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Taste of Learnin'

Drink, nosh and go highbrow at Taste of Sonoma

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Grape Expectations Taste of Sonoma is billed as the best wine tasting and education event of the year.
  • Grape Expectations Taste of Sonoma is billed as the best wine tasting and education event of the year.

If you're reading this in print, while it's fresh on the newsstands, you're probably not lounging around in some desert while electronic dance music beats down your tympanic membrane. So, what to do when the rest of your cohort is away, getting burned out at Black Rock? Go wine tasting. But not just anywhere. Attend the best wine tasting of the year.

That's how Sonoma County Vintners bills this Labor Day's Taste of Sonoma weekend event—as the county's biggest and best tasting of the year. What about the Harvest Fair? Good question, but let's just agree that's generally a fair, and draw the line at petting zoo. Although Kendall-Jackson's "White Wine Emoji Lounge," new to that event this year, has a cute and fuzzy ring to it, it's only about a tiny icon of a glass of wine.

Tastes may be tiny in your wine glass, but there are more than 130 wineries pouring at Taste of Sonoma, so it's the wine taster, not the glass, that fills up quickly. Also on hand are local restaurants, serving up a preview of their cuisine without having to traipse all over the county.

The heart of the event is a big tent with walk-around wine tasting. But there's a lot more going on. Sign up for a "Wine Talk" seminar to get a little education on the side.

This year, Winegrowers of Dry Creek Valley return to explore the diversity of Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel, and maybe bust a few myths about the variety.

"Zinfandel is the hardest grape to grow, and the hardest to make wine from," Joe Healy, winemaker at Bella Vineyards, asserted at last year's talk.

Diane Wilson, winemaker at Wilson Winery, lent some insight into the hedonic considerations that lead to her style of Zinfandel: "I'm not trying to make high-alcohol wines," said Wilson. But when it comes time to harvest, "It's just hard for me to pull the trigger." It's sort of like finally finding the season's first ripe peach, she enthused—"And then you get one that's really ripe, and the juice runs down your chin ... "

Meanwhile, seminar-goers have their own flight of wine samples at the ready, so they can swirl, sip and connect the winemaker's thoughts to a pleasant experience of their own.

In contrast to the unpleasant heat that marked Taste's first run at the Green in 2017, the outlook for this weekend calls for seasonably warm conditions. Plus, no desert dust storms.

Taste of Sonoma, Saturday, Aug 31, 12–4pm. Tickets $180–$255. Green Music Center at Sonoma State University, 1801 East Cotati Avenue, Rohnert Park. 855.939.7666.

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