Behind the Scenes at the Chaminade Resort & Spa in Santa Cruz Farm to Table Dinners

Cover photo: Chaminade Resort & Spa Farm to Table Dinner, Santa Cruz, California Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


Having visited Chaminade Resort & Spa in Santa Cruz previously, we knew attending one of their highly-acclaimed farm to table dinners would be an amazing experience. A luxury resort and spa that also manages to be comfortable and fun, the hotel is surrounded by 300 acres of tall trees and beautiful vistas. Add to that a friendly staff and phenomenal restaurants, and a visit to the resort is a perfect spot for relaxation, some great hiking, and enjoyment of delicious food and beverages.

Invited to attend the fourth dinner of Chaminade’s 2016 farm to table series, I was instantly curious as to how it was all pulled together and asked if we could go behind the scenes for the event. Chaminade agreed and granted us full access to the event… and it was a spectacular evening of food, wine, and new friends.

Chaminade Resort & Spa’s Farm to Table Wine Dinners

A Toast, Farm to Table Wine Dinner, Chaminade Resort & Spa, Santa Cruz, California
A Toast, Farm to Table Wine Dinner, Chaminade Resort & Spa, Santa Cruz, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Now in their ninth season, the Farm to Table Wine Dinners at Chaminade have developed a devoted following of Northern and Central Californians with a passion for the finest in locally sourced cuisine.

Chaminade’s farm to table series includes dinners spaced throughout the growing season, each highlighting the finest ingredients straight from the fields of local farms and expertly paired with wines from a nearby winery. Diners are treated to a delightful evening in an idyllic setting overlooking the Monterey Bay, beginning with a wine reception and followed by a multi-course dinner, with wine poured freely throughout.

Farm to Table Dinner at Chaminde Resort in Santa Cruz
Farm to Table Dinner at Chaminade Resort in Santa Cruz
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

What is Farm to Table?

Fresh produce at the Everett Family Farm Stand
Fresh produce at the Everett Family Farm Stand, Soquel, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

While it seems like nearly every restaurant you enter these days uses farm to table or farm to fork to describe their menu offerings, the concept is more than just a trendy phrase. Twenty years ago, if you asked most five-year olds where carrots or potatoes came from, most would probably have answered “the grocery store.” Fortunately, in recent years, an appreciation for food of higher quality has resulted in a resurgence of farmers markets, farm stands and home gardening.

Peppers at the Everett Family Farm Stand
Peppers at the Everett Family Farm Stand, Soquel, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Obviously, produce picked, transported only a short distance, and eaten quickly is fresher and more flavorful than those harvested too early to avoid spoilage while they are transported long distances. Simply compare the taste of a homegrown tomato from a backyard vegetable patch to one that was picked greenish, then shipped for days before arriving at a store, and it is easy to understand why chefs embrace the farm to table movement.

Locally sourced ingredients are also at their peak nutritional value, healthier and support and celebrate the small farms that strive to deliver premium products.

Lettuce goriwing at Everett Family Farm
Lettuce growing at Everett Family Farm, Soquel, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Farm to table, when crafted by talented chefs, transforms those higher quality ingredients into artisanal cuisine. Typically presented at long tables in stunning surroundings, the farm to table dinner creates a dining experience that is as memorable as it is delicious.

The journey from farm to table

Martin Ranch Winery, grapes on the vine, Gilroy, Califorornia
Martin Ranch Winery, grapes on the vine, Gilroy, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

We decided to begin our behind the scenes look at a farm to table dinner by finding out just how local the food and wine that would be served during the dinner really was by visiting the featured farm and winery. We didn’t have to venture far.

The Farm: Everett Family Farm

Sign at Everett Family Farm
Sign at Everett Family Farm, Soquel, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Located about four miles from Chaminade, just outside the quaint town of Soquel, California, visitors are greeted to Everett Family Farm on Old San Jose Road with signs proclaiming, “Don’t panic, eat it’s organic” and “Buy Fresh, Buy Local Here.”

