Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A Star Shines Over Sonoma

Sonoma set for Labor Day vineyard fireworks with Wine Country Weekend

Labor Day Weekend, there’ll be fireworks, in the figurative sense, over the Sonoma Valley as the 2nd Annual Sonoma Wine Country Weekend unfolds September 4-6. Tickets are already on sale for the event, which combines the Taste of Sonoma wine tasting event on the fabulous Healdsburg estate of the MacMurray Ranch, Winemaker lunches and ‘Varietal’ Dinners, all culminating with the 17th Annual Sonoma Valley Harvest Wine Auction on the grounds of Cline vineyard in Sonoma, which is the Grand Finale and the Year’s Biggest Party. Billed as “200 Wineries and Chefs; One Unforgettable Sonoma Wine Country.” The event, presented by Visa Signature, will raise $8 million for local charities.

In a conversation at San Francisco International Airport, following the flight from an exhausting, but ‘champagne and caviar’-filled weekend at the Aspen Wine Classic, Kate MacMurray, ambassador and spokeswoman of the spectacular MacMurray Ranch, spoke like a gushing school girl anticipating prom night, when she spoke of the upcoming event.

“We’ll once again be hosting the Showcase: Taste of Sonoma at our Healdsburg Estate,” she told me proudly as we waited in the cue near the baggage carousel at San Francisco International Airport. It’s really an opportunity for people to experience the full range of everything the Sonoma Valley has to offer in a setting that is indicative of what this region is all about.”

The fabulous rolling hills and lush vineyards of the MacMurray Ranch is the legacy of her father, actor Fred MacMurray (TVs My Three Sons, 1960-1972, Disney’s The Absent-Minded Professor, 1961. “When my father bought this ranch in 1941, it was dedicated to Black Angus cattle, “ Kate reminisced during a visit to the Ranch last summer. “It wasn’t until Gallo became interested in the property in 1996, that it became a winery.

“John Wayne and my father were huge friends and John Wayne came here often to go fly fishing in that river,” she said, motioning to the Russian River that runs through the rolling meadows below the hills, lined with pinot noir grapes. “The house where he stayed was later dubbed ‘the John Wayne house.’ It is now what Kate calls home.

Grapes produced on the 900 acres of pristine Sonoma land are now responsible for some of the most delicious wines in the valley. MacMurray Ranch Pinot Noir boats a 92 point rating with a concentrated nose of ‘bramble’ fruit and a lingering back beat of soft, fertile earth. Russian River Valley Pinot Gris is rich with aromas of cashew butter and herbs with high notes of floral citrus.

Those are just two of the wines that participants will indulge their palettes in during the 2009 Sonoma Wine Country weekend. For schedule, tickets and information, visit

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