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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Celebrate Spanish style at Gloria Ferrer in Sonoma this weekend

Looking for something to do this weekend? Gloria Ferrer Caves and Vineyards is hosting their:

July 20 - July 21, 2013

"Enjoy the soul of Spain in the heart of Carneros at the 21st Annual Catalan Festival on Saturday, July 20 and Sunday, July 21, 2013. This year, the Catalan Festival benefits the schools of Sonoma Valley"

Gloria Ferrer is located on the Carneros Hwy (121) in Sonoma County just 12.6 miles east of downtown Petaluma.

Last year I was invited as media to attend my first ever Catalan festival. My foodie friend Carl also attended. We arrived early and picked up our wine glasses, drink and food tickets at the registration booth.

The name Catalan comes from Catalonia Spain. From Wikipedia"Catalonia comprises four provinces: Barcelona, Girona, Lleida, and Tarragona. Its capital and largest city is Barcelona, the second largest city in Spain after Madrid, and the center of one of the largest metropolitan areas in Europe."

I definitely felt transported from my day-to-day life in San Jose.

One of the first things we saw that day was a paella demonstration hosted by none other than "The Paella Guy." Using Thai peppers, onion, garlic, pork, chicken, chorizo, sofrito sauce, 26 spices, rice, saffron, stock, lemon, and a pineapple the audience was enthralled with his very detailed instructions. While it could inspire you to make paella at home, all of those ingredients and prep work probably made more people realize they should just call Chef Jose Castenada and hire him to come make paella for them at their next special event.

Chef Castenada gave us a step by step demonstration and explained the seasonings, rice and ingredients that go into making paella.

Even though the whole thing was impromptu I was able to find some nice, almost staged looking, close up shots using my telephoto lens.

What I took away from the lesson was to have the right ingredients and plenty of them!

Can you imagine how wonderful the aroma was as the paella cooked? It was fantastic. He also made a second vegetarian style pan.

Next we enjoyed the highly charged performance of the members of Sol Flamenco Dance Troupe. The colorful mermaid style skirts turned into whirlwinds of ruffles as they spun on stage.

Inside the wine tasting room things were crowded but very well organized.

Food stations were set up around the perimeter of the room with offerings from several Bay Area restaurants. I think the skewers, and I know the piquillo peppers were from Thirsty Bear in San Francisco. The peppers were stuffed with crab and shrimp then drizzled with a sherry reduction. I sampled and loved The Paella Guy's vegetarian paella and Sonoma's The Girl & the Fig's fresh corn, goat cheese tartlets topped with a piece of dried tomato were divine.

Everything I sampled was delicious including The Girl & the Fig's gazpacho!

And you can't have a wine festival without cheese. That afternoon we sampled three Spanish cheese including Manchego cheese with a small square of quince paste from La Espanola.

I had a nice cold glass of ice water with  my lunch.

Of course Gloria Ferrer's famous wines were available both out on the patio...

And in the tasting room.

And I was thrilled there were other beverage options. Serve yourself ice water dispensers were set up on a table and sodas were available to purchase with a drink ticket.

Sam Simone gave us an outstanding demonstration on how to uncork (or make that un-top) a wine bottle using a Sciabola del Sommelier wine saber.

Carl got a picture of the cork flying off the bottle. I was able to get a nice shot of the aftermath before the pour.

All of a sudden we noticed people turning their heads... We were in the presence of royalty!

The King and Queen added some cultural drama to the event. Beneath their garments a single person walked inside while others assisted from the outside.

As the afternoon went on. . .

The crowds watching the cooking demos, dancers, and musicians only got larger.

Group dance lessons were just one of the many activities we saw that day.

And then came the grand finale. A real live grape stomping contest.

We met David early on. He was quite a character who shared with us his plan on how he was going to win the competition. Carl and I had every confidence he would because he seemed to know what he was doing.

Each contestant also has an assistant whos job it is to keep the grape skins clear of the screen that filters the juice out of the barrel.

Ah, sweet victory.

Mary and David Celebrate

Or perhaps I should say the thrill of victory! David had to compete in two rounds, the first to qualify, and then the final. He won by a huge margin as far as I could tell with far more grape juice in his bucket than his worthy competitors.

If this looks like an afternoon you would enjoy tickets are still available for this coming weekend July 20th and 21st, 2013.

CLICK HERE to view the ticket purchasing page which lists several different types of tickets including General Admission, The Bubble Lounge, and how to enter the Grape Stomping Contest.

Last year's event was an international affair:

And last but not least, it's all for a good cause:

"Our Partnership with the Sonoma Valley Education Foundation With the purchase of every ticket, you are supporting the Growing Great Minds mission of the Sonoma Valley Education Foundation. Gloria Ferrer is proud to be part of this partnership creating great schools in Sonoma Valley."

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