The farm stand at Everett Family Farm
The Farm Stand at Everett Family Farm
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

A California Certified Organic Farm (CCOF), Everett Family Farm grows fruit and vegetables on 45 beautiful, sunny acres. Rich and Laura Everett, along with their three daughters, have operated the farm since 2001. In addition to offering organic produce, the Everett’s raise chickens which provide fresh eggs, grow flowers, make an apple cider each fall, and produce an estate grown hard cider, Soquel Cider.

Fresh produce at the Everett Family Farm in Soquel
Fresh produce at the Everett Family Farm in Soquel, California
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Pulling into the farm, lettuce grows in a sheltered building and, off to the left, a charming farm stand awaits filled to the brim with the freshest vegetables, fruits, eggs, and ciders.

The Everetts’ farm stand runs on the honor system. Visitors simply make their selections, then head over to the table to weigh their items, add up what they owe, and leave their payment in the black box.

The honor system at Everett Family Farm, Soquel, California
The honor system at Everett Family Farm, Soquel, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

In addition to the farm stand, the Everetts’ produce and products can be found at local farmers markets and grocers. The Everett Family Farm is located at 2111 Old San Jose Road, Soquel and is open from 10 am to 6 pm, seven days of the week except for holidays.

Tomatoes at the Everett Family Farm in Soquel
Tomatoes at the Everett Family Farm in Soquel
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The Wine: Martin Ranch Winery

Martin Ranch Winery entrance
Martin Ranch Winery entrance
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Martin Ranch Winery sits a short 33 miles away from Chaminade at the southern tip of the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Martin Ranch Winery, Gilroy, Califorornia
Martin Ranch Winery, Gilroy, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

A beautiful winery with spectacular views and a peacefulness not found in many spots, Martin Ranch was created by Thérèse & Dan Martin, who were both born and raised in the Santa Cruz area.

Serene lake at Martin Ranch Winery
Serene lake at Martin Ranch Winery
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The couple has owned and worked the ranch for over 30 years, producing award-winning red and white wines, gaining praise and a loyal following of wine club fans along the way. Dan produces under the J.D. Hurley label and Thérèse under the Thérèse Martin brand.

Beautiful views at Martin Ranch Winery
Beautiful views at Martin Ranch Winery
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The sign on the winery building says, “Tradition – Passion – Excellence,” and the wines, the winery and the Martins demonstrate those qualities aren’t just words on a placard nailed to the wall. The Martins have a passion and dedication to producing excellent wines while maintaining a commitment to sustainability and preservation of the environment.

Chickens at Martin Ranch Winery
Chickens at Martin Ranch Winery
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

In addition to the vineyards, the winery has large, raised bed gardens and even chickens on the grounds. Very cool and definitely worth a visit! Martin Ranch Winery is located at 6675 Redwood Retreat Road, Gilroy California and is open to the public every first & third weekend of the month from 12-5 PM for tasting and barrel samplings.

Vineyards at Martin Ranch Winery
Vineyards at Martin Ranch Winery
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The Chef: Nick Church

Executive Chef Nicholas Church With Sous Chefs, Farm to Table Wine Dinner, Chaminade Resort & Spa, Santa Cruz, California
Executive Chef Nicholas Church With Sous Chef Jesus and Pastry Chef Erica, Farm to Table Wine Dinner, Chaminade Resort & Spa, Santa Cruz, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Executive Chef, Nick Church, and his crew created a six-course menu for the evening, celebrating the locally grown delicacies and wines.

With the exception of taking time away from Chaminade in 2014 to open a restaurant, Chef Church has been with the resort’s culinary team since starting as a line cook in 1994. Now Chaminade’s Executive Chef, he has experienced most of the farm to table dinners at the hotel since their inception.

Chaminade Resort Executive Chef, Nick Church, keeping watch on the dinner
Chaminade Resort Executive Chef, Nick Church, keeping watch on the dinner
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

We grabbed a few minutes of his time and asked him to reflect on how he has seen the farm to table movement change through the years and how local sourcing affects his menu development on a daily basis.

