There's little more glorious than a summer wine festival in Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley north of San Francisco. Warm days, cool nights and sparkling clear air in Wine Country matched by the release of new vintages, jazz and classical music and art festivals. We girlfriends and our guy friends keep returning over the summer for such marvelous events in the Valleys, because in just a few hours we can pack in wine, song and shopping, plus gorgeous rolling hills and fields as we cruise along the backroads. And for those of us living in the San Francisco Bay Area, we'll be visiting frequently this summer, as Fog City (San Francisco) cools down and the outlying valleys heat up.
Some of the featured events:
June 24: Matanzas Creek Wine and Lavender
July 13-15: Sonoma County Showcase of Wine and Food
July 15-16: 12 Sonoma Valley Wineries' Spotlight on Summer Wines
July 16-23: Festival del Sole
July 22-23: Catalan Festival
July 28-30: 21st Annual Sonoma Salute to the Arts
Aug. 18-20: Russian River Wine Weekend
Sept. 1-3: Sonoma Valley Harvest Wine Auction
And elsewhere across the state are many other other California wine festivals, including Santa Cruz, Monterey, Santa Barbara and Temecula.
Put the Sonoma Jazz Festival's "Wine & Song Around the Plaza" event on your calendars for next year. On Memorial Day Weekend, for $60 each, armed with a sipping glass and brochures, we walked through the four-block area to restaurant patios offering tastings from small family and large producers, light hors d'oeuvres and jazz, including Bay Area guitar favorite Josh Workman. We were disappointed that there was too little food (bite-size snacks, one each per ticket) for potentially a great deal of wine (12 tastings-plus, depending on the generosity of the pourer), especially for those driving. But we moderated ourselves and enjoyed an early dinner before our drive back.
Best bets for Sonoma wine this weekend afternoon: Dutcher Crossing chardonnays, Buena Vista Pinot Noir and Imagery's Malbec. Among the best local bets for food, Meritage Martini Oyster Bar & Grille (165 West Napa St., Sonoma, 707.938.9430) and El Dorado Kitchen (405 First Street West, Sonoma, 707.996.3030). For return visits to Sonoma, several of the cellars have their own tasting rooms on or near the plaza.