Before your dance card fills up this summer, there are dozens of food and wine-centric events you definitely don’t want to miss. Starting this weekend and going well into the end of September, Sonoma County’s bounty is on display at festivals, fairs, barbecues, revivals, expositions and off-beat “only in the North Bay” activities your neighbors will be buzzing about.
So get out your calendar. We’ve hand-picked some of the most promising of the season.
May 29: OysterPalooza
Celebrate the Bay Area’s favorite bivalve at the fourth annual showcase of local oysters and musical talent. Oyster & Shrimp Po’ Boys, BBQ Tomales Bay oysters, boiled crayfish, seafood gumbo, Texas style brisket, Hurricanes, margaritas and fresh squeezed lemonade along with Lagunitas on draft. Six bands on two stages rock Rocker Oysterfeller’s throughout the day. $12, kids under 10 free, noon to 9pm, rocker Oysterfeller’s Kitchen and the Valley Ford Hotel, 14415 Coast Highway 1, Valley Ford, 876-1983.
June 4: Beerfest
Love beer? You’re in the right place. More than 40 of Northern California’s best microbreweries along with food purveyors and coffee companies get together for a sudsy good time at the Wells Fargo Center. It’s a bacchanal with heart, benefitting Face to Face, the Sonoma County AIDS Network. $45, 1-5pm, Wells Fargo Center for the Arts. Tickets online at f2f.org.
June 4: Sonoma Country Music BBQ
Sure, there’s boot-kicking music (Dierks bentley, Kellie Pickler, John Nichols and SoCo’s own Pete Stringfellow and McKenna Faith), but it’s the BBQ that’s really got us smoking. Local ‘q-ers Big Jim’s, Smokehouse, Siam BBQ, Big Boy’s BBQ and El Brinquito serve up hundreds of pounds of rib, brisket, chicken and tri-tip with plenty of cold brews. Sonoma County Fairgrounds, $45 in advance, $55 at the door. Doors open at 2pm, family-friendly. Tickets at sonomacountrymusicbbq.com.
June 13: Taste of Mendocino
Though it may seem a bit counter-intuitive to head south to San Francisco to experience the flavors of our northern neighbors, dozens of wineries, restaurants and purveyors will showcase the best of Mendocino County at the Fort Mason Center’s Festival Pavillion from 5-8pm, tickets $35. TasteofMendo.com.
June 22 – 26: Sonoma Marin Fair
Rides, Ugliest Dog Contest and first-of-the-season fair food. Get your fried Twinkies, funnel cake and garlic-fry fix. This year’s theme: Preserving the Tradition. Sonoma_Marin Fairgrounds, Petaluma, Sonoma-Marinfair.org.
Saturday, June 25: Days of Wine and Lavender
Stroll through Sonoma County’s most perfumed acre — 4500 lavender plants in full bloom at Matanzas Creek Winery. To celebrate the purple harvest, the winery features a buffet of lavender-infused dishes, spa products made from their crop, cheese tastings, a bocce ball contest, live music, wine tastings and strolls through the lavender barn. $75 per person, , 12-4pm. 6097 Bennett Valley Road, Santa Rosa, 571-0156. Tickets, MatanzasCreek.com.
June 25, 26: Sonoma Lavender Festival
It’s a lavender-scented weekend in Kenwood as the Sonoma Lavender Barn opens to the public. Stroll through lavender fields, learn lavender cooking tip from local Chef Mary Bergin, and tastes lavender cuisine from Fresh’s Lisa Hemenway. Wine tasting, lavender products and spa product sampling. $5 per person, 8537 Sonoma Hwy, Kenwood, 523-4411, sonomalavender.com.
July 9: CigarBQ
Cigars + BBQ + golf + wine, beer and whiskey. This dude-friendly event raises money for local charities, with this year’s recipient the Guy Fieri Foundation for Inspiration & Imagination. $150, Saralee’s Vineyard, 4-8pm. CigarBQ.com.
