Wineries have picked up the pace with more events, a flurry of them this harvest season creating fierce competition for the discerning palate of foodies and wine geeks in this economic downturn.

Naturally the Sonoma County Harvest Fair is also in the mix with tickets for the Sept. 25th Awards Night Gala available for $65 a pop. These tickets, you recall, used to sell out in hours.

Do you remember when people used to camp outside the Sonoma County Fairgrounds administration office for tickets to gala. These hot tickets sold out in hours. Back then I talked with some of the sleep-deprived who were nursing lattes in line. They were determined to get a ticket to what they considered the hottest event in Sonoma County. Many referred to it as the Oscars – Sonoma County style – because organizers open an envelope when announcing the top winners of the Harvest Fair Wine Competition. The prized wines are selected by 25 judges who taste over 1,000 wines in a three day-period. The suspense, for many, was the allure.

Last year, for the first year, these tickets were available on the day of the event, signaling the competition that arises in a troubled economy.

The gala may not be as highbrow as many events, but it does have Oscar appeal.

The event 7-9:30 p.m., at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds, 1350  Bennett Valley Road, Santa Rosa. Box office hours Saturday for tickets are 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the administrative office and 2 to 8 p.m. at the ticket booth in front of Grace Pavilion at the fairgrounds.  For more information, call 545-4203 or see www.HarvestFair.org.