We’ve all been there: You’re at work on Monday morning, listening to your co-worker tell you what an awesome time she had at the music festival last week and how you would have loved it. Okay, so now you wish you had gone, but A) you didn’t know about it or B) you forgot to add it to your calendar. Well, now there’s no excuse. Below are my Top 10 Festivals taking place this summer in Sonoma County’s Wine Country and 10 perfectly acceptable excuses to hop in the car for a weekend road trip. So open the calendar on your smart phone and start typing.
SONOMA JAZZ + FESTIVAL
Friday-Sunday, May 20-22, 2011, Sonoma
A “sister festival” to the prestigious Jazz Aspen Snowmass Festival, Sonoma Jazz + is a three day celebration of world-class music, food, and wine (“Yes please.”). The pedestrian-friendly festival features concerts in a huge 3,800-seat tent at the Field of Dreams, just two blocks from Sonoma’s uber-quaint town plaza.
Sheryl Crow, Gipsy Kings, and John Fogerty are the headliners with many more bands in between. Combine this with a passel of the Wine Country’s most celebrated chefs and vintners and you have yourself one seriously fun weekend getaway. (Tip: For lodging & ticket packages call 800/914-7511 or log onto SonomaCounty.com.) 888/512-SHOW; www.SonomaJazz.org
THE 33RD ANNUAL HARMONY FESTIVAL
Friday-Sunday, June 10-12, 2011, Sonoma County Fairgrounds, Santa Rosa
I went to this last year and had one of the best weekends of the summer. The music lineup is phenomenal: Primus, Michael Franti & Spearhead, G. Love & Special Sauce, The Flaming Lips, and at least a dozen other bands playing on five stages for three days and two nights.
It’s a huge festival with all sorts of craft vendors, food stalls, art & ecology booths, dance venues, ecology experts, speakers, and a groovy love-your-fellow-human kinda vibe. Lodging is tough to find in Santa Rosa during this weekend so book a room as soon as you can at LocalGetaways.com (we highly recommend the Hampton Inn & Suites in nearby Rohnert Park—see our Hotel Deal for more info). 707/664-6360; www.HarmonyFestival.com
15TH ANNUAL DAYS OF WINE & LAVENDER
Saturday, June 25, 2011, noon-4pm, Matanzas Creek Winery
Feast on a full afternoon of wine-tasting, live music, and Sonoma County’s finest fare at Matanzas Creek Winery’s Days of Wine & Lavender festival. Matanzas Creek’s 1,500 acre wine estate is one of the prettiest in California, and when their one-acre lavender garden is at peak bloom its 4,500 plantings transform the property into a sublime sea of fragrant purple.
Guests will experience Matanzas Creek wine, a menu highlighting lavender as a culinary ingredient, Jeep tours of the vineyards, wine seminars, arts and crafts, spa treatments, lavender products, and more. 800/590-6464; www.MatanzasCreek.com
ROOTSTOCK: THE GREAT GASTRONOMIC WINE, STREET FOOD & MUSIC FESTIVAL
Saturday, July 16th, 2011, 2-7pm, Santa Rosa Vintner’s Square
It’s the wine, food, and music festival you’ve never heard of… but boy are you glad you went. Rootstock (the Wine Country’s version of Woodstock) is for anyone who has a passion for fine wines, street food, and live music.
The festival brings together the best of the Wine’s Country’s wine, music, and culinary talent, then combines it with 30 wineries pouring their finest, gourmet street foods, a Best Bites Invitational Competition, live music on the main stage, and street musicians performing throughout the day—all set in a rockin’ urban winery village in sunny and warm Santa Rosa, right off Highway 101. Guests can even vote for their favorite street food vendor via social media. Note: You have to be 21 or older to attend. www.rootstockfestival.com
CULTURAL HERITAGE DAY AT FORT ROSS STATE HISTORIC PARK
Saturday-Sunday, July 30-31 ,2011, Jenner
Here’s one the kids will reluctantly go to and end of up loving it: Cultural Heritage Day at Fort Ross State Historic Park. From 1812 to 1841 Fort Ross was home to a unique blend of cultural groups—Russians, Creoles, Native Alaskans, and Kashaya and Coast Miwok Native Californians. Cultural Heritage Day celebrates this historical diversity with a representation of the arts, crafts, and traditional activities of the original inhabitants of Fort Ross.
It’s a great excuse to dress up in period costume dabble in Russian singing and dancing, blacksmithing, weaving, spinning, needlework, storytelling, woodworking, basket weaving, candle making, rope making, knot tying, and Russian food preparation. You can also watch musket and cannon demonstrations, as well as Native Alaskans demonstrating their hunting skills in their native kayak, the baidarka, and learn how baidarkas are constructed. Bring the kids, your camera, and some Dramamine for Highway 1. 707/847-4777; www.fortrossstatepark.org
GRAVENSTEIN APPLE FAIR
Saturday-Sunday, August 13-14, 2011, Ragle Ranch Park, Sebastopol
It’s hard to believe, but the Gravenstein Apple Fair is celebrating the 101st anniversary this year. Yes, there’s been an Apple Fair held each year in Sebastopol since 1910. “The Sweetest little Fair in Sonoma County” is chock full of everything you’d expect from an apple fair— historical apple displays, vendors selling apple desserts, apple tastings, apple contests—along with lots to do for kids, like a Hay Maze, Jumpy Barn, Mechanical Bull, apple dumpling making, wagon and train tides, petting zoo, and more.
