From Premiere Napa Valley to Auction Napa Valley to Flavor Napa Valley, Napa Valley has countless celebrations devoted to the art of making wine—one could even argue that there are too many Napa-centric food and wine festivals. The Sonoma Valley, on the other hand, doesn’t have a singular title event—until now. Allow us to introduce you to Signature Sonoma Valley, the first annual luxury wine tasting event, hosted by the Sonoma Valley Vintners and Growers Alliance, taking place next weekend, Friday, April 7 – Saturday, April 8. “We’ve always produced events and they’ve been fun events, grand tasting events or events in conjunction with other experiential things,” Maureen Cottingham, the executive director of the growers alliance told Haute Living earlier this week over the phone. “We’ve never done an event specific to just the wine, so this is our first event. It’s the inaugural year and we’re really, really excited to launch and announce Signature Sonoma Valley. Our objective of this two-day event is to reinforce Sonoma Valley’s position as a world-class wine region.” Cottingham and her team focus on the 13,000 acres of grapes planted specifically in the Sonoma Valley—this includes the Moon Mountain District, Bennett Valley, Sonoma Mountain, Los Carneros, and Sonoma Valley appellations. There are 110 wineries in these regions, but only the best of the best will be featured at Signature Sonoma Valley.
“What’s special about Signature Sonoma Valley is that we had a panel of sommeliers that came in and tasted over 120 wines and they selected the very best wines of the entire set,” Cottingham explains. “These sommeliers hand-selected and positioned them throughout the entire weekend lineup.” Unlike some wine festivals which have so many events it can feel overwhelming, Signature Sonoma has three uniquely named events and wine lovers are encouraged to take part in all of them. The first, Prelude, is an elegant dinner at Buena Vista Winery, the birthplace of California winemaking which turns 160 this year. The meal, which is being prepared by the winery’s chef Victor Scargle, will take place in the exquisite wine caves and will feature ten different wines from Buena Vista and other producers like Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards and La Rochelle Wines. Since Buena Vista is owned by the flamboyant and fabulous Jean Charles Boisset event goers can expect some sort of over-the-top after party. Perhaps in the winery’s luxe all-white bubble lounge?
The second event, Immersion, is just that: an immersion into the daily life of a winemaker. Guests will choose between two vineyards, Durell Vineyard and Kamen Estate, where they’ll taste a curated selection of wines while enjoying a sommelier-moderated discussion between the winemakers who crafted the wines. “People love to discover when they come to Sonoma. They want to walk around or drive down an old windy road to get to one of these wineries that no one’s ever heard of before,” Cottingham says. “We couldn’t help but name the event where you’re actually going to be walking in the vineyard and sitting there, tasting wines with a panel of vintners who made them, immersion. It is an immersion of that specific vineyard. That’s why we named it Immersion.” The afternoon concludes with a farm-to-table lunch at Beltane Ranch.
The third and final event, the creme de la creme of the two-day wine extravaganza, is called Echelon. “Echelon is sort of like the grand event, the grand dinner. We were trying to think of, what’s the best of the best, right?” Cottingham says. “Because again the sommeliers picked these wines all blind. What’s really cool about Echelon is not only are you gonna be at Ram’s Gate which is incredible, but you are going to be sitting at a table that you’ve selected that will be hosted by the proprietor or winemaker. So you want to sit at, let’s say the Three Sticks table. You’re gonna sit at the Three Sticks table that’s hosted by Bill Price, by their owner.” Taylr Behnam, the executive chef at Ram’s Gate, is putting together the four-course meal, which will be delicious. The highlights of the evening, however, are the bottles that each winemaker will be sharing with their tables. Inspired by the Wall Street Journal’s Open That Bottle Night, the vintners will be pulling a cherished bottle from their cellar to open and share with everyone. Ravenswood’s Joel Peterson is opening a 1933 Larkmead Burgundy, one of the first wines made post prohibition; GlenLyon Vineyard’s Squire Fridell is pouring a 1978 Chateau Mouton Rosthchild; and Gloria Ferrer’s Eva Bertran is popping a 1996 royal cuvée brut that the White House served when the King and Queen of Spain were visiting. The setting, the food, the wine: all promise to be amazing and the making of a highly memorable evening. As Cottingham says, “our vintners and growers would love to welcome you into their home. It’s their passion. It’s very authentic. It’s very welcoming and we want you to come out and discover something. Come and experience it with a very intimate event in Sonoma Valley.”