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September 28, 2011 – Santa Rosa, CA:  Sonoma County Vintners, the premier marketing organization for Sonoma County’s wine and wineries, will be issuing a series of monthly updates on the 2011 harvest season from the perspectives of wineries in each of Sonoma County’s largest regions.

Grapes for sparkling wines are harvested at a lower sugar level than those being used for still wines, which results in sparkling winemakers typically picking the first grapes each year. In Carneros, Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards began harvesting their sparkling Pinot Noir grapes from Glen Ellen on August 24, and their estate vineyards on Saturday September 3. They have finished picking all of the Pinot Noir grapes for sparkling wines and will wrap up picking Chardonnay for sparkling wines by September 29.  The Pinot Noir for still wines on their estate will be picked by October 3, and their estate Chardonnay for still wines should be picked by October 5.

Steven Urberg, Winemaker for Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards had the following comments to share regarding the 2011 Harvest: “The good news is the quality looks very good.  The long slow summer, diminished yield and tiny berries have given us wonderful fruit with plenty of hang time.  So far it looks like a great year for still Pinot Noir.  From the winemaking perspective, I am expecting concentrated wines with intense vineyard character.  The bad news is from the economic perspective, as we are looking at crop levels far below normal.  In other words, if the weather continues for at least a few more days with warm, dry days, we look forward to smaller amounts of wonderful wine that we make from the 2011 harvest.  Right now we are up against rain that is expected next week, early to mid-week.  Fortunately, we are planning to have all of our fruit in prior to the middle of next week, so we're hoping for a speedy end to harvest.”

In the Sonoma Valley, Chateau St. Jean received their first grapes on Tuesday, September 6.  The first pick was Sauvignon Blanc coming in from one of the County’s warmest areas, Alexander Valley. As of this week, the winery has received about half of their expected Sauvignon Blanc (from Alexander Valley and Russian River Valley) and Pinot Noir (coming from the Sonoma Coast and Russian River Valley).  Their Pinot Gris harvesting is complete and they are just starting Chardonnay, which is being harvested from the Robert Young and Belle Terre Vineyards in Alexander Valley.

Chateau St. Jean Winemaker Margo Van Staaveren highlighted the results so far by saying, “Though the yield is down in Sauvignon Blanc and slightly down in Pinot Noir, the quality looks very nice.  Acidities are bright and we look forward to well-structured wines with good depth.”

In the Russian River Valley, Rodney Strong Vineyards started harvest September 6 with some northern Alexander Valley Sauvignon Blanc which was used for their annual blessing of the grapes. September 8 brought Pinot Noir from Russian River Valley, the first of the season for our Winery within a Winery, where smaller lots of wines are made.
Mid September brought more Sauvignon Blanc from Alexander Valley, along with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from Russian River Valley, all at a moderate pace.

According to Douglas McIlroy, Rodney Strong’s Director of Winegrowing, “Things really picked up last week and harvest started and continues to be in full swing with Sauvignon Blanc along with some Chardonnay from the Alexander Valley as well as some Zinfandel from our Hubbard Ranch, also in Alexander Valley. We’re also bringing in Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Pinot from Russian River Valley and southern Sonoma Coast. Overall yields are down quite a bit, in some case even lower than estimated. Quality seems to be similar to last year, which was excellent for most vineyards harvested before the fall rains. The warm weather in recent weeks has really moved things along this year.”

In the Dry Creek Valley, Quivira Vineyards & Winery began their harvest on September 8, the same day as in 2010. They have just completed picking of their Sauvignon Musque, Sauvignon Blanc, Gewurtztraminer and Viognier and began their Zinfandel, Syrah and mixed Rhones for Rose on September 25. All grapes are from the Dry Creek Valley.

Hugh Chappelle, Quivira Vineyards & Winery Winemaker and Grower had the following comments on this first month of harvest: “2011 is shaping up to be a more compressed harvest than usual.  We usually would not be finished harvesting our estate fruit until the end of October/early November.  This year, consistently warm temperatures have us on track to harvest all of our estate fruit by mid-October.”
Chappelle also shared some thoughts on his Zinfandel, which is one of Dry Creek Valley’s most planted varietals: “2011 is shaping up to be a very compressed harvest.  What we normally spread across 3+ weeks will likely need to be picked in 2 weeks or less.  Our early picked Zinfandel is showing bright red fruit flavors and classic dark fruit notes with nicely balanced acidity.” 

Jordan Vineyard & Winery in Alexander Valley brought their first Russian River Chardonnay grapes in on Tuesday, September 27.  Jordan Winemaker Rob Davis commented, “We are only into our second day of harvest of Chardonnay, but what we are experiencing is consistent with our observations of the growing season: very good acidity due to the coolness of the summer and nice varietal flavors, but cluster weights are off by 25% which is the principal reason for below average yields in the vineyards. In addition, small cluster weights are pressing out smaller juice yields by another factor of 10%. Equally light is the Merlot and Cabernet.  The maturation cycle is very similar to last year. The weather could not be better. A minimum of two-three more weeks of growing time is absolutely essential to ensuring the crop to come in as optimal as possible.” 

