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‘Taste of Sonoma’ to welcome wine lovers on Sept. 2

For the past 12 years, the big Sonoma Wine County Weekend event, Taste of Sonoma, has taken place at McMurray Ranch Winery in Healdsburg.

This year’s event has moved closer to the Valley, while the iconic Sonoma County Wine Auction that will follow in mid-September has moved up north to the Russian River.

The moves are part of a complete reorganization of planning and oversight of the events that together make up Sonoma Wine County Weekend, the county’s largest fundraising event.

Sonoma Valley Vintners and Growers Alliance handed over the reins for the big fall events this year for the first time to a newly formed Sonoma Wine County Weekend staff, overseen by the Sonoma County Vintners.

Both expectation, and stakes, are high as Sonoma Wine Country Weekend events have raised more than $24 million over the years. The auction was recently named the third largest event of its kind in the United States.

But up first over Labor Day weekend is the large-scale Taste of Sonoma, which is expected to draw 2,000 people. Marcy Smothers and Ziggy Eschliman will be emceeing this year’s event, which will be held on Sept. 2 at the Donald and Maureen Green Music Center.

Thousands of wines will be poured and local chefs will be offering food pairings. Some of the notable participating chefs include executive chef Thomas Schmidt of John Ash & Co restaurant, executive chef Carl Shelton and winemaker Nicole Hitchcock of J Vineyards & Winery, and veteran Kenwood restaurateur and YouTube chef Steve Rose of the organic and biodynamic Rose Ranch, chef Ariel Nadelberg of the Drawing Board, chef Alec Graham of the County Bench and Chef Travis Day of Thistle Meats.

Said culinary host, Chef Thomas Schmidt, of John Ash & Co., “Sonoma wine country is a chef’s absolute dream,” said Schmidt. “Being centered within a tight-knit agricultural community provides daily inspiration and allows us to create truly memorable dishes that pair perfectly with the unique grape varietals of the region.”

Smothers is known for both the Food Guy and Marcy Show with Guy Fieri, as well as At the Table. Her love of all things Disney, especially Disneyland, inspired her to write her latest book, “Eat Like Walt: The Wonderful World of Disney Food.”

Known on the airwaves as Ziggy the Wine Gal, Ziggy Eschliman runs ZigStyle, which combines wine country entertaining and gardening with her expertise of wine & spirits. For more than 20 years Ziggy has set and reported trends in all things wine. Her radio shows are broadcast throughout wine country and are available online.

Together with the all-day tasting event, guests can buy tickets to join guided Sommelier Tours, sponsored by Rodney Strong Vineyards, Wine Talk Seminars hosted by celebrated local winemakers, wine and food pairing sessions and a blind tasting challenge to test participants’ knowledge of Sonoma County wines.

Taste of Sonoma tickets are still available at SonomaWineCountryWeekend.com. Tickets range in price from $150 to $255 per person. The shuttle between City Hall and the Green Music Center is currently sold out.

Up next for the Sonoma County Vintners is the Sonoma Wine Auction on Sept. 15 and 16. The weekend begins on Friday with a preview party at Kendall-Jackson Wine Estate and Gardens, followed by winemaker dinners around the county. The Sonoma County Wine auction takes place this year for the first time at La Crema Estate at Saralee’s Vineyard in Russian River from noon to 7 p.m. on Saturday.