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August 30-September 5, 2006

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Morsels

Fun With Wine

By Patricia Lynn Henley


Folks who think fine wine and gourmet food should be consumed and discussed with august solemnity in serene surroundings best stay far, far away from the Sonoma Valley this weekend. The valley's grape growers and winemakers will once again be donning a variety of outrageous costumes in a friendly competition to raise the most money for local charities as part of the 14th annual Sonoma Valley Harvest Wine Auction weekend, Sept. 1-3. This year's theme is "Vino Las Vegas: Get Lucky in Sonoma Valley."

"We're going to have a lot of Elvises, a lot of show girls and I'm sure the Rat Pack will show," says Grant Redlands, executive director of the Sonoma Valley Vintners and Growers Alliance, which sponsors the fundraising weekend. The fun kicks off on Friday with an open house at 30 wineries (11am-4pm; $20). There are also winemaker dinners on both Friday and Saturday nights ($85-$160), and a sold-out Cult Cab dinner and show featuring rare Cabernet Sauvignon wines at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn on Friday.

For those with limited resources but a desire to join in the fun (and the charity fundraising), event organizers have this year added a Taste of Sonoma Valley event on Saturday (1-4pm, Depot Park; $30), incorporating the weekend's irreverent attitude and costumes with the offerings from about 35 wineries and approximately 20 local restaurants. But for those with deep pockets who can afford the $400-a-person admission, the big event is on Sunday at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn, when wine industry leaders kick up their legs in a chorus line, croon like Frank Sinatra or do whatever else is needed to get top prices for 62 live auction lots featuring rare wines, fabulous trips, unique dinners and more.

"If you can laugh for six hours, the auction is the place to be. It's hilarious," Redlands says. "A lot of times, we don't even know in advance exactly what the skits will be, because they all try to outdo each other." But the bottom line, he adds, is raising money for local nonprofit efforts. Last year, the weekend's events brought in $929,557; since its inception 13 years ago, the auction weekend has raised almost $5 million for Sonoma Valley charities. For details or to purchase tickets, visit www.sonomavalleywine.com or call 707.935.0803.


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