Sonoma Wine Country Weekend: A Rich Collection of Flavors and Experiences

This annual celebration of Sonoma wine and food offers the best of one of America's great culinary and enological destinations

At the Sonoma Wine Country Weekend.

The problem with the Taste of Sonoma walk-around wine extravaganza — part of the annual Sonoma Wine Country Weekend, the 20th anniversary observance of which took place from August 31 through September 2 — is like the problem with the Metropolitan Museum of Art or the Louvre: There’s just too much good stuff to digest, even in a couple of days. (Full disclosure: was a media sponsor of this splendid event.)

That didn’t stop us from trying to drink in and devour as much as possible, though. We wandered for hours and then more hours around the gorgeous MacMurray Ranch (see photos, page 2 and 3) in Healdsburg, on whose sprawling property at least 200 wineries — from gigantic and ubiquitous to tiny and obscure, from centenarians to new kids on the block — along with about 35 Sonoma County restaurants, caterers, and winery chefs, were generously dispensing samples of their finest wares. Add to that a miscellany of local food producers and processors, a series of Wine Talk seminars, sommelier-guided tours through selected winery stands, cooking demonstrations, and various other special programs — I did an informal “Meet and Greet” around the food and sparkling wine pairings offered by Gloria Ferrer Caves and Vineyards in an outdoor “Bubble Lounge” with Eva Bertran, who describes herself as Ferrer’s “chief wine-drinker,” but is actually the winery’s executive vice-president — and you had an extremely rich and liver-challenging couple of days. Oh, and did I mention the perfect weather, warm and dry and blue-skied?

The Taste of Sonoma sessions were only part of the weekend. On Friday, a series of winemaker lunches were held at properties around the county, with a Sonoma Starlight Supper Club at the Francis Ford Coppola Winery in Geyserville, in the Alexander Valley. This was the old Château Souverain property, but Coppola — the filmmaker got started in the wine business in 1975, when he bought the old Gustave Niebaum estate in the Napa Valley — has tarted it up with a cinematic flair, reopening it to the public as a kind of vineyard-living theme park in 2010. Among the amenities — besides bocce courts, two restaurants, a bar, and a combination mini-museum (Marlon Brando's desk from "The Godfather," a spiffily restored 1948 Tucker) and maxi-shop (lots and lots of wine, glasses, coasters, books, scarves, doodads, doohickeys, and thingamajigs) — are several swimming pools at which visitors may rent lounge chairs and even cabanas for the day. Around the pools, for the Supper Club, about 20 vintners poured their wares (there was a lifeguard on duty, just in case things got too interesting) and there were food stations serving juicy meat carved off whole baby pigs in two irresistible, rustic forms — simply roasted and as porchetta (boned out and stuffed with sausage and herbs) — as well as grilled chicken, sausage with green beans, zucchini and ricotta tart, and other summery Italianate fare so good it was hard to stop eating.