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February 8, 2023

Winter Wineland Event Reaches 30th Year

Popular north county winery marketing event hopes to dodge stormy weather

One of the longest-running winery events in Sonoma County is set to resume this weekend, Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 14-15. It will be the 30th anniversary of Winter Wineland, one of four major weekend tasting events from Wine Road, a Northern Sonoma County destination marketing association of wineries and lodgings.

Weather permitting, that is. Several winery events were canceled last weekend due to rainy weather and high water. And while rain looks likely this coming weekend, it won’t be the first time, or the last, that Wine Country sees a storm or two. 

“You just never know!” said Mysty Stewart, the “Ambassador of Buzz” at Wine Road.  “The forecast tells us we can expect some light rain that weekend, but that won’t deter us, so at this point, we’re on. That said, we will monitor in real time because certainly flooded roads and the Russian River in general could pose issues that we’ve not seen yet.”

While it’s more conceptual than an actual highway, the Wine Road follows two main river valleys, the Russian River Valley south of Healdsburg and the Dry Creek Valley to the north. Both have been experiencing local weather-related flooding. And while the wineries themselves can prepare for poor weather and move events indoors, access to some of the more outlying wineries might be problematic. 

Stewart suggests checking Wine Road’s social media channels (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter @thewineroad) for up-to-date information. 

If all goes well, about 70 wineries will participate in Winter Wineland this year, alphabetically from Alexander Valley Winery on Highway 128 to Wilson Winery on Dry Creek Road. A few are the larger iconic wineries of the region, but many are smaller, family-run operations that rely on direct-to-consumer (or DTC) sales for their business. 

“I think Wine Road works for us because we’re a small producer, we don’t have a marketing or an advertising budget,” said Dom Michael at Baldassari Wines in Windsor. “It allows people that would never have access or exposure to us to actually come in and visit us. So it gives us an opportunity to showcase our wines to people that would never have the chance to know about us.”

This weekend, the small family-owned Baldassari will offer a chocolate pairing with their wines, from chocolatier Robert Nieto of Fleur Sauvage Chocolates. On the other end of the spectrum, Francis Ford Coppola Winery just outside of Geyserville will show off the baking skills of Clare Elaine of Wooden Petal, dishing up her award-winning pretzels from until 2pm both days.

Most, though not all, of the participating wineries have similar pairings, but it’s not a food event, as was last November’s Wine & Food Affair. Instead, many wineries promise to have a festive photo backdrop for camera-wielding guests. “Visitors can make their own photo album of memories from the weekend by snapping a photo at each winery they visit,” suggests Wine Road.

Tickets are sold in advance, and participants will pick up their passes, a six-bottle wine bag and a wine glass at the winery they select when they register. 

Wineries and the Wine Road have learned to keep the impact of these events manageable: Ticket sales are capped, most wineries won’t allow groups of eight or larger, and buses are not permitted. 

“A van is not a bus, but a bus of any size is just that—a bus,” reads the ticket acceptance form. “Buses are not allowed. Wineries will turn you away at the parking lot.”

Final event details and an online map of participating wineries can be found at wineroad.com.

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