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Wine Country Weekend Returns Aug. 31-Sept. 2

In 2008, the planners of two of Sonoma’s best wine and food events had an epiphany. Why not combine their festivals, which catered to the same crowds and battled a bit for ticket sales, into one extravaganza?

And so Wine Country Weekend was born. And so this weekend, for the fifth year, Labor Day brings a three-day celebration when hundreds of wineries, chefs, and artisan food purveyors gather for elaborate lunches, dinners, and the showcase events: Taste of Sonoma, and the Sonoma Valley Harvest Auction.

As with all great ideas, the reality has grown bigger and better over time. For the 33rd annual Taste of Sonoma at MacMurray Ranch in Healdsburg on Saturday, Sept. 1, more than 170 wineries and 60 of Sonoma County’s top chefs will ply guests with food, drink, and a rich array of educational and entertaining events staged all day long.

When the 20th Annual Auction unveils at Chateau St. Jean on Sunday, Sept. 2, the theme will be “Sonoma Shambala,” as hundreds of bidders compete for such mouthwatering prizes as a helicopter ride, day at the raceway and private dinner party with actor Patrick (Grey’s Anatomy McDreamy) Dempsey; or a weeklong tour of Barcelona hosted by Gloria Ferrer Caves & Winery.

It’s not too late to purchase tickets, even though every feature of Wine Country Weekend has enjoyed sold-out ticket sales for the past few years. The biggest draw has to be Taste, when some 2,500 guests converge on the historic property and vineyard site that the late actor Fred MacMurray purchased decades ago. The estate is rarely open to the public, but during Taste, Fred’s daughter Kate MacMurray invites everyone in for tours and tributes to the magnificent oasis surrounded by towering redwoods.

Multiple tents are spread on the lawn, each celebrating the cuisines and wines of different Sonoma County AVAs ranging from Dry Creek to the Russian River. Guests load up their plates, sip their wines, and relax under shade trees on the grass.

In addition to wine and food, guests at Taste of Sonoma can participate in seminars, take a personalized tour of the event with a Sommelier Star, watch the ever-popular Sonoma Steel Chef Competition, luxuriate at the Gloria Ferrer Bubble Lounge, learn from a pro at the live Cooking Light Grill or elevate the entire experience by going to the newly-expanded Club Reserve for exclusive wine tasting.

Besides the always popular winemaker lunches and dinners from Friday through Sunday, new this year is a Sonoma Starlight Supper Club dinner at Francis Ford Coppola Winery on Aug. 31, featuring a poolside party complete with live music and dancing, 20 wineries pouring their best, and plenty of Sonoma County food.

Details: Taste of Sonoma, Sept. 1 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at MacMurray Ranch, 9015 Westside Rd., Healdsburg. Tickets are $150 per person for General Admission, or $195 per person for Grand Reserve tickets allowing additional privileges and tastings. To purchase: sonomawinecountryweekend.com.

Tip: With such a popular event, parking can be challenging. Don’t worry about jockeying for a space, or concerns about enjoying your wine. Pure Luxury Transportation can provide you with a chauffeured limo, Town Car, or even an elegant shuttle bus for you and your group of friends.

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