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WINE BANTER by John Haggard - March 2015

WINE BANTER by John Haggard - March 2015

by John Haggard

9th Annual California’s Artisan Cheese Festival

Love wine and cheese? Well, March 20th – 22nd, hosted by the Sheraton Sonoma County in Petaluma is the Artisan Cheese Festival, a good spot to find yourself. It’s an opportunity to meet many great cheesemakers including Sue Conley and Peggy Smith, co-owners of Cowgirl Creamery and Soyoung Scanlan, owner of Andante Creamery, to name but a few. There are educational seminars and tastings led by cheese experts, cheesemakers, chefs and fromagiers from across the country, and virtually every session involves tastings and/or pairings of artisan cheeses. The festival features a wide variety of artisan cheeses from California and beyond, together with their artisan bread, food, wine and beer complements. For more information, visit:

Welcome to Spring, in Duncans Mills

The Merchants of Duncans Mills are hosting an evening of music, conversation, great food and wine on Friday, March 20th, 4-7pm, at Sophie’s Cellars in Duncans Mills. Proceeds to Benefit the Duncans Mills Merchant Association. For more information, visit

Spring Winemaker Dinner Series

The first Spring Winemaker Dinner Series is with winemaker Rick Moshin of Moshin Vineyards and Winery, on Monday, March 29th, 6pm. The Village Inn winemaker dinner series is a perfect way to experience Sonoma Wine Country. Moshin Vineyards is one of the first wineries you will come across when traveling along Sonoma County’s beautiful Westside Road connecting Guerneville to Healdsburg, starting from the South Side, or the Guerneville Side. The state-of-the-art gravity feed facility is a favorite of mine to visit along Westside road. The friendly and knowledgeable tasting room staff will guide you in the right direction to enjoy a tasting and to plan the rest of your day along Westside road. This winemaker dinner is an opportunity to not only experience fine wines, but to have each course paired with a wine selected by the winemaker and chef, an opportunity to break bread with the winemaker who has created the wines you are enjoying, and, at the Village Inn, in one of the most beautiful settings with a riverfront view. Even better, for just $99 you can stay the night at the hotel. The winemaker dinner, at $55 per person, is also a great value including dinner, wine, tax and gratuity. For more information, visit

37th Annual Barrel Tasting March 6-8 & March 13-15, 11am - 4pm each day

Reminder: get your tickets now and book your lodging! There are two weekends of Barrel tasting in three of Sonoma’s larger appellations, the Russian River Valley, Dry Creek and Alexander Valleys. There is an opportunity to buy futures and wines at a discount. Attendees are encouraged to pack a picnic as most wineries will not have food for this event. For more information, visit Make a weekend of it: check out for lodging information.

April in Carneros

Carneros is a wine appellation that traverses both Sonoma and Napa valleys.  The cooler climate Carneros is known for pinot noir and chardonnay among other varietals. On Saturday April 18th and Sunday, April 19th, the wineries of Carneros are hosting a multi-winery open house with live music, wine tasting, art exhibits and the opportunity to purchase wines at great prices. For more information, visit:

“Wine Faults” Causes, Effects, Cures by John Hudelson, P.H.D.

If after all these wonderful Spring wine and food events in Sonoma County you want just to relax with a book and learn about what you’ve been experiencing, “Wine Faults” has many answers, in a very digestible eighty pages. It’s definitely more a book for the wine Geeks (such as myself). From understanding the science of your palate to recognizing flaws in wines you may be tasting and how they are caused and sometimes disguised, this organic chemist and wine industry quality control expert has the definitive guide (available at, paperback $30, Kindle $16).

John Haggard is owner of Sophie’s Cellars, Sonoma Wine Tasting in Duncans Mills, California. Sophie’s Cellars is open Thu, Sat, Sun and Mon: 11am – 5pm, Fri:  11am-7pm (Local’s Night, Friday, 4-7pm, and you don’t have to be a local to join us).