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May 29, 2006

Wine, Women and Song

There's little more glorious than a summer wine festival in Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley north of San Francisco. Warm days, cool nights and sparkling Img_0916_2_1 clear air in Wine Country matched by the release of new vintages and, on this Memorial Day weekend afternoon, selections from Django Reinhart, Dixieland swing, Latin bosso and smooth cabaret.

We girlfriends keep returning over the summer for such marvelous events in the Valleys, because in just a few hours we can pack in wine, song and shopping, plus gorgeous rolling hills and fields as we cruise along the backroads. And we'll be visiting frequently this summer, as Fog City (San Francisco) cools down and the outlying valleys heat up. From San Francisco, in little more than an hour across the Golden Gate Bridge and north through Marin County, we are parked and ambling this afternoon through the Sonoma Jazz Festival's "Wine & Song Img_0918_2 Around the Plaza." For $60 each, armed with a sipping glass and brochures, we walked through the four-block area to restaurant patios offering tastings from small family and large producers, light hors d'oeuvres and jazz, including Bay Area guitar favorite Josh Workman. We were disappointed that there was too little food (bite-size snacks, one each per ticket) for potentially a great deal of wine (12 tastings-plus, depending on the generosity of the pourer), especially for those driving. But we moderated ourselves and enjoyed an early dinner before our drive back.

Best bets for Sonoma wine this 2006 Memorial Day Weekend afternoon: Dutcher Crossing chardonnays, Buena Vista Pinot Noir and Imagery's Malbec. Among the best local bets for food, Meritage Martini Oyster Bar & Grille (165 West Napa St., Sonoma, 707.938.9430) and El Dorado Kitchen (405 First Street West, Sonoma, 707.996.3030). For return visits to Sonoma, several of the cellars have their own tasting rooms on or near the plaza.

Sonoma and Napa valleys offer other wine festivals June-August:

June 1-4: Auction Napa Valley

July 13-15: Sonoma County Showcase of Wine and Food

Individual vintners' events, such as Ravenswood's Salute to Summer

And elsewhere across the state are many other other California wine festivals, including Santa Cruz, Monterey, Santa Barbara and Temecula.

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