Walking around the annual Taste of Sonoma on Saturday was like squeezing a weeklong food-and-wine tour of the Sonoma County into a few hours.
The event, under different names and guises, can be traced back to 1980, and I've seldom missed one in 20 years. Not only is it one of the best food-and-wine events around, it captures the essence of what makes Sonoma so … Sonoma.
It's low-key and focused on the consumer, allowing them to chat with a winemaker or chef. The setting is ideal: an old farmhouse outside Healdsburg surrounded by vineyards and redwoods.
Part of the Sonoma Wine Country Weekend, this year's event offered wine seminars, cooking demos and allowed folks to roam through tents devoted to the wines of the county's appellations: Russian River, Alexander, Dry Creek and Sonoma Valleys. More than 200 wineries and microbreweries poured their best and 60-plus kitchens matched their dishes with specific wines.
With such indulgence at my fingertips, I chose my battles. Chefs offered mostly small plates, and the diversity was impressive. (You might not be able to try them back home, but make a note of the restaurant for your next wine-country field trip.)
Sonoma Brinery is a local pickling master, and its Reuben sandwich with dill pickle was a knockout. Ditto La Rosa Tequileria's smoked white fish seviche, the Brasserie's slow-roasted pork slider with pineapple barbecue sauce and El Dorado Kitchen's beef carpaccio with parmesan and truffle aioli on crostini.
Considering the temperature reached a parching 94° F, red wine wasn't my first choice to taste, but I found a few favorites nonetheless.
Pinot Noir Russian River Valley Tilton Hill 2012
Balanced and focused, with fleshy raspberry flavors and lively acidity.
Marsanne Roussanne Los Carneros 2013
A Rhône white blend that's delightfully aromatic and offers succulent peach and other stone fruit flavors.
Rose Sonoma Coast 2013
Fresh and dusty dry, with vibrant raspberry and mineral flavors.
Family Zinfandel Russian River Valley 2012
Great structure at the core with zesty raspberry and anise fruit.
Family Enjoué Rose Sonoma Valley 2013
A sleek and lovely blend of Syrah, Mourvèdre and Grenache. A summer day in a glass.
Ames Chardonnay Alexander Valley 2013
Lush yet crisp with refined apple and pear flavors.
Family Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast 2012
Agilely balances rich raspberry flavors with crisp, focused minerality.