Sonoma County Vintners will be posting all regional harvest-related news on their website, www.sonomawine.com, and will issue monthly updates throughout the harvest season.

About Sonoma County Vintners
Sonoma County Vintners is the leading voice of Sonoma County wine, dedicated to increasing awareness and improving the quality image of its wines to consumers, media, and trade locally and globally. With almost 65,000 vineyard acres planted among the county’s 13 American Viticultural Areas (AVAs), Sonoma County is considered one of the world’s premier winegrowing regions, producing an unparalleled range of varietals and wine styles. SCV has promoted this diversity and quality since 1944, and currently represents more than 165 member wineries and 25 Affiliate Members. For more information on the wines and wineries of Sonoma County, visit www.sonomawine.com.

About Sonoma County Winegrape Commission
The Sonoma County Winegrape Commission was established in 2006 as a non-profit marketing and educational organization dedicated to the promotion of Sonoma County as one of the world’s premier grape growing regions. SCWC’s goal is to increase awareness and recognition of the quality and diversity of Sonoma County’s grapes and wines through dynamic marketing and educational programs targeted to wine consumers around the world. For more information about SCWC and its programs, visit www.sonomawinegrape.org

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Sonoma Wine Country Weekend Brings Home Critical Funds For Charity


Labor Day Weekend Event Gross Totals Up, Top $1.4 Million
Sonoma Valley Harvest Wine Auction Wraps the 4th Annual Sonoma Wine Country Weekend Presented by Visa Signature

(Sonoma County, CALIF.) — With the nostalgic theme of “Sonoma Homecoming – Vintage 2011” plenty of memories were created during the Sonoma Valley Harvest Wine Auction, the grand finale of the fourth annual Sonoma Wine Country Weekend, September 2 – 4, 2011 which raised essential dollars in support of a multitude of Sonoma County non-profits. Gross proceeds, due to the generosity of more than 4,000 attendees at various weekend events, were in excess of $1.4 million, up more than $100,000 from last year.

Sonoma Wine Country Weekend, presented by Visa Signature®, included winery lunches, barbecues and dinner parties as well as the elegant and unparalleled gastronomic adventure of Taste of Sonoma at MacMurray Ranch on Saturday which sold out for the second year in a row, culminating with the Sonoma Valley Harvest Wine Auction at Cline Cellars on Sunday afternoon sponsored by Trilogy Glass & Packaging.

Following a “grown-up” tailgate party featuring classic and vintage winery trucks, complete with a marching band and cheerleaders, auction-goers at the nineteenth annual Sonoma Valley Harvest Wine Auction enjoyed an afternoon of world-class wine and cuisine from Sonoma County’s hottest vintners and top-notch wine country chefs. Within the Wine Spectator Tent at Cline Cellars, and under the watchful eye and quick wit of Auctioneer Fritz Hatton, more than 500 auction attendees battled for lots ranging from extreme adventures to highly-sought wines to once-in-a-lifetime experiences at locations across the globe. While auction totals are being finalized, early tabulations total more than $600,000, which is more than was raised in 2010.

The largest grossing lot of the day was the “Fund-A-Need” which raised more than $140,000 that will be divided equally between the Redwood Empire Food Bank and the Sonoma Valley Hospital.

The hottest of the thirty-five live lots of the event included the Benziger Family Prom Party, Magnum Force and the Lasseter Family Winery lot. The top grossing lot purchased by multiple bidders was the Benziger Family Prom Party which sold for $62,500—bidders bought “tickets” to an upcoming “prom party” for $500 per person.

The top lot purchased by a single bidder was the Lasseter Family Winery lot, a “field trip” which sold for $40,000. It includes the first-ever dinner at the new Lasseter Family Winery with John and Nancy Lasseter prepared by Chef Roland Passot of San Francisco’s La Folie and entertainment by music star Chris Isaak as well as three personalized magnums of Lasseter Family wine decorated with John Lasseter’s “Toy Story 2” artwork.

Especially poignant was a video tribute to Jess Jackson which celebrated the late vintner and his passions of family, Sonoma County and giving back to the community. The Jackson Family Wines lot includes experiences at several Jackson Family winery properties as well as a twenty-two bottle collection of Jess Jackson’s personal favorites. The lot was purchased by John Lasseter.

The ever-popular Magnum Force lot consisting of a library of large format wine bottles was presented by the Magnum Force “Pink Ladies” of the wine industry who performed a choreographed “Hand Jive,” which urged bidders up to $22,000.

