We are just a few days away from the 2nd Annual Healdsburg Wine & Food Experience (HWFE), taking place May 18-21, 2023! Located in the heart of Sonoma County, the Healdsburg Wine & Food Experience is a three-day celebration featuring the best of Sonoma County and world-renowned food and wines. The festival will showcase the region’s makers – farmers, growers, winemakers and chefs – alongside globally recognized wines from the greatest wine regions of the world. The goal is to highlight the vibrant culinary diversity, sustainable farming practices and deep connection to the agriculture of Sonoma as it relates to the rest of the world.

The Sonoma County Winegrowers sponsors sommeliers from around the country to enjoy an immersive experience with Sonoma County grape growers, vineyards, and wines, learning about the county’s commitment to sustainability along the way. We partner with Food & Wine’s Executive Wine Editor, Ray Isle, to curate not only the list of sommeliers attending but also create an immersive education for sommeliers and wine buyers. Furthermore, we partnered with J Vineyards & Winery to create a Somm Scholarship to invest in an up-and-coming sommelier who is living the mission of the “Shifting the Lens” initiative. All attendees have the opportunity to absorb deep wine knowledge from vintners and growers, tour the vineyards, taste spectacular award-winning wines, savor gourmet meals from world-renowned chefs, and participate in the events chef demos, wine seminars and grand tasting.

Beginning Wednesday, May 17th, 22 sommeliers will arrive in Sonoma County and attend an opening welcome dinner at Vérité in the hills of the Chalk Hill AVA. The following day will be filled with education seminars led by Ray Isle. The sommeliers will start the day with a Sonoma County Overview presentation with Karissa Kruse followed by the first seminar led by Ray Isle, a deep dive into Chardonnay & Pinot from some of the county’s greatest vineyards. Following the mornings education seminars, sommeliers will attend a hosted lunch with J Vineyards at their Eastside Knoll Vineyard. The afternoon education seminar will feature the diversity of Sonoma County with a speed round tasting of some of the obscure grape varieties of the region including Riesling, Grenache Blanc, Gruner Veltliner, Pinot Gris, Semillion/Sauvignon Blanc, Mourvèdre, Grenache, Schioppettino, Carignane and Petit Sirah. Winemakers and winegrowers will have 3-4 minutes to discuss and persuade the Somms on why they grow a particular grape or make a particular wine. Fun and fast paced, this seminar will surely be a favorite among the group! That evening, Rodney Strong Vineyards will be hosting a food and wine pairing dinner on The Terrace where the sommeliers will be able to taste wines from their diverse portfolio.

On Friday, May 19th, the sommeliers will begin the day with a pop-up sparkling tasting with Ray Isle and then have a Heritage Vines Zinfandel seminar with some of the county’s great old vine wines. We will then venture off to Dutton Ranch for the Celebrity Chef BBQ lunch by Chef Matt Horn. Horn will bring his new food movement, “West Coast barbecue,” to Sonoma County which draws from techniques rooted in Texas and the South, expressing both tradition and imagination. After lunch, the sommeliers will embark on a private vineyard tour with a local winegrower. They will have the opportunity to take a deep dive and make connections between the land and the winegrowers, walk the vineyards, touch the soil, and sip wines along the way.

The next day is the BIG day! Sommeliers will be working around Healdsburg at all of the HWFE events! They will be pouring paired wines at the Celebrity Chef Demos at The Matheson, pouring and participating at the Wine Seminars located at the Harmon Guest House and H2, as well as pouring at VIP wine stations at The Rooftop 106. They will also be enjoying wine sips and chef bites at the Grand Tasting! Following a busy day of events, sommeliers will be pouring at the Magnum Party located at Bacchus Landing. They will be at bubbles stations, VIP lounges and pouring wine from our local vintners’ magnum bottles!

We are excited to share the beautiful, bountiful and bustling Sonoma County with this year’s group of sommeliers. Our hope is that they will forever be Sonoma County ambassadors and spread the good word of the county!