Sonoma County Winegrape Commission Brings Fresh Grapes to Chicago

Published on September 18, 2008

Three Harvest Events, Weeklong Restaurant Promotion, and Sonoma Chef Teaches Chicago Kids the Art of Making Pizza for Common Threads Non-Profit

From September 8 to 14, 2008, the Sonoma County Winegrape Commission brought to the windy city its “2008 Sonoma in Chicago Harvest Celebration.” From the series of three consumer, trade, and media events, Chicagoans got a literal taste of Sonoma County, as they enjoyed great wines and foods from the world-famous winegrowing area and sampled just-picked grapes flown cross-country overnight. The events were held at the recently renovated historic Allerton Hotel on Michigan Avenue and were led by Sonoma grape grower Jim Murphy (Murphy Family Vineyards), winemaker Joel Peterson (Ravenswood Winery) and wine country chef Bruce Riezenman (Park Avenue Catering).”It was refreshing and enjoyable to be able to talk about the grape-growing history of Sonoma County, the AVAs, the vintage and winemaking in general to such a receptive audience,” noted Joel Peterson. “I would have to say that if someone left one of our events without an appreciation of Sonoma County or a desire to visit Sonoma County, they were not paying attention.”The first of the three events was A Taste of Sonoma that included a harvest report, grape tasting, and wine-and-food pairing seminar at the Allerton on September 10. Grower Jim Murphy and winemaker Joel Peterson, led consumers in the tasting of grapes picked in various Sonoma County appellations – such as Russian River Valley and Alexander Valley, and grapes including Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon. Bruce Riezenman educated attendees on the principles of wine-and-food pairing. The event also featured cheeses, meats, and other regional foods of Sonoma County, as well as 10 wines from throughout the county.Eric Johnson, a senior executive of SmithBucklin Corporation said afterwards, “In all of the numerous wine tasting seminars that I have attended for both for business and pleasure, this has been the most educational experience. Until last night, I’d never seen or tasted a mature wine grape. (I never knew they were so small!) Little did I know how sea salt and / or ground coffee could make a more satisfying palate experience in the pairings of wine and food.I would like to thank you (The Sonoma Winegrape Commission) for hosting a most informative, fun and delicious evening last night at the Allerton.”On September 11, Murphy and Peterson reprised the harvest report and grape tasting at a Sonoma Harvest Luncheon for 35 members of the media and trade at the Allerton. Following the hands-on lesson in ripeness levels, flavor profiles, and tannins in grapes, the journalists and wine professionals enjoyed an elegant three-course lunch prepared by Chef Riezenman (again, using all Sonoma products) and paired with five Sonoma County wines. Among the highlights of the wines were three bottles of Old Vine Zinfandels (from vines more than 50 years-old) from Ravenswood Winery (Sonoma Valley), Ridge Vineyards (Dry Creek Valley) and Sausal Winery (Alexander Valley).The Sonoma County Winegrape Commission also hosted a stellar Harvest Celebration Dinner at the Allerton on the evening of September 11 that was open to the public. The crowd of food lovers indulged in hors d’oeuvres and a six-course Sonoma Harvest meal from Chef Riezenman, as well as an impressive array of wines from Sonoma County: 12 bottles, made from seven grape varieties, and hailing from seven appellations. Throughout the meal, Jim Murphy and Joel Peterson walked the room, providing tableside chats about grapes, wine, and life in Sonoma County.The harvest celebration also included a 10 restaurant weeklong promotion. For every Sonoma County wine sold during that period, a $3 donation was made by the Sonoma Winegrape Commission and Sonoma County Vintners to Common Threads, a Chicago-based non-profit that teaches children 8-12 years-old how to cook. It helps bridge cultural boundaries and strengthens our global family by teaching children about their similarities and differences in the warm comfort of the kitchen. The proceeds from the various events went to Common Threads. Restaurants in the promotion included: Custom House, Frontera Grill, Green Zebra, Les Nomades, Lula Caf