The Wine Guy - Greg Walter

Two great events get me off the island…

From time to time my work takes me away from our island here in Sonoma. And although it is my favorite place to be, it is great at times to head for the mainland if, for no other reason than for a change of perspective.

This week I want to share two great upcoming wine events that I think you might find to be a compelling reason to hop in the car and go. One is quite close and the other I think requires at least an overnight commitment; both are well worth the trip(s).

The first event is one I have attended on and off over the past 20 years – but I have not had the opportunity to attend in the past eight years or so. It’s the 27th annual Lake Tahoe Autumn Food and Wine Festival coming up this September 1 through 9 – nine days of gourmet food and wine events happening at venues around the north, east and west shores of Lake Tahoe, culminating in a very busy weekend of events at the Northstar ski resort on September 8 and 9.

I freely admit that a huge part of the attraction for me is the getaway to North Lake Tahoe and the area around it. It is without a doubt my second favorite place in the world behind Sonoma. For years, early in its history, this event was held pretty much exclusively in Squaw Valley over a single weekend. It has grown and expanded with a goal of showcasing the many interesting places around the north end of the lake.

The event includes a grape stomp, a gourmet marketplace as well as several cooking classes, demonstrations, wine and beer tastings, pairing seminars, wine dinners and the Grand Tasting and Culinary Competition at the Village at Northstar over the weekend of September 8 and 9.

And after all that, there’s the time spent sitting by a fire pit with a glass of something wonderful, taking in all that mountain air!

For details and tickets, visit

The second event is one that is particularly close to my heart. The ninth annual Pinot On The River Festival Grand Tasting happens Sunday, October 21, from noon to 4 p.m. on the Healdsburg Plaza in downtown Healdsburg. The disclaimer is that I co-organize this event each year with my friend Eric Hall, owner of Roadhouse Winery in Healdsburg.

Tickets are selling fast for this year’s Grand Tasting. The Grand Tasting features more than 100 top-notch Pinot wineries from up and down the West Coast. This year, 11 of the wineries showing some of their special Pinots are based here in the Sonoma Valley: Benziger Winery, Dunstan Wines, Gloria Ferrer, Gundlach Bundschu, Landmark, Schug Carneros Estate, Sojourn Cellars, Talisman Wines, The Donum Estate and Walt Wines.

This event is a true “full-immersion” in Pinot Noir, featuring a full day of tastings from some of the West Coast’s best Pinot producers as well offerings from local artisan cheese makers and other sumptuous food. We are again partnering with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Sonoma which is hosting a one-of-a-kind VIP Plaza Lounge. VIP guests will join winemakers and other special guests in this Plaza Lounge for premium tasting seminars from six premier wineries, fine Sonoma County fare provided by Vintage Valley Catering without long lines, and, of course, plenty of Pinot Noir! There are a limited number of VIP tickets available. From a special VIP seminar on Pinot Noir from Ted Lemon of Littorai Wines all the way through the rest of the Sunday tasting, Pinot On The River is an event created for people who love Pinot Noir.

If you love Pinot Noir, this is truly a Pinot tasting event not to miss. To purchase tickets or for more information, please visit

As always, please email me with any questions at

Greg Walter has been a Sonoma resident for more than 20 years. Greg has been in wine and food publishing for more than 30 years, 15 of which were spent as a senior editor and later president of Wine Spectator magazine. Today he writes the PinotReport newsletter ( and publishes books through his Carneros Press imprint (

Comments are closed.