Live music at the fair ranges from country to cajun and rockabilly, played on numerous stages and plenty of elbow room for dancing. Me, I’ll be in the “Sips and Suds” tent sampling local micro brews and Sonoma County wines. www.gravensteinapplefair.com
WEST OF WEST WINE FESTIVAL
Friday-Sunday, August 5-7, 2011, Occidental
Experience first-hand the extraordinary wine, food, and culture of the West Sonoma Coast at the first-ever West of West (WOW) Wine Festival, which offers wine lovers an insider taste of some of the most acclaimed cool-climate Pinot Noirs, Chardonnays, and Syrahs on the market today. Created by the West Sonoma Coast Vintners, an association of wineries and growers on Sonoma’s coastline, WOW will be held just one hour north of San Francisco in the quaint coastal hamlet of Occidental.
WOW gives you unparalleled access to small production, limited release wines tasted in the terroir where they were grown, a front row seat at exciting seminars featuring prominent guest speakers, and admission to a delectable Whole Hog Feast at the 130-year-old Union Hotel. Welcome dinners hosted by member wineries on Friday night, August 5th, will highlight Sonoma’s renowned cuisine with local culinary talent.
Saturday will begin with morning seminars and interviews, followed by a Grand Tasting on Saturday afternoon and culminating that evening with a Whole Hog Feast at the 130 year-old Union Hotel. Sunday will feature barrel tastings and open houses at all participating wineries. www.westofwestwine.com
3RD ANNUAL FREESTONE FERMENTATION FESTIVAL
Friday, May 20, 2011, Occidental
A celebration of all things fermented, the festival—now in its third year—is an opportunity to sample an amazing variety of fermented food and drink, explore exhibits on the miracle of fermentation and its many health benefits, and enjoy educational food demonstrations, enzyme foot baths, and kid friendly activities. The festival also includes a diverse mix of inspired Sonoma County acoustic music, and visitors can choose from an assortment of gourmet lunches.
All proceeds from the festival benefit Sonoma County’s Ceres Community Project, a non-profit that provides 30,000 free meals each year to individuals and families dealing with cancer and other life threatening illnesses. These meals are prepared by volunteer teen chefs who learn about preparing and eating locally grown organic food, and the value of giving back to their community. For tickets and more information, go to www.freestonefermentationfestival.com.
14TH ANNUAL TASTE ALEXANDER VALLEY
Saturday-Sunday, May 21-22, 2011
Francis Ford Coppola Winery is the perfect setting for an evening of Alexander Valley’s reserve and library wines, gourmet food, live music and dancing, courtesy of jazz and blues singer, Lavay Smith & Her Red Hot Skillet Lickers.
While enjoying the amazing valley views, guests will sip cocktail hour wines poured by AVW member winemakers, vintners and owners, followed by a colorful wine country selection of small, individual plates and passed hors d’oeuvres created by local Healdsburg culinary talent Tim Vallery. Gala guests will enjoy dishes such as Pork Cheek and Exotic Mushroom Campanelle; Buckwheat Blini with Lime Crème Fraîche and Caviar; Chilled Asparagus Bisque with Terra Sonoma Saba; and, Spice Seared Beef Carpaccio with Argula and Vella Dry Jack, among many others.
Taste Alexander Valley is a rare opportunity to experience the best of the wine country lifestyle that makes the Alexander Valley one of the world’s premier destinations for wine and food! www.tastealexandervalley.org
ART AT THE SOURCE
June 4-5 & June 11-12, 2011, Sonoma County
The first two weekends in June you’re invited to discover the natural beauty and artistic abundance of Sonoma County during Art at the Source Open Studios. The 17th annual Art at the Source Tour features 153 artists in 84 studio locations, and the diversity includes painters, sculptors, potters, jewelers, photographers, glass, wood and fiber artists.
Along scenic highways and country roads, you can visit the working studios of members of Sebastopol Center for the Arts, which will be open to the public. Renowned for its artist community and bohemian culture, Northwest Sonoma County is rich with stunning landscapes, superb cuisine, and world-class wineries making it the perfect getaway to discover art.
To plan your tour, visit the Preview Exhibit at the Center for the Arts where each artist is represented, or consult the Art at the Source catalog to choose artists and follow the map to their studios. www.artatthesource.org
The summer festivals listed above are just a fraction of the fun, romantic, and family-friendly things to do in Sonoma County. For a free visitors guide or information on hotels, wineries, events, spas, attractions, and dining in Sonoma County, visit www.SonomaCounty.com or call 800/576-6662.LocalGetaways.com is the #1 source on the planet for the best California travel deals, California travel tips, and California events. We offer the best selection of travel deals, California hotels, cheap hotels, last minute travel, last minute travel deals, vacation packages, cheap travel, California B&Bs, cheap travel packages, California activities, California tours, cheap travel deals, Northern California vacations, California inns, California lodging, California vacations, California tourist attractions, vacation deals in California, and California vacation packages. There’s no better website in the world for travel tips and travel deals for California travel and the California coasts.