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Your guide to elegant holiday activities in Sonoma

23 Dec 2013 10:26 AM
Your guide to elegant holiday activities in Sonoma

California has long been lauded for its favorable weather year-round, but just because there isn't any snow on the ground doesn't mean Golden State residents don't know how to celebrate the holidays properly. Festive events are currently taking place all over the West Coast, but some of the most interesting seasonal observances are occurring in Sonoma this year. 

If you are planning on spending some time in the area this holiday season, and are interested in sharing in the festive spirit, consider visiting any of the following joyful celebrations, as they each guarantee to provide a memorable experience that is warm and bright. 

Sonoma Valley Winery Gingerbread Contest
Those with an eye for attractive architecture can enjoy viewing the confectionery structural creations of a number of local vineyards. Miniature houses - built from gingerbread, marzipan, fondant and various candies - will be on display at participating wineries through the end of the year, and visitors are encouraged to vote for their favorite, as part of the friendly annual competition between area wine producers. Those who do will automatically be entered into a drawing to win a case of wine. However, in addition to casting ballots, individuals will be given the chance to sample some of the region's finest wines and purchase unique gifts for their loved ones. 

The contest, which began Nov. 29, marks the eighth year it has been held by Sonoma Valley vintners and growers. This year, 13 different producers are participating, ensuring the selection of gingerbread houses will be as diverse as the flavor profiles each is known for. The wineries that will feature an entry include the B.R. Cohn Winery, BRYTER Estates, Buena Vista Winery, Chateau St. Jean, Deerfield Ranch Winery, GlenLyon Vineyards & Winery and Two Amigos Wines, Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards, Gundlach Bundschu Winery, Hamel Family Wines (open by appointment only), Highway 12 Vineyards & Winery, Larson Family Winery and the Mayo Family Winery.

New Year's Eve celebrations
Many people often look to celebrate the end of one year and the beginning of another in high style. And, this year shall be no different in Sonoma. Depending on where you want to ring in 2014, there is a multitude of upscale options available.

New Year's Eve at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa - Those seeking one of the best high-end experiences that Sonoma has to offer on Dec. 31 will likely find themselves at this institution on Boyes Boulevard in Sonoma. The luxury hotel's revered restaurant, Santé, will offer diners a host of gastronomic delicacies designed by the celebrated chef de cuisine Andrew Cain, as well as the executive chef Bruno Tison. The fixed-price, seven-course meal features such dishes as petrossian caviar, roasted duck consommé, butter poached Maine lobster and a variety of savory desserts. With a dinner reservation, attendees will be treated to live entertainment and a complimentary champagne toast at midnight. 

New Year's Eve Dinner at the Depot Hotel Restaurant - Individuals interested in dining on a carefully curated four course meal inside one of the most charming, classic hotels in Sonoma should look no further than the Depot. Owner and chef-proprietor Michael Ghilarducci, as well as his son Antonio - who currently serves as the establishment's executive chef - have prepared a gourmet four-course meal at a fixed price and will begin welcoming guests at 5 p.m. on New Year's Eve. Patrons will have their choice of fresh salads, enticing entrees and delectable desserts, such as the limoncello cake and Kahlua chocolate decadence with mango sauce. 

Traditional, modern celebrations held early in season
While the gingerbread house contest stretches throughout the month of December, there have already been a multitude of holiday events to take place within Sonoma.

As is customary following Thanksgiving, Trentadue Winery in Geyserville hosted its annual Festival of Lights on Nov. 29. The event offered adults the chance to taste contemporary and vintage blends and flavorful culinary creations, as well as sing and dance along to live music. It also gave kids the the opportunity to partake in a number of entertaining festivities. Thousands of lights that adorn the exterior walls of buildings on the vineyard grounds were simultaneously lit to form one spectacular display, and all of the proceeds benefited the Healdsburg Food Pantry, according to Sonoma magazine. 

On Dec. 7, the Petaluma River was illuminated by a festive flotilla of watercraft decked out with holiday light displays. The boat parade, which has been a local tradition for more than two decades, features all types of vessels - from canoes to large yachts. At 5:30 p.m., captains boarded their lighted boats and pushed off from Petaluma Marina, slowly making their ways to the Petaluma River Turning Basin in the heart of historic downtown district. The majestic scene was enjoyed by hundreds of people who looked on from nearby streets.