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Winter wine events in the North Coast wine country

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Now that the shortest day has come and gone and winter is in full swing, it would be logical to think that, like the dormant vines, the wine country is dormant as well. Nothing could be further from the truth! In fact, two upcoming events demonstrate that winter in wine country is just as vibrant and enjoyable as spring, summer and fall. The Wine Road's Winter WINELand in January and Anderson Valley's International Alsace Festival in February are the events in question.

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The 22nd Annual Winter WINEland takes place in The Wine Roads three AVAs: Alexander, Russian River and Dry Creek Valleys. WINEland offers an excellent opportunity to meet winemakers, taste limited production wines, new releases and library wines when activities are a little less frenzied. Designed by the Wine Road of Northern Sonoma County, WINEland is the smallest (in terms of crowds) of their three major events. As is typically the case, some wineries will offer food pairings and other enticements for visitors to stay, enjoy themselves, establish an emotional connection, join wine clubs and, ultimately, buy wine. Over 100 Wine Road wineries will participate.

A particular pleasure with events on the Wine Road is the beauty of northern Sonoma County vineyards and wineries. Spread over hundreds of square miles, the rolling hills, bench lands and valley floors just ooze idyllic tranquility. What's not to love.

WINELand is scheduled for January 18-19 from 11am to 4pm each day and tickets can be purchased at: winterwineland2014@eventbrite.com. Additional info is at http://www.wineroad.com/events/winter_wineland/

The second winter event highlighted here is the 9th Annual International Alsace Festival hosted by the winegrowers of Anderson Valley. The International Alsace Festival celebrates Alsatian varietals such as Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Noir, Sylvaner and Muscat. For so many wine lovers, dry red wine is de rigueur, so participating in a fest that is almost totally white wines and that includes off-dry as well as dry white wines is a welcome deviation in this mid-winter event.

The festival events will include a cooking demonstration by Chef Francois de Meloque, pairing class by Lars Kronmark, Chef Instructor at CIA Greystone, technical discussions as well as a Grand Tasting event (1-4pm), all at the Mendocino County Fairgrounds in Boonville along Highway 128 in Mendocino County. There is also an evening Winemakers' Dinner at Scharffenberger Cellars. All of this takes place on February 8th, 2014.

Perhaps the most popular of the Alsace wines in America are the dry Rieslings and dry Gewürztraminer. Many Anderson Valley vintners have specialized in these varietals including Claudia Springs Winery, Esterlina Vineyards, Greenwood Ridge Vineyards, Handley Cellars, Husch Vineyards, Londer Vineyards, Navarro Vineyards, Philo Ridge Vineyards, et al.

Last year about 300 very happy oenophiles made the breathtakingly beautiful drive to the Fairgrounds for the 8th Annual festival. They were rewarded with perhaps the best weather for an Alsace Festival with temperatures in the mid-60s°F on February 9th and 10th and cloudless skies. The temperatures in Alsace at the same time were frigid in the very low 20s°F. Let's hope we have great weather again this year.

Tickets can be obtained online at http://www.avwines.com/alsace-festival.

Who said winter in wine country was dull?

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