After nine seasons of farm to table dinners at Chaminade, how have you seen the farm to table movement evolve?

“The excitement is still there from everyone including the Farmers, Wineries and the staff. I think the guests receive a fantastic and unique experience while learning about the local food, wine, and ingredients. When we run the dishes in Linwood’s that are created for the farm to table events, they tend to be very successful.”

How does your planning and preparation differ for a farm to table dinner versus a typical banquet or wedding?

“Planning a farm to table dinner takes time. Everyone always asks what’s on the menu but I don’t like writing the menu until I know what the farmer can provide. The ingredients are based on what’s in season and then the menu is created. I take the ingredients and use them in all the dishes and help pair the wines as well. The main goal is to make the guests happy. With weddings and banquets, the dishes are pre-selected usually a month or two in advance and of course pre-sold to the clients. We do try to use as many local ingredients as possible when preparing for dishes for weddings and banquet events.”

For the other 360 days of the year when you aren’t doing a farm to table dinner, how do local food choices factor into your menus at Chaminade?

“This is a tough question. Farm to table events are special to me and gets me and my staff out of our routine so to speak. I am naturally a shy person so getting out in front of the farm to table attendees is exciting for me. We are always trying to use local vendors for produce for Linwood’s as well as the fresh fish when in season to create our specials.”

Chef Nicholas Church & Staff preparing the Lamb Entree, Farm to Table Wine Dinner, Chaminade Resort & Spa, Santa Cruz, California
Chef Nicholas Church & Staff preparing the Lamb Entree, Farm to Table Wine Dinner, Chaminade Resort & Spa, Santa Cruz, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The Preparation

We arrived early to catch the staff in motion setting up for the dinner and preparing the two beautifully decorated tables where 96 people would soon gather to enjoy the evening.

Flowers for table at Chaminade Resort & Spa Farm to Table Dinner
Flowers for table at Chaminade Resort & Spa Farm to Table Dinner
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Casual flowers arrangements of sunflowers, daisies, eucalyptus and purple status provided bursts of color along the long white tables. Small jars of wildflower honey from Carmel Honey Company welcomed each guest to their place setting. There’s something about a beautifully set table that evokes excitement and anticipation.

Tables set with flowers at Chaminade Resort & Spa Farm to Table Dinner
Tables set with flowers at Chaminade Resort & Spa Farm to Table Dinner
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Vats of white wine chilled, bottles opened, glasses arranged, and a frenzy of activity occurred in the kitchen and prep areas. With precision, the Chaminade staff expertly pulled all the pieces together and, as the guests arrived, the makings for a perfect evening under clear Santa Cruz skies were all in place.

Martin Ranch Wines await the guests, Farm to Table Wine Dinner, Chaminade Resort & Spa, Santa Cruz, California
Martin Ranch Wines await the guests, Farm to Table Wine Dinner, Chaminade Resort & Spa
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The Dinner

First Course: Reception
Flat Bread, Padron Peppers, Ahi Poke, Scotch Egg, Seascape Strawberry with Blue Cheese, Sliders

As the guests arrived, they selected their choice of wine and chatted casually as an array of appetizers were passed.

Guests arrive at the Farm to Table Wine Dinner reception
Guests arrive at the Farm to Table Wine Dinner reception
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

From delicious strawberries with blue cheese to a mouth-watering ahi poke, the crowd loved the morsels of goodness as the reception kicked into gear. I chose to begin the evening, as I typically do, with a Sauvignon Blanc, which was delightfully crisp and bright.

David pouring Martin Ranch Sauvignon Blanc, Chaminade Resort & Spa
David pouring Martin Ranch Sauvignon Blanc, Chaminade Resort & Spa
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

As I chatted with the winemakers, Thérèse & Dan, Dan told me they use acacia wood barrels, which I found fascinating as acacia trees are what giraffes eat in the Serengeti. How cool! The conversations that occur at dinners like this are priceless.

