In a nutshell, here are the biggest changes to the Sonoma County Harvest Fair this year:

1)  There will be no Awards Night Gala for the public. Instead there will be a new event for the public called the Grand Tasting, and it will be on Friday, Sept. 30, the opening day of the fair. Here people can taste the award-winning wines and foods and have greater access to the chefs and vintners/owners who make them.

2) The winners of the three-day wine competition, among other awards, will be announced at a new event for the industry called the Sonoma County Harvest Awards dinner and it will be on Saturday, Sept. 24.

To elaborate on the changes, here’s a Q&A with Marie Gewirtz, the president of the Sonoma County Harvest Fair.

Q: Why did you create the Grand Tasting event for the public?

Marie: We realized as a board that the traditional Awards Night was losing its relevance, with industry and public attendance and enthusiasm waning. The Grand Tasting offers the public an opportunity to plan their tasting of the sweepstakes and award winning wines, and pair them with the award winning foods throughout the entire evening. It will be a festive yet relaxed environment on a Friday night, when the community will come together to celebrate our great abundance in Sonoma County. Owners and vintners will be present pouring their wines, as will the award-winning chefs, so there will be much more opportunity for the public to learn about the wines and food first-hand by speaking to the people who make them.

Q: Why did you decide to make the Sonoma County Harvest Awards dinner for people in the industry?

Marie: The wine sweepstakes and best of class awards, and the top food and agricultural awards will be presented in an environment that is conducive to providing recognition from industry colleagues to winning winemakers, chefs, and agricultural leaders … This change was made so that we could take the essential aspects of both the consumer tasting experience and the honoring of the awards and bring greater meaning to both of them

Q: What are other important changes for the Harvest Fair this year?

Marie: 1) We’re adding a Marketplace within the 3-day Fair, where our family-owned local grocers will join us with samples of some of their favorite local foods. 2) Food Trucks with fresh, locally grown food will also be onsite on Saturday and Sunday.

Q: Why did you decide to take the lead on the Harvest Fair this year?

Marie: I wanted to take the lead because the mission statement of my business is “To Preserve Agriculture as a way of life.” I live and love Sonoma County. When I moved here in 1980 from New York with a husband from Paris, we settled here because it was reminiscent of the south of France. For the past 31 years, I have dedicated my life and business to working with my community to maintain the integrity of this magnificent place we call home. And for me, that begins with agriculture. The Harvest Fair is all about agriculture and the abundance of what can be cultivated and nurtured on this special land.

Q: What do you hope to accomplish?

Marie: To bring vitality back to the Harvest Fair. It was once the pre-eminent three-day event in northern California. Now with so many extraordinary choices, it is our hope to have the Harvest Fair take it’s rightful place as the event that celebrates our Sonoma County heritage, while paying tribute to our increasingly important role as a leader in American agriculture.

Sonoma County is an inspiring example of how one small community recognizes our agricultural worth, and successfully works together to preserve, enliven and maintain our agricultural heritage. This Harvest Fair pays tribute to our ambitious aspirations.

Q: Why is it so important to showcase Sonoma County’s role as an “influencer” of the food and wine scene?

Marie: There are very few places in the world that have the soil and terroir that creates the agricultural abundance of Sonoma County. It’s important for us to celebrate the farmers who cultivate this abundance. Our farmers are our Sonoma Country treasures. It’s important for those of us who live here to recognize and honor what we have, and, for those who live elsewhere to join us in celebrating Harvest in Sonoma County.

Q: Why did the Harvest Fair need to shake it up a bit with a new direction? Why is the Harvest Fair worth rejuvenating?

Marie: Sonoma County is a national treasure. As Luther Burbank so duly noted, “Sonoma County is the chosen spot of all the earth as far as Nature is concerned.” The land we live on provides us with a wealth of opportunity with farming. We are fortunate to live here and to raise our families in a place with such special soil. The three-day Harvest Fair is literally the place and time for us all to celebrate our good fortune during harvest, and to share and educate guests about the diversity of food and grapes that thrive on this land.

Q: What are you most excited about in your new post?

Marie: I’m excited to share these changes with our loyal community, which has supported us throughout the years, and to introduce this place we call home to the many visitors who will come to the fair this year. I’m also excited about honoring our Agricultural heroes at the Harvest Awards on September 24. It will be an intimate evening with industry colleagues in which the focus will be on the recipients of the awards. 

Here’s a quick glimpse of the fair’s roll out:

 

The Sonoma County Harvest Fair Wine Competition will be Wed., Sept. 21,

Thursday, Sept. 22, and Friday, Sept. 23.

Sonoma County Harvest Awards dinner is Saturday, September 24th 6:30 pm to 10:00 p.m. (Tickets are $100 per person or $800 per table for people in the industry, or $1500 per table for sponsors.) 

Grand Tasting for the public is the first day of the fair, Sept. 30, 5:30 to 8:00 p.m. (Tickets are $60 in advance, $70 at the door or $50 when purchased in blocks of 10 or more.)

The Sonoma County Harvest Fair is from Friday, Sept. 30 through Sunday, Oct. 2. Event hours are noon through 7 p.m. Friday. 10 a.m. through 7 p.m. Saturday & Sunday. For more information, visit www.harvest.fair.org.