The Wine Guy - Greg Walter

The new name for Labor Day Weekend

If the Sonoma Valley Vintners & Growers and the Sonoma County Vintners have their way, the hugely successful “Sonoma Wine Country Weekend” that the two organizations jointly produce each year, will soon replace “Labor Day Weekend” on most calendars.

Sonoma Wine Country Weekend runs from August 29-31 at various locations around Sonoma County and is the county’s largest charity wine event, bringing together over 200 of Sonoma’s top winemakers and growers, along with a collection of the area’s best chefs.

The weekend features three signature events: the Sonoma Starlight event at the Francis Ford Coppola Winery on Friday, August 29; the incredible Taste of Sonoma event at MacMurray Ranch on Saturday, August 30; and the Sonoma Harvest Wine Auction at Chateau St. Jean in Kenwood on Sunday, August 31.

In between those three big events all weekend are a wide range of winery lunch and dinner parties and special tasting opportunities located throughout Sonoma County.

But the greatest thing about the weekend is not all of the fun you will have while attending, it’s the incredible benefits the events bring to our county. Since its inception, the Sonoma Wine Country Weekend has raised more than $12 million for charities that benefit students, children, farm workers and people in need in Sonoma County communities.

For me, the best event has always been the Sonoma Harvest Wine Auction. Always a classy, fun event, the Sonoma Harvest Wine Auction features not just a great slate of world-class wine and lifestyle auction lots but also a stunning venue with entertaining auctioneers and great food and wine. Sonoma County vintners and winemakers host each table and attendees are able to choose which of these hosted tables they would like to sit at (reservations for these are on a first-come first-served basis).

The auction and the entire Sonoma Wine Country Weekend have always been focused on raising awareness and funding for local charities and healthcare organizations.

For those of you looking for yet another great reason to attend this year’s Sonoma Harvest Wine Auction — or the entire weekend — this year’s auction features the second year of the “Fund The Future” lot, the proceeds from which will help fund a multi-year childhood literacy campaign here in Sonoma County. This new focus on childhood literacy is aimed at a growing problem here in the county.

Research has shown that students who have not reached an expected level of reading proficiency by the time they are in third grade are statistically less likely to graduate from high school. Other negative outcomes have been tied to this lack of reading proficiency such as future poverty and health problems. It is estimated that in Sonoma County, 54 percent of third-grade students read below their expected proficiency levels.

The “Fund the Future” program will support several Sonoma County organizations focused upon childhood literacy and preparing kids to read: Schools of Hope (United Way of the Wine Country); Pasitos Playgroups (Community Action Partnership); AVANCE (Community Action Partnership); Accelerated English Program (Healdsburg Education Foundation); and Summer Reading and Writing Academy & Grade Level Proficiency Project (Sonoma Valley Education Foundation).

The goal of the program is to help Sonoma County increase the third grade literacy rate to 90 percent by 2018. Thanks to the industry for stepping up. If you are so inclined, please attend and support this great weekend of wine, food and charity.

Tickets are still available for many of the weekend events. For more information and tickets for the Sonoma Harvest Wine Auction and the entire Sonoma Wine Country Weekend, visit

As always, you can email me with questions or comments at

Greg Walter has been a Sonoma resident for more than 25 years. Greg has been in wine and food publishing for more than 35 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 ( 






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