Wine Country EventsIn addition to its many cultural and historic landmarks, this destination hosts a number of outstanding festivals and events that may coincide with your visit.
Take a windswept walk along the bluffs of Mendocino Headlands State Park for a chance to spot gray whales majestically breaking the ocean's surface during the Mendocino Whale Festival in early March. Then browse charming shops and sip samples of premium wines supplied by local vintners during the festival's wine-tasting event. Other activities include a chowder tasting, wooden boat show and games for kids. Take advantage of the complimentary trolley service to Mendocino village.
In April, the Bodega Bay Fisherman's Festival at Westside Regional Park kicks off the salmon fishing season. Observe the blessing of the fleet as a parade of decorated boats sails out of the harbor and lines up outside the jetty. Barbecued oysters, roast lamb and other enticing eats pair nicely with tastings of Sonoma County wines. There's also live music and activities for kids like face painting and kite-flying lessons.
Petaluma's reputation as the “World's Egg Basket” is upheld at the Butter & Egg Days Parade & Festival in late April. Marching bands, a block-long food table and an antique fair add to namesake escapades like an egg-decorating contest and—you guessed it—an egg toss.
Chili and beer take center stage at the Great Petaluma Chili Cook-off, Salsa and Beer Tasting , held in early May on the Sonoma-Marin Fairgrounds. Some 30 teams compete as they present their signature recipes. Accompany your veggie or meat chili with a sample from one of the many participating breweries. And you can feast on all this tasty grub while listening to live music. Leave Fido at home; dogs are not permitted.
Want to watch Broadway stars and Hollywood celebrities as they take the stage and belt out musical numbers beneath a starry California sky? Then head to Broadway Under the Stars at Jack London State Historic Park in Glen Ellen. In addition to a little night music at the Transcendence Theatre, you can nosh on delicacies provided by local vendors and sample pours from a number of Sonoma Valley wineries. This popular concert series takes place from mid-June to early September.
Noyo Harbor in Fort Bragg is the site of the World's Largest Salmon BBQ in early July. Held in conjunction with 4th of July festivities, this old-fashioned summer gathering supports the preservation and restoration of wild Pacific salmon resources. The aroma of grilling salmon wafts through the separate dining area, with classic accompaniments like corn on the cob. Enjoy Sonoma County wines as you're entertained by a lineup of blues bands. If you're just coming to hang out, arrive early in order to stake out a good spot on the sand.
Home and garden art is the emphasis at the Art & Garden Festival in downtown Petaluma. Shop for locally made crafts and furniture and browse stands offering food, fine wines and Sonoma County's agricultural products. You'll also hear some cool jazz and blues. The event takes place in early July.
For 2 weeks in mid-July, experience enchanting sounds against a gorgeous NorCal coastal backdrop at the Mendocino Music Festival . The lineup of artists is eclectic—big band, orchestral, blues, folk, chamber music ensembles, bluegrass and contemporary pop are all on the schedule. Venues include Tent Concert Hall and Preston Hall.
The musical motif shifts again the first weekend after Labor Day at Guerneville's Russian River Jazz and Blues Festival . Johnson's Beach is the setting, where jazz licks greet awakening attendees in the morning and the swinging rhythms keep flowing right on into the evening. Bring sunscreen, a blanket and a light jacket to help ward off those chilly early fall river breezes.
Several Wine Country events are devoted to the region's bountiful harvest season, grape and otherwise. The Kendall-Jackson Harvest Celebration takes place in late September at the Kendall-Jackson Wine Estate & Gardens in Fulton. The focus is on the estate’s farm-fresh produce (and wine, of course). Seminars about food and wine pairing and cheese making are among the things to do along with live music and outdoor painting sessions.
The blessing of the grapes occurs at the Valley of the Moon Vintage Festival , held in Sonoma in late September. Join local vintners in offering thanks for a plentiful harvest while sampling their products and noshing on yummy food like barbecued oysters. Local artists sell their wares, and there's also a grape-stomping contest and lots of activities for kids. Fitness buffs can participate in 12K or 5K runs along routes that pass lush vineyards and beautifully scenic countryside.
The Kelseyville Pear Festival , held on the last Saturday in September, pays homage to the sweet fruit with a pear-packing demonstration and a pear pavilion. Indulge in a pear shake or pear-filled pastry while appraising the handiwork on display at the festival's quilt show, checking out the antique tractor exhibit or watching equestrian maneuvers at the Horse Faire. Live entertainment is provided by fiddlers, acoustic guitarists and the Kelseyville High School Jazz Band.
Late September or early October brings the Sonoma County Harvest Fair to Santa Rosa. The 3-day event features a wine-tasting pavilion, wine seminars, chef demonstrations and separate grape stomp competitions for adults and kids.
See all the AAA recommended events for this destination.
Wine Country, CA