Calling all bon vivants! If you appreciate a good glass of wine perfectly paired with fine food, experience it as it should be at Passport to Dry Creek Valley in California’s Sonoma County. In 2014, the annual weekend event will take place in late April throughout Sonoma’s revered Dry Creek Valley wine region, about an hour’s drive north of San Francisco. The region is home to more than 9,000 acres of vineyards, including some of the gnarliest clusters of old-vine zinfandel in the world.

Established in 1990, Passport to Dry Creek Valley has grown into a beloved tradition attended by visitors worldwide and locals alike. More than 50 area wineries open their doors and offer grape-to-glass experiences through tours, rare and exclusive vintage tastings, and meet-and-greet opportunities with the names behind many of the world’s most highly regarded winemakers. Among the most memorable moments during this year’s Passport event was gaining access to the usually by-appointment-only A. Rafanelli Winery, where Dave Rafanelli himself greeted guests by pouring us a welcome glass of his second-to-none zinfandel. But that was only the beginning: Inside, the winery was transformed into a food wonderland of sorts, where several stations offered bites of Chick Pea Pizza, Portabella Fritto, Pollo Ravioli; and Cioccolato a Nido d’Ape (chocolate honeycomb), and Pistachio Gelato, Fragole (strawberries) and Biscotti for dessert.

And the Rafanelli estate was just one stop (remember, there are more than 50)! So, for the uninitiated, it’s best to realize that it is almost impossible to visit every winery and savor the offerings at each one. Pace yourself by having a plan: Decide which wineries to visit—maybe you have your favorites, or check out ones that are in close proximity to each other—and start early. During the two-day event, all wineries open promptly at 11 a.m. and close by 4:30 p.m. In addition to food and wine, many of the wineries offer live entertainment and the ensuing tomfoolery. One of our favorite stops was at the mariner-themed Dry Creek Vineyard, where there were sailboat races and ‘salty shanties’ aplenty, sharing the spotlight with the musical Seadogs, a ‘band of pirates’—or in this case, a pirate band. Cheers, mateys!

Tickets to the 2014 Passport to Dry Creek Valley event (April 26 and 27) will be sold on a first-come, first –served basis, and will be available beginning Feb. 1. Admission comes with an actual ‘passport’ that gets a unique stamp at every winery, so guests can track their ‘travels.’ For more information, visit the Winegrowers of Dry Creek Valley website at

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