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May 16-22, 2007

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Morsels

Passport to Sonoma

By Patricia Lynn Henley


Be transported by wine, food, song and more in the largest-ever Sonoma Valley Passport event. While the different appellations within this 18-mile-long valley have held individual festivals before, this is the first time a single ticket provides admission to more than 40 wineries valley-wide. "We expect that we will probably be pouring 250 wines in a two-day period," explains Grant Raeside, executive director of the sponsoring organization, the Sonoma Valley Vintners and Growers Alliance. Laughing, he adds, "I don't recommend tasting them all, but that's how many we'll be pouring." Association members created a promotional video that's running on YouTube, apparently the first such use by a wine group.

Static photos on a standard website don't tell the whole story, Raeside asserts. "This video podcast gave us an opportunity to allow the great characters we have in this valley to talk about their histories, their generations and their wines." A film crew shot six hours of video, which was edited down into an eight-minute podcast highlighting Sonoma Valley wine industry's range of people and products. "We have such a diverse area," Raeside says. "That's why we can grow more grapes than any other area in the world. We have close to 80 varietals." By this time next year, the Alliance hopes to be the first association with short online videos giving a glimpse into the tasting room of each member, giving consumers a glimpse inside the winery doors.

But the best way to do that is at the Passport Event, which will be a lot more than the standard wine and food festival, Raeside promises. Each winery has its own theme, from ancient Greece to Western rodeos, plus vertical tastings, reserve wines, food pairings, music and other entertainment--and at many sites, a chance to chat with the winemaker or winery owners. "We tried to plan an event that we would like to go to," Raeside adds. "This has really been a community effort to put this together."


Sonoma Valley Passport uncorks Saturday-Sunday, May 19-20, from 11am to 4pm. Check in required at Viansa, St. Francis, Valley of the Moon or Sebastiani Vineyards wineries; $45-$40 in advance, $55-$60 at the door and $10 for designated drivers. 707.935.0803. www.sonomavalleywine.com.


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