From the heights of Moon Mountain to the windswept hills of Carneros, as buds were breaking on Sonoma Valley’s historic 160th vintage, the region’s wines took center stage at the inaugural Signature Sonoma Valley. Spread over two days and three sold out events, Signature Sonoma Valley was an intimate and exclusive gathering of wine enthusiasts, offering unprecedented access to acclaimed wines and the celebrated vintners and growers who crafted them. Here is a taste of what unfolded during this legendary wine experience.
BUENA VISTA WINERY
It was fitting that Signature Sonoma Valley’s very first gathering be held at the birthplace of California’s wine industry, the beautifully restored Buena Vista Winery. It’s charismatic proprietor, Jean-Charles Boisset, personally welcomed PRELUDE guests to this very special property, which is celebrating its 160th anniversary.
At the opening reception, held on a private, rarely accessible floor of the winery, guests were greeted with a flute of lovely Gloria Ferrer Brut Rosé accompanied by freshly harvested oysters on the half-shell. Guests enjoyed the opportunity to get to know the many vintners they would be dining with, while savoring a first taste of wines hand-selected for this evening by a panel of sommeliers.
Dinner was held on the museum level amidst Jean-Charles’ prized collection of antique vineyard and winemaking tools curated from around the world. The buzz in the room was tangible, as guests moved through each course, with vintners rising to offer insights on the amazing wines that accompanied them. Congressman Mike Thompson was in attendance to introduce his long-time friend, Sonoma Valley winemaking legend Richard Arrowood, who delivered a moving keynote perfectly setting the stage for the weekend to follow. A memorable first night concluded in Buena Vista’s infamous Bubble Lounge, with one of Jean-Charles’ epic after-parties.
DURELL VINEYARD | KAMEN ESTATE VINEYARD | BELTANE RANCH
IMMERSION took Signature guests deep behind-the-vines at two of Sonoma Valley’s most iconic vineyards: Durell Vineyard and Kamen Estate. There they learned the nuances of each location while enjoying an intimate tasting of wines produced from that site. A five course, farm-to-table lunch at the historic Beltane Ranch followed, paired with wines from other acclaimed Sonoma Valley vineyards.
IMMERSION | DURELL VINEYARD
Nestled in the Southwestern foothills, the iconic Durell Vineyard was among the first Sonoma Valley sites to be showcased in early vineyard designate wines. IMMERSION guests gained exclusive access to the property hosted by a ‘who’s who’ of Sonoma Valley winemaking. Margo Van Staaveren of Chateau St. Jean, who has been using Durell Vineyard fruit for over 30 years, was among the six panelists to lead the morning’s discussion. Margo “and the guys” — Kenneth Juhasz of AUTEUR Wines, Jason Kesner of Kistler Vineyards, Erich Bradley of Sojourn Cellars, Ryan Prichard of Three Sticks Wines, and Rob Harris of Price Family Vineyards & Estates — guided guests through a curated tasting of Durell Vineyard designate wines, sharing personal insights on this acclaimed site.
IMMERSION | KAMEN ESTATE VINEYARD
High atop the Mayacamas, deep in the Moon Mountain District, Kamen Estate proprietor and famed Hollywood screenwriter Robert Kamen welcomed guests to the mountainside vineyard that he calls home. Guests savored stunning views of the estate along with an incredible library vertical (2005-2008) of the world class Cabernet Sauvignon it produces. Yet it was hard to tell what people enjoyed more, the wines or the animated discussion with Kamen’s talented team. Joining Robert were legendary Sonoma Valley winegrower Phil Coturri, winemaker Mark Herold, and Master Sommelier Christophe Tassan. In all, it was an intimate and lively exploration of this incomparable site.
IMMERSION | BELTANE RANCH
The idyllic Beltane Ranch was the setting for an exquisite farm-to-table lunch that followed the vineyard excursions. Greeted by members of the fifth-generation Beltane Ranch family, guests arrived to a welcoming glass of Estate-Grown Sauvignon Blanc while they took in the spectacular Spring garden setting. Continuing IMMERSION’S vineyard theme, each course was paired with a vineyard designate wine from an iconic Sonoma Valley site. Guests dined alongside the winemakers or principles from each of the featured wineries, with each rising in turn to share personal insights on winemaking in Sonoma Valley. Guests especially enjoyed Korbin Ming of Korbin Kameron, who had the tent rolling in laughter with his comic retelling of how their family decided which siblings the winery would be named after. Between the picture perfect setting, the wines, the food, and the camaraderie it was a meal that will not soon be forgotten.
RAM’S GATE WINERY
Ram’s Gate Winery provided a fittingly dramatic backdrop for the highly-anticipated ECHELON dinner. Guests enjoyed spectacular views of Carneros as they mingled with vintners and growers during the pre-dinner reception. The reception also offered a first glimpse of the full line-up of incredibly rare ‘One from the Cellar’ offerings each host had brought to share that evening. All 17 bottles were artfully displayed for guests to view up close, whetting their appetites for the incredible dinner to follow.
The dinner itself delighted guests with an incredible array of wine and culinary showstoppers. Each elegantly adorned table was personally hosted by a Sonoma Valley wine luminary who shared a selection of their own wines in addition to those being served with the dinner. In all there were 17 host vintners and some 35 exceptional wines being poured throughout the room.
Anticipation built as each impressive course was served, and the experienced team of sommeliers readied the seventeen ‘one from the cellar’ offerings. As the wines were poured, hosts rose to share very personal stories behind their selections. In introducing his wine—a 2002 Domaine Dujac Clos de la Roche Grand Cru—Bill Price gave a moving toast to his father who first inspired his love of wine. Ram’s Gate owner Jeff O’Neill’s bottle—a 1933 California Growers Arpaxat Setrakian Vineyard Tawny Port—was produced at his grandfather’s winery the very year prohibition was repealed. Ravenswood founder Joel Peterson, who postponed his own 70th birthday party to attend ECHELON, reached deep into his cellar to share another wine from 1933, a rare Larkmead Burgundy. Guests and hosts alike roamed the room savoring the collective excitement accompanying this truly ‘once in a lifetime’ wine moment. It was a perfect and fittingly legendary finish to the inaugural Signature Sonoma Valley.
Signature Sonoma Valley returns April 6-8, 2018. Mark your calendars now to join us for this truly legendary wine experience. Until then, be sure to read this dedicated piece on the ‘One From the Cellar’ wines featured at the ECHELON dinner, and visit our Signature Gallery for more great images from this year’s event.