Kicking off California Wine Month at the Sonoma County Wine Weekend

It really is always a good time to visit California wine country - there's no bad season!  However, if you're on the fence about going and you need a little push, consider that September is California Wine Month and wineries in the state's 116 wine growing regions are pulling out all the stops (er... corks?) to celebrate innovative winemakers, delicious wines, gorgeous vineyard settings and the 2013 harvest.

I'll be celebrating in one shape or form all month, but a few friends and I kicked off California Wine Month with a spectacular food and wine tasting event in Healdsburg in the heart of Sonoma County's Russian River Valley.  MacMurray Ranch (owned by actor Fred MacMurray's family) was the backdrop for the Taste of Sonoma event, part of Sonoma Wine Country Weekend.  More than 170 wineries pouring their finest offerings and many paired their vintages with bites from more than 60 local over 60 local chefs, showcasing the County's four wine growing valleys: Sonoma, Alexander Valley, Dry Creek and Russian River. I did my best but even I couldn't taste everything, though I highly suggest trying a wine popsicle if you have the chance!  In additon to all the delicious offerings, the event offered wine seminars, live cooking demonstrations and a Food Network-style chef competition.  It was a great way to get a taste of Sonoma County's wineries all in one place.

Down the road at Santa Rosa's Railroad Square, the wine kept on flowing with a great tasting flight at the Station 1870 wine bar before heading to a delicious dinner at Jackson's Bar and Oven.  The gluten free pizza crust made one member of my party very, very happy, before we headed back to the Flamingo Resort for the night.

The Flamingo was a perfect starting point for a second day of wine tasting near Santa Rosa.  I've visited Sonoma County many times but there are still dozens and dozens of wineries that are new to me.  My first time at Lynmar Estate will not be my last!  Their wines are amazing and only made better by their incredible garden!  Rows and rows of perfect vineyards, coupled with colorful herbs, vegetables and flowers make a unforgettable setting to enjoy their Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.  And for those of you looking for landscaping inspiration for your own home, it's definitely worth a stop!  Another first was a visit to Balletto Vineyards, fertile land that once produced 70 different kinds of vegetables but now produces great grapes that become very tasty Russian River wines.

Before heading back to Sacramento, we made one more stop at the new The Barlow in Sebastapol. A former cannery, The Bowery is now home to multiple tasting rooms, a distillery, a couple of breweries, artisan food and crafts and is the new location of Chef Duskie Estes' well-known restaurant Zazu.  It's a great place to stop, shop and sip!  (Side note: the coffee porter goes great with both the deviled eggs and the Padron peppers at Woodfour!)

Good thing there are 30 days in September!

For more information on California Wine Month events throughout California, visit the California Wine Institute. You can also follow Sonoma County Tourism on Facebook and Twitter.  Cheers!