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By Stephen Eliot

As anyone even casually interested in fine wine is well aware, there is no shortage of tastings, dinners, concerts, celebrations and events of every kind in all corners of California’s wine country, and the list of worthwhile gatherings only seems to lengthen with each passing year. There are a few that we make a point not to miss, our schedules permitting, and have circled a couple of especially worthwhile dates on our September calendars.

The first is the 33rd annual Winesong Charity Auction and Tasting slated for September 8th and 9th on the Mendocino Coast. The two-day event is produced by the Mendocino Coast Hospital Foundation and features important wines from local producers in addition to world-class offerings made throughout the state. This year’s edition kicks off with a tasting of prestigious Pinots Noirs on Friday and follows with an auction and a Grand Tasting in the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens the next day that, in addition to fine wines galore, will show off beers, spirits and food from what are billed to be “50 of Mendocino County’s finest purveyors.” During a recent weekend in Anderson Valley, I repeatedly heard enthusiastic reports about Winesong from several winemakers for whom I have a great deal of respect and became convinced that, this year, a drive north was a necessity. You can find detailed information about all that the two days entail at

A week later, on September 16th, Amador County’s Barbera Festival convenes at the Terra d’Oro/Montevina winery in Plymouth California. Regular readers of Connoisseurs’ Guide know of our excitement for and appreciation of west coast Barbera of late, and there will be more than 80 wineries from appellations all over the state on hand to pour their latest vintages. I have made it a point to make the trek to the Sierra Foothills and attend the event for the last several years, and, I have been highly impressed by the steadily increasing number of noteworthy versions, I have also been pleasantly surprised at the justifiably growing consumer interest in Barbera. The word is clearly getting out. The variety is not new to California, but it has recently been undergoing a renaissance after years of relative neglect, and, if you are as yet unaware at just how good Barbera can be, there is no better place to start than this annual gathering of some of its most capable makers. The only down side has been the withering heat of previous years, but this year’s event has been mercifully moved to September in hopes of friendlier, far more temperate weather. Interested wine lovers who would like to know more should check out the festival’s website at


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