The taste of Sonoma returns after 2 years to a new time, place – but same local delight

It was a year of firsts for Taste of Sonoma as it returned on Saturday after a two-year hiatus related to the pandemic.

This year marked the event’s move to the Kendall-Jackson Wine Estate & Gardens in Santa Rosa. It also took place earlier in the season than in previous years and saw the start of food trucks that served small bites.

Taste of Sonoma is a showcase of local winemakers and food that offers immersive experiences including wine tastings, guided wine seminars, garden tours and themed lounges.

Among the local dishes available were sea bass ceviche, mushroom tacos, lamb gyros and a rib eye skewer with potatoes smothered in chimichurri sauce.

In a VIP lounge, which offered separate wine and food sessions, Pete Seghesio, owner and chef of salumi at Journeyman Meats in Healdsburg, was busy slicing two different salumi to serve.

“I think it’s beautiful,” Seghesio said of the new venue. “(Kendall-Jackson) has a great team. Who else is going to give me caviar on a homemade blini and creme fraiche?

Gerard Nebesky of Gerard’s Paella planned to provide about 1,500 servings of his Mexican Chicken and Chorizo ​​Paella with Arugula and Chickpeas. There was always a line of people waiting to taste the tasty dish.

One of the event’s marketing hits was the Rodney Strong Rosé Lounge, where guests could enjoy frose (frozen rose) and wear pink aviator sunglasses while surrounded by pink flower arrangements and pink velvet sofas.

“I love the decor here, it gets an A+ and I love the Slurpee,” said Ingrid Wibben of Danville. “The weather is perfect – they were lucky – and the beauty is that there is plenty of shade.”

At the Kendall-Jackson Garden tent, the culinary team led by Executive Chef Justin Wangler served raw hummus cones topped with oyster-flavored oyster leaf, baby carrots, baby radishes and mini turnips grown by Tucker Taylor in the estate’s production garden.

“I appreciate that we’re back and showcasing the hard work of our team,” said Taylor, who gave tours of the 5-acre garden throughout the afternoon.

Sonoma County Vintners director of marketing and communications Barbara Cox said she expected about 1,000 people to attend the event, including staff and volunteers, and tickets were still available. available at the door.

The event has always drawn guests from across the country, but this year locals eager to return to some semblance of normal life showed up in greater numbers.

“It’s great to see the vineyards bustling and busy,” said Lisa Sheppard of Sebastopol, a first-time attendee. “We opt for the VIP tickets as they support all local wineries.”

There were approximately 100 participating wineries pouring various vintages and varietals.

“The wineries are busy, and there are some great wineries here,” said Kristin Coughtry, business marketing manager for St. Francis Winery & Vineyards in Santa Rosa. “This is such a beautiful snapshot of Sonoma County.”

The annual tasting was last held in person on Labor Day weekend 2019 at Sonoma State University’s Green Music Center in Rohnert Park, where it had been held since 2017. For a decade prior , it was set among the rustic redwoods and vineyards of MacMurray Ranch along the Russian River south of Healdsburg.

The Kendall-Jackson site seemed to offer the best of both worlds.

“I love the layout. It’s very open and not crowded,” said first-timer Ryan McNeil, from Santa Rosa. “There’s also a lot of variety in wine and food. have the banh mi from The Black Piglet, and I really liked the mint.

Held this year in June rather than Labor Day weekend, it attracted out-of-town guests but proved problematic for the local wine community.

“Our member winemakers have asked us to move it due to harvest demands,” Cox said. “Harvest is an extremely busy time for them, and we wanted to give as many of our members the opportunity to participate.”

As for the wine season, more than one winegrower said he was relieved that there was a little more water in the ground than at the same time last year, thanks to the late rains. They were also grateful that the harvest had survived the spring trifecta of wind, frost and hail.

“We skated this spring,” said Erik Miller, winemaker and vintner at Kokomo Wines in Healdsburg. “Due to the late rain, we saw chips in the zin as the fruit tied up, but for the most part we look fine.”

“What was nice with the cool weather was that the vines stopped growing vegetation and produced more fruit for pollination and flowering,” said Randy Ullom, wine master for Kendall-Jackson. “Then it warmed up, and now all the vineyards are reaching for the sky.”

Managing editor Diane Peterson can be reached at 707-521-5287 or [email protected] On Twitter @dianepete56.

Joshua B. Speller