored by Laffort, and featuring Cal Poly professor and winemaker Matt Brain of Baker and Brain (5:00 – 6:30pm).
  • No Repeats: Rare & Reserve Winemaker Mixer: where winemakers bring out the best of their best for attendees, including Club Only, Library and Pre-Release bottles, and compete in the “Big Red Shootout,” a friendly competition in which they blind-taste each other’s wines and vote for the best red in the room. (7:00 – 9:30 pm).

There will also be a Grand Tasting on both Saturday, March 28th and Sunday, March 29th.  Each Grand Tasting features 30 different wineries:

  • Winemakers on Saturday Include: Apical Cellars, Archium Cellars, Baehner Fournier, Bellissimo Cellars, Bradley Family Winery, Brophy Clark, Carivintas Winery, Carucci Wines, Clos Des Amis, Cordon Wines, Cotiere, Crawford Family Wines, Dascomb Cellars, Ferguson Crest, Kessler-Haak Vineyards, La Montagne Winery, Larner Vineyards, Levo Wines, No Limit Wines, Pence Ranch, Press Gang Cellars, Roark Wine Co., SamSara Wine Co., Scott Cellars, Seagrape Cellars, Section Wines, Solminer Wines, Turiya Wines, and Weatherborne.
  • Winemakers on Sunday Include: Alta Colina Vineyards, Ascension Cellars, Barbieri Wines, Big Tar Wines*, Central Coast Group Project, Center of Effort Wines, Cloak & Dagger Wines, Conarium Wines, Dilecta Wines, Dreamcote Wine Co., Falcone Family Vineyards, Graef Wines, Imagine Wines, J. Brix Wines, J. Ludlow Vineyard*, Mattina Fiore*, MCV Wines, Mount Dorado Winery, Pace Family Wines, Ryan Cochrane Wines, STANGER Vineyards, Tercero Wines, Tierra y Vino, Vines on the Marycrest, Vino Vargas, Wandering Dog Wines, Workman Ayer, and Zeppelin Winery.

For more info and tickets, visit The Garagiste Festival.

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West of West Wine Festival – Orange County

Last weekend, Brandon and I attended the inaugural West of West Wine Festival in Orange County.  The event, held at the Honda Center in Anaheim, was put on by the West Sonoma Coast Vintners in partnership with Orange Coast Magazine, Celebrity Cruises, and Hartford Family Wines.  West of West exclusively featured wineries from the West Sonoma Coast, a region known for producing cool climate Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Syrah.

West of West Wine Festival
West of West Wine Festival

West of West afforded attendees the chance to not only taste delicious, well-made wines, but to also have one-on-one conversations with winemakers from many of the wineries pouring at the festival.  Here are a few of my favorite wines along with tasting notes from the event:

Pinot Noir standouts at the West of West Wine Fesitval
Pinot Noir standouts at the West of West Wine Festival

2012 Small Vines “MK” Vineyard Pinot Noir

Elegant flavors of dark berries and black cherries are coupled with floral undertones and hints of spice. A beautiful wine that will age with grace! (13.5% alcohol, $70)

2012 Red Car Hagan Vineyard Pinot Noir

Layers of cranberries, pomegranate, black tea, and spice.  Complex and balanced flavors that are enjoyable now but will benefit from more time in the bottle.  One of the best wines I have tasted from Red Car! (13.7% alcohol, $68)

2012 LaRue Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

Bright tastes of cranberries, raspberries, and cherries are met with notes of black tea and rose petals.  Structured and well-balanced.  Such an impressive effort from this young winery! (13% alcohol, $60)

2012 Gros Ventre Campbell Ranch Vineyard Pinot Noir

Harmonious layers of flavors that include black cherries, dark berries, licorice and earth.  Vibrant acidity and a complexity that unravels with each sip.  So glad I had the chance to try the Pinot Noir from Gros Ventre…some of the best at West of West! (13.8% alcohol,

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