Dan & Thérèse Martin of Martin Ranch Winery with Kim Hull, Chaminade Farm to Table Wine Dinner
Dan & Thérèse Martin of Martin Ranch Winery with Kim Hull, Chaminade Farm to Table Wine Dinner
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

With wines pouring, guests mingled, old friends reacquainted and new ones were made, as the fun crowd enjoyed the gorgeous late evening views at the resort which reach to Monterey Bay.

View towards Monterey Bay from Chaminade Resort & Spa in Santa Cruz
View towards Monterey Bay from Chaminade Resort & Spa in Santa Cruz
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Second Course: Starter
Heirloom Tomato & Fresh Mozzarella Salad

Course two: Heirloom Tomato & Fresh Mozzarella Salad, Chaminade Resort & Spa Farm to Table Dinner
Second Course: Heirloom Tomato & Fresh Mozzarella Salad, Chaminade Resort & Spa Farm to Table Dinner
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Taking seats at the communal tables, the first course of an heirloom tomato and fresh mozzarella salad arrived. A showcase of the freshness of the late summer produce, the perfectly ripe tomatoes and fresh mozzarella were brimming with both color and taste.

Third Course: Soup
Sun Gold Cherry Tomato Soup

Rod Serving the Soup Course, Chaminade Farm to Table Wine Dinner
Rod serving the Soup Course, Chaminade Farm to Table Wine Dinner
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

A huge fan of tomato soup, I was ready and waiting for this course and it was absolutely wonderful! The soup was fresh, lively and filled with flavor.

As we progressed through the evening, our hosts addressed the group, relating their take on the farm to table experience and what it means from each of their perspectives. Dan Everett talked organic farming. Thérèse Martin brought the winemaker’s take.

ThérèseMartin of Martin Ranch Winery addresses the dinner guests
Thérèse Martin of Martin Ranch Winery addresses the dinner guests
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

And, the very talented, super nice, and uber-cool Kirsten Ponza, Food & Beverage director for Chaminade and former tour chef for the Rolling Stones, relayed Chaminade’s commitment to sustainability and toasted the crowd.

Director of Food & Beverage, Kirsten Ponza speaking to the diners at the Chaminade Resort Farm to Table Dinner
Director of Food & Beverage, Kirsten Ponza speaking to the diners at the Chaminade Resort Farm to Table Dinner
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Fourth Course: Salad
Bambi Little Gem Lettuce, Smoked Goat Cheddar, Honey Crisp Apples, Pistachio, Cider Vinaigrette

Chef Nicholas Church & Staff prepare the salad course
Chef Nicholas Church & Staff prepare the salad course
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The Everetts are well-known and highly praised for their Honey Crisp Apples, so it is no surprise the fruit stole the show with this salad. The crisp, juicy apple that has a devoted, and well-deserved following, so perfectly paired with the smokey cheese and the pistachios gave the salad just the right pop of added flavor.

And, another interesting tidbit picked up from the farm to table dinner. Each of the purveyors has a “his and her” collection in addition to their joint efforts. The above-mentioned Honeycrisp is Rich Everett’s focus, while Laura targets heirloom apples for her ciders. With the Martins, each has their own wine labels, while also a combined winemaking focus.

Fifth Course: Entree
California Lamb, Oven Roasted Yukon Potato with Purple Garlic, Roasted Baby Carrots, Baby Vegetables, Syrah Reduction

Course Five: California Lamb at Chaminade Farm to Table Dinner
Course Five: California Lamb, Oven Roasted Yukon Potato with Purple Garlic, Roasted Baby Carrots, Baby Vegetables, Syrah Reduction at Chaminade Farm to Table Dinner
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Not one, but two thick, juicy pieces of lamb were the stars of the fifth course. It may have been the first time I’ve seen diners high-five over an entrée.

