The last few weekends in Healdsburg we've given wines barely a nod -- beer festivals, arm wrestling, youth theater. But the bins are getting filled every morning with ripe fruit, and the smell of crush is in the air.
So it's appropriate that not one but two annual wine events return this weekend, starting on Saturday, Oct. 20, with the Healdsburg Crush Festival. It brings together local winemakers, chefs and growers to hobnob with the hoi polloi about this year's harvest. You'll find it from 6 to 9 p.m. at the St. John School Parish Activity Center.
The Crush showcases 30-plus area wineries (and one brewery), from Alderbrook to Zichichi, alongside over a dozen outstanding local restaurants and food purveyors. This annual event is not quite an industry secret, and has come to be known as a sort of hyper-local harvest fare where Sonoma winemakers pair their wines with Sonoma County’s finest foods.
Winemakers are usually available for questions and conversation about the 2012 crush season, about which they should be pretty upbeat. Popular local chefs will be serving their signature dishes. The Gary Johnson Trio will be playing. Your $70 ticket gets you unlimited wine and food over the three-hour event. Proceeds benefit St. John's Catholic School, as their major fundraising event for the year.
The evening’s festivities also include a raffle drawing, live and silent auction lots, and "buy-in parties." What's a buy-in party? Check out the options on this page of wining and dining special events with limited seating, ranging from $100 per person and up.
Sunday, Oct. 21 brings us the other big event: Pinot On the River, a one-day celebration of the grape that drove the industry sideways. There will be 100 or so "small production artisanal pinot producers" represented in the Healdsburg Plaza for the Grand Tasting, from noon to 4 p.m. Current releases, specials and library wines from up and down the West Coast will be available for tasting at this "full immersion" winery walkabout, with tickets going for $75, $85 if you want to begin your Grand Tasting at 11 a.m.
Winery professions in the Pinot game might be interested in the VIP Ticket ($150) which includes a 9:00 a.m. "Terroir vs. Blending" tasting seminar, with Ted Lemon of Littorai Wines and Greg Walter of PinotReport. Yes, there will be wines offered as evidence.