July 16: Rootstock
Food trucks meet live music, wine tasting and local food purveyors at Santa Rosa Vintner’s Square for this urban Wine Country event. Mobile kitchens from around the Bay will face-off to see who reigns supreme, including SoCo’s Mateo Granados, Street-Eatz, La Texanita and Bay Laurel Culinary’s GastroShack, Larry Vito’s Smokehouse BBQ; Napa’s Dim Sum Charlie’s, and SF’s Le Truc bus-terauant. A host of singer-songwriters add to the summertime fun, along with wines from D’Argenzio, Kurtz, Sheldon, MJ Lords, and Shone Farms. $35-$45, 1301 Cleveland Ave., Santa Rosa, rootstockfestival.com. (BiteClub will host the Best Bites Contest)
July 23, 24: Gloria Ferrer 25th Anniversary Catalan Festival
Paying homage to their Spanish homeland, the winery features flamenco dancers, Spanish food and plenty of bubbly throughout the day. $50, 11am-4pm, Gloria Ferrer, 23555 Hwy Carneros Hwy (121), Sonoma, 996-7256. gloriaferrer.com/catalan-festival
July 27-August 14: Sonoma County Fair
Think Fair Food is just ho-hum? From barbecue and Willie Bird turkey legs to all manner of things fried, the Sonoma County Fair is tops for midway munchies. Stay tuned for the annual Fair Food Scramble on BiteClub in late July. Sonoma County Fairgrounds, 528-3247.
July 30: Rivertown Revival
Petaluma’s Rivertown past comes alive in parade of art boats and curious creations floating down the Petaluma River. Historic accuracy isn’t nearly as important as creativity, fun and a deep-rooted sense of imagination. Expect plenty of turn-of-the-century inspired costumes, handlebar mustaches and gee-whiz moments. Music, food, and $5 revival weddings. 11:30a,-6pm, McNear Penninsula, Petaluma, rivertownrevival.com. (BiteClub will be a Pie Hole Girl selling pies)
August 5-7 West of the West Wine Festival
Some of Sonoma’s most celebrated small-production Coastal wineries (Lioco, Flowers, Wind Gap, Littorai, Martinelli, Peay and many others) gather in Occidental for seminars, tasting and winery dinners. Whole Hog Feast and live music on Saturday. Tickets available a la carte for various events ($125-$350). 888-878-9645 for tickets or westsonomacoast.com.
August 13-14: Gravenstein Apple Fair
Sweeter than apple pie, this family-friendly event celebrates all things apple, most notably the local Gravenstein. Music, kids crafts, demonstrations and lots and lots pie. Ragle Ranch Park, Sebastopol. gravensteinapplefair.com
Sept 2-4 Wine Country Weekend
This is the Holy Grail of Wine Country events, with three full days of eat, drink, repeat. Winemaker lunches and dinners kick off on Friday, followed by the 32nd annual Taste of Sonoma at MacMurray Ranch )11am to 4pm — a full day of exploring hundreds of Sonoma County wineries and food purveyors. Veterans know to pace carefully and hydrate often at this massive showcase of SoCo’s bounty. on Sunday, the Sonoma Valley Harvest Wine Auction raises funds for local charities. (BiteClub will be a Judge and is a media sponsor)
Mark your calendars now
Sept. 10: Kendall Jackson Heirloom Tomato Festival
Red, green, black or zebra-striped, Kendall Jackson fetes all things tomato at this exceptionally delicious event. Top Bay Area (and national) chefs compete, dozens of restaurants serve up tomato-inspired dishes and more than 130 heirloom tomatoes are on display (for tasting). 11am-4pm, $65 per person, Kendall Jackson Wine Center, 5007 Fulton Road, kj.com for tickets. (BiteClub will be a Judge and is attending)
Sept. 13, 14,15: National Heirloom Expo
Petaluma’s Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds puts on an ambitious national event promising to be the largest heirloom event ever. Hosted at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds, it brings together growers, gardeners, purveyors, food celebs and food journalists for three days of tastings, learning and discussion about what we eat. theheirloomexpo.com (BiteClub is hoping to be involved, still in planning stages)
Sept. 25: Handcar Regatta
Erasmus P. Kitty hosts the region’s most innovative and ingenious events, The Great West End & Railroad Square Handcar Regatta and Exposition of Mechanical and Artistic Wonders for the fourth year. Wacky inventors race artistic creations along the tracks, usually dressed in all manor of retro-fab garb. Attracting upwards of 12,000 people, this year will be the first that charges admission, though $5-$8 seems a bargain for the wow-factor of witnessing all that goes on. handcar-regatta.com. (BiteClub Food Circus Returns, and will be bigger and better, with a front-and-center location, live animals and tons of amazing food fun).