 “Only in Sonoma will auction-goers experience the lively, spirited and authentic experience of Sonoma Wine County Weekend,” said Maureen Cottingham, Co-Producer, “From the winemakers who come from their cellars to the events to the vintners who host tables at the auction and guests on their private estates for winery dinner parties, the experience is beyond unique.”

 “We are uplifted not only by the generosity of the Sonoma Wine Country Weekend attendees,” said Co-Producer Honore Comfort, “but also by the hospitality, as well as continued giving, creativity and longevity, of the hundreds of vintners and growers from throughout Sonoma County.”

The weekend ended with a celebratory post-auction party and special Trilogy ‘Glass Reunion Wine Bar’ offering ultra-premium and limited edition wines served by some of Sonoma’s legendary vintners, keeping in the theme of ‘Sonoma Homecoming – Vintage 2011.’”

For those who could not attend the Sonoma Valley Harvest Wine Auction, yet would still like to participate in the charitable effort, an online auction of additional lots, including many of Sonoma County’s finest large format wine bottles and exclusive experiences, is open for bidding through September 9, 2011 at http://www.winecountryweekend.biddingforgood.com.

Produced in partnership by the Sonoma Valley Vintners & Growers Foundation and the Sonoma County Vintners, the 2011 Sonoma Wine Country Weekend event features the Taste of Sonoma at MacMurray Ranch® as well as the Sonoma Valley Harvest Wine Auction at Cline Cellars and an assortment of additional events throughout Sonoma County. More than 200 Sonoma County wineries, grapegrowers and chefs participate in Sonoma Wine Country Weekend, which is presented by Visa Signature.

Proceeds from Sonoma Wine Country Weekend benefit local communities and charities serving students, children, farm workers and people in need. To date, more than $10 million has been raised jointly by the Sonoma Valley Vintners & Growers Foundation and Sonoma County Vintners.

For more information visit www.SonomaWineCountryWeekend.com, like it on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/winecountryweekend and follow on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SonomaWCW.

About Visa Signature
Sonoma Wine Country Weekend is presented by Visa Signature, a premium consumer payment card bringing cardholders instant access to dozens of perks in addition to the points, miles, or cash back they may already earn. Cardholder perks include access to and discounts at Sonoma Wine Country Weekend, complimentary 24-hour concierge services to assist with travel and entertainment planning, exclusive hotel perks through the Visa Signature Luxury Hotel Collection, and much more.  For complete information visit www.visa.com/signature.

About MacMurray Ranch
Nestled in the heart of the Russian River Valley, the historic MacMurray Ranch is home to award-winning Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris. MacMurray Ranch crafts a collection of elegant, expressive wines from cool-climate vineyards in premier growing regions. Look for MacMurray Ranch at fine wine shops and dining establishments nationwide, or visit us online at www.macmurrayranch.com.

About 2011 Sonoma Wine Country Weekend Sponsors and Beneficiaries
A partnership between Sonoma Valley Vintners & Growers Foundation and Sonoma County Vintners, Sonoma Wine Country Weekend is California’s premier wine, food and social event, taking place on Labor Day weekend each year. The events comprising Sonoma Wine Country Weekend have raised over $10 million in support to local charities that benefit students, children, farm workers and people in need. The 2011 Sonoma Wine Country Weekend is presented by Visa Signature®. In addition to Visa Signature, Sonoma Wine Country Weekend sponsors include: TricorBraun WinePak, MacMurray Ranch®, Trilogy Glass & Packaging, Wine Spectator, Wall Street Journal, San Francisco Magazine, Cline Cellars and Jacuzzi Family Vineyards. For a complete list of beneficiaries and sponsors, please visit www.SonomaWineCountryWeekend.com.

About Sonoma Valley Vintners & Growers Alliance and Foundation and Sonoma County Vintners
The Sonoma Valley Vintners & Growers Alliance (SVVGA) is a non-profit trade organization serving over 500 members who share a mission to promote awareness of Sonoma Valley’s grapes, wine, and history as the birthplace of the California wine industry. The Sonoma Valley Vintners and Growers Foundation (SVVGF) is a non-profit 501c.3 organization that has raised over $8,000,000 for local Sonoma Valley charities. For more information on the SVVGA and SVVGF, please visit www.SonomaValleyWine.com.

Sonoma County Vintners (SCV) is the leading voice of Sonoma County wine, dedicated to raising awareness of Sonoma County as one of the world’s premier wine regions, noted for its heritage of artisan winemaking, distinct growing regions, and extraordinary quality. Founded in 1944, SCV represents more than 175 wineries of all sizes throughout the county. Learn more about SCV at www.SonomaWine.com.

Journalists: High-resolution artwork is immediately available. For more information, to speak with an event representative or to inquire about press credentials for the 2011 Sonoma Wine Country Weekend please email or call Lisa Adams Walter at (707) 255-0300 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . For more information visit www.SonomaWineCountryWeekend.com, like it on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/winecountryweekend and follow on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SonomaWCW.


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