As my wife Katie and I turned onto Broadway and drove towards historic Sonoma Square we didn’t quite know what to expect at Wine and Song Around the Plaza. We fought through the traffic and the freak rain storm that thankfully passed before we had to get out of the car to find some street parking about a quarter mile from the plaza. We grabbed our bags out of the car and started down to enjoy a day of local wine and local jazz.
Although we are pretty familiar with Sonoma and the downtown square, we both noticed that signage was lacking for the event. Not sure where we had to pick up our badges we gravitated towards the first white pop up tent we saw only to find out it was an art show. After finally seeing our destination we began our journey. Each ticket gave us 12 wine tastings, 4 tickets for food tastings, a personalized wine glass, and a nifty velvet tote for our wine glass. It wasn’t until later that an event volunteer would explain why we needed the velvet tote. We had nine locations to choose from so we headed off to a familiar location* to begin our day...The Swiss Hotel (The venue for our wedding rehearsal lunch).
Each location had two wineries pouring as well as a local musician playing jazz and blues music. Pouring at The Swiss Hotel was Headbanger Wine and winemaker Paul Hoffman. I decided to use one of my 12 tastes to start off bold with the Rock-n-Red, a blend of Syrah and Zinfandel. Wanting to get in as much wine as possible, I ventured to the other winey pouring at the Swiss Hotel, Robledo Family Wines which are also currently being poured at the dinner table of President Obama. The wine was good so I started observing my surroundings to feel the vibe of Wine and Song.
I first noticed that there were a lot of families at the event. I always feel it a bit out of place to bring a small child wine tasting, but this felt different. There isn’t much to do in a tasting room for a young child but at Wine and Song there was great music playing, kids (and hippies) dancing, and it was in a secured off area so parents could remove the despicable backpack leash they had their kids on and let them run around a little.
Although each winery pouring punched our tickets for each taste, a few places like Roche Winery saw Wine and Song as a real opportunity. Roche was offering 3 additional tastings while you were there. For a small winery like Roche that doesn’t distribute their wines, Wine and Song provided the perfect setup to get their name out there. Known for their chardonnay, Roche wines were complex and had wines that would appeal to any wine drinker, from the seasoned veteran with a refined palate to the person who is one step removed from drinking from a box. It was at Roche we learned that the velvet tote was for more than decoration. Because we were walking on public sidewalks and the plaza wasn’t roped off, walking around with an empty wine glass violated open container laws. As we moved from location to location, the wine glass had to be in its own carrying case.
Although difficult at some places because of the crowds, we found some time to talk with Angie from Moon Mountain Vineyards who specializes in 100% certified organic wines....watch out for a future post about them. Giving in to my temptations, I tried their Cabernet Franc which was much less bold than I expected it to be, but very smooth and still full of flavor.
Overall, the wine and music was a great pairing. It was a beautiful day outside and as my wife Katie noted “Even if you don’t like the wine you are going to enjoy yourself.” Wine and Song created a fun atmosphere to enjoy wine in a casual environment. My only disappointment from the day was the food tastings offered at each location. We each had 4 tickets to use and began the day using them sparingly so as not to miss something great. A delicious bruschetta was our first taste and it sadly went downhill from there. An insignificant cheese and pesto tart that had clearly been sitting out for awhile and an almost invisible dab of olive tapenade on a thin cucumber slice were some of the later offerings. I figured the restaurants and cafés would want to showcase their kitchen a bit more than they did. Wanting to experience as much of the event as possible and assuming the food tastings would be a bit more substantial than a tiny piece of corn beef and sauerkraut on a crostini, we opted against ordering a full lunch at any location. With 12 wine tastings, we clearly chose poorly.
Wine and Song was not the only event going on that day. In the evening the concerts in the park began and on Day 1 it was Earth, Wind, and Fire. Katie and I actually didn’t stay for the full concert for a couple reasons. First, we were definitely the youngest people there, but more importantly we were exhausted from the day of walking and drinking earlier. We found it a big challenge to do both Wine and Song and then stay up for the concert as well. On Day 2 we planned much better and were able to enjoy the concert which I will write about later.
Stay tuned for coverage of Day 2 that provided new and different wines, a Patron Tequila tasting, and some infallible marriage advice from a divorced and more than slightly inebriated concert goer.