Ways to immerse yourself in the wine experience this spring

We live near or among some of the world’s finest vineyards.

The 2018 Inspire Napa Valley VIP Dinner at Abreu Vineyard (Courtesy photo)

We live near or among some of the world’s finest vineyards which affords opportunities to immerse ourselves into a renown local region and get face-to-face with iconic growers and winemakers.

The Sonoma Valley appellation, from Moon Mountain to the Carneros is a star in California wine history. Signature Sonoma Valley, held May 16-19 at various location throughout the region, offers exclusive immersion opportunities to explore historic wineries and mingle with pioneers and today’s masters while tasting new and old vintages.

Four “Immersion-Vineyard Exploration and Tastings” will be held throughout the weekend at different winery properties including Gloria Ferrer Cave and Vineyards in the Carneros and Louis Martini’s historic Monte Rosso Vineyard.

Some of the vineyard and winery owners in the area are hosting wine pairing lunches and dinners including the Grand Terroir Tasting event on Friday evening. “One of the most highly anticipated dinners of the weekend will be this year’s ICON event at Ram’s Gate Winery, where guests will take a wine-guided journey through Sonoma Valley’s six distinct appellations led by a panel of top sommeliers,” said Maureen Cottingham, Executive

Director of the Sonoma Valley Vintners & Growers Alliance. “Our greatest hope is that guests will leave Signature Sonoma Valley with a deeper connection to our vineyards and an appreciation for the caliber of wines coming out of Sonoma Valley.”

In its second year, Inspire Napa Valley presents an exclusive immersion weekend, May 3-5, that offers insights into several wineries while raising awareness and funding to support both Alzheimer’s disease research and care for Northern California families.

Kerrin Laz, proprietor of K. Laz Wine Collection and one of the organizers, summarized this year’s program. “With so many events that are worthy of supporting, I wanted to be sure that ours stood out because the cause means that much to me and to countless others.”

Inspire Napa Valley will begin on Friday with an “Oakville Neighborhood Block Party” at Rudd Estate featuring champagne, oysters, caviar and live music followed by a sit down, family style dinner paired with esteemed local wines.

Saturday’s first main event is the VIP Wine tasting and Seminar at the Napa Valley Reserve that will feature a discussion of five panelists who will be presenting two wines each that inspire their palates. The weekend concludes with a farewell brunch featuring Chef Thomas Keller’s famous Fried Chicken and Waffles and seasonal pastries from Bouchon. Tickets can be purchased online.

I have enjoyed pinot noir and cool climate chardonnay from the Donum Estate for years but seeing their world-class sculpture garden for the first time changed everything. Magnificent sculptures from globally renown artists like Ai Weiwei, Richard Hudson, Jaume Plensa and Louise Bourgeois are spotted throughout Donum’s vast property including Hudson’s “Love Me”, a giant heart that reflects artistic distortions of its surroundings.

All 30 sculpture installations will be on display, paired with tastings of highly rated pinot noir and chardonnay at the second annual Discover Donum event taking place on Saturday, May 11 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., at the Ramal Road property in Carneros. Proceeds will fund ArtEscape, a local non-profit providing art programs and camps for youth. Tickets can be purchased online.

Anne Moller-Radke, president and winegrower for Donum estate, who has been the steward of this property for decades, reflected on the event. “Donum is a place where wine, art, and nature come together in a singular setting. Each aspect compliments the other. Through “Discover Donum” we invite anyone to join us.

It’s a day we are all very much looking forward to sharing with our community.”

Rosewood San Hill, the ultra-luxury hotel in Menlo Park and historic Ridge Vineyards are partnering to offer “an immersive VIP weekend getaway” that includes private wine tastings, cuisine from the Michelin-starred restaurant, Madera and a walking tour of the picturesque mountain vineyards at Ridge.

Paul Mekis, Wine Director at Madera, will lead the tour that will include a few pours of the Ridge Monte Bello ($215), made famous from the 1976 Paris Tasting and subsequent 2006 reprise tasting of the original vintages, where it was the top wine.

This deluxe weekend ends with a seven-course meal at Madera, curated by Mr. Mekis, with older vintage Ridge wines.

Remaining packages are available the weekends of July 26-28 and September 20-22. Details can be found on the Rosewood Sand Hill website.

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Lyle W. Norton is a wine enthusiast and blogger in Santa Rosa who has written a wine column for 15 years. Visit his blog at www.lifebylyle.com or email him at sfewine@gmail.com. He is a guest columnist.

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