High fives at the table when the lamb arrived at teh Chaminade Resort Farm to Table Dinner
High fives at the table when the lamb arrived at the Chaminade Resort Farm to Table Dinner
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Served alongside Yukon potatoes, baby carrots and with a Syrah reduction, the guests were ecstatic as the dish was presented, and then a hush fell across the tables as they devoured the entrée. For the vegetarians in the group, an exquisite stuffed pepper rounded out the savory portion of the evening’s menu. Served alongside the entrée course, the Martin Ranch Thérèse Vineyards Syrah was sublime. Luscious and spicy, it was elegant and is truly a special wine.

Sixth Course: Dessert
Crème Caramel

Crème Caramel Dessert Plates, Chaminade Farm to Table Wine Dinner
Crème Caramel Dessert Plates, Chaminade Farm to Table Wine Dinner
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Who could think after all that food that we could even entertain dessert, but managed to devour the creme caramel. Rich, smooth and with great caramel flavor, it was a perfect finish to an amazing dinner!

The guests

Guests enjoying the Chaminade Resort & Spa’s Farm to Table Wine Dinners
Guests enjoying the Chaminade Resort & Spa’s Farm to Table Wine Dinners
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

There’s another element to any fabulous party or event – the guests!

Guest enjoying the Farm to Table Dinner at Chaminde Resort in Santa Cruz
Guest enjoying the Farm to Table Dinner at Chaminade Resort in Santa Cruz
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Arriving early and staying late, the Farm to Table guests were there to enjoy the food and wine and simply have some fun – and have fun they did!

Chaminade Resort Farm to Table Dinner guests
Chaminade Resort Farm to Table Dinner guests
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

With a strong contingent from the Martin Ranch Wine Club, groups getting away for the weekend from the bay area, and Santa Cruz locals, the mix of guests made for a lively evening filled with interesting conversations and a relaxed, vibrant atmosphere.

Chaminade Farm to Table Wine Dinner guests
Chaminade Farm to Table Wine Dinner guests
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Many of the guests have attended numerous Chaminade farm to table dinners over the years, creating an experience that feels like a comfortable dinner party given by a talented host. Guests wandered from table to table and even into the prep area, chatting frequently with the Chaminade staff and even giving some of them friendly hugs throughout the evening.

And, speaking of the staff, true hospitality is both an art and skill – and there’s one final element that must not go unmentioned.

Dulcie & Wine Dinner Guest, Farm to Table Wine Dinner, Chaminade Resort & Spa
Dulcie & Wine Dinner Guest, Farm to Table Wine Dinner, Chaminade Resort & Spa
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The Chaminade staff

Rob delivering the entree course at the Chaminade Farm to Table Wine Dinner
Rob delivering the entree course at the Chaminade Farm to Table Wine Dinner
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

From our previous visit and this one, we’ve observed a culture at the resort that focuses on delivering quality in a comfortable, friendly atmosphere. This culture of hospitality is more than serving good food and providing efficient service – it’s what makes the food creative & exceptional and the service not perfunctory, but flawless and generous.

Marshall serving the soup course at the Chaminade Farm to Table Wine Dinner
Marshall serving the soup course at the Chaminade Farm to Table Wine Dinner
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The Chaminade staff delivered a perfectly orchestrated dinner, executed flawlessly. The food was amazing and the service was friendly, with needs and wants anticipated and handled with care.

David pouring the Martin Ranch Winery 2015 Sauvignon Blanc at the Chaminade Farm to Table Dinner
David pouring the Martin Ranch Winery 2015 Sauvignon Blanc at the Chaminade Farm to Table Dinner
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

High praise and thanks to all that worked so hard to make a remarkable dining experience for 96 people on a picture-perfect evening in Santa Cruz!

Kirsten & Marshall, Farm to Table Wine Dinner, Chaminade Resort & Spa, Santa Cruz, California
Kirsten & Marshall, Farm to Table Wine Dinner, Chaminade Resort & Spa, Santa Cruz, California
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Disclosure & disclaimer: Special thanