If there are other things to do this weekend -- and there are, just check the Parch Events Calendar -- none of them is as seasonal and special as the event going on down Hwy. 101 a bit, near the part of the county called Fulton.
This is only its fourth year, but the Artisano Grand Tasting is fast becoming a local favorite, and for more than just locavores.
A post-harvest celebration of local wine, food, and art, Artisano is Saturday, Nov. 17, at the Vintners Inn and John Ash & Co. restaurant, both just west of the River Road exit.
"It's one of my favorite small winery events of the year," said Patch wine blogger William Allen. "Wineries can pour by invitation only, so I was delighted to be asked." Allen makes Rhone wines under the Two Shepherds label.
Local public relations professional Marie Gewirtz, who ran the Sonoma County Harvest Fair in 2011, is working on Artisano this year. "I'm helping with promotion not only because I am devoted to artisan wines, restaurants committed to supporting local farmers and ranchers, unique food purveyors and talented artists, but also because it all goes to the Ceres Community Project."
Like Allen, she calls it "one of my favorite events of the year in Sonoma County."
What's so great about Artisano? The Artisano event is entirely a local one, staffed (largely by women) from local concerns like Passalacqua, Relish Culinary Adventures and Ceres, and of course the Vintners Inn itself. Corporate it's not: sponsors are local, participants are too.
It starts with the Grand Tasting on Saturday from noon to 4 p.m. at the Vintners Inn Event Center. Sure, advance tickets are $75 ($90 at the door), but you'll get to discover local artisan ultra-premium wines rarely available to the general public (like Two Shepherds as well as Acorn, Domenichelli, Lazy Creek and Valdez Family Winery, among others). Some of these are seriously good wines you will not find at area supermarkets or even Amazon.com. Seriously.
It's not just about wine: small plates from many of our justly-celebrated restaurants are also there for the tasting, with locally raised meat and produce complemented by local (of course) artisan cheeses, charcuterie, chocolates, and other snacks.
It's also a kind of fair. Original works of art from several of the region’s premier artists will be available for sale, and hands-on food workshops with local chefs will go on throughout the afternoon, and local musicians will be playing.
"If nothing else," adds Gewirtz, "it's a great place to begin holiday shopping."
Things kick up a notch at sundown, with a Harvest Dinner at John Ash & Co. starting at 5 p.m. On the table is a local harvest menu prepared by restaurant Chef Tom Schmidt, from Organic Lettuce with spicy candied pistachios and chèvre, to Poached Pears with sweetened mascarpone and brown sugar streusel. You can just imagine what comes in between.
Of course it's paired with wines from the day’s Grand Tasting. Dinner, too, is $75, but don't expect to find any seats available come Saturday night.
There's a feel-good side to all this good taste, too - Artisano's support of the Sebastopol-based Ceres Community Project, recipient of the funds from the silent auction and a "golden ticket" raffle for several prizes, with only 150 tickets sold at a price of $50 each.
Since 2007, their volunteer teen chefs have prepared over 130,000 meals for people and families struggling with a serious illness. The meals often feature local organic ingredients and help teens learn about cooking and eating for health. Now that's cool.
For more information or to purchase tickets, please visit www.artisano.org. Tickets can also be purchased at Relish Culinary Adventures in Healdsburg, Vintners Inn and in the Ceres Community Project office at 7351 Bodega Ave. in Sebastopol.
Ceres is the recipient of the funds from the silent auction of wines and gourmet items, and a "golden ticket" raffle for several prizes, with only 150 tickets sold at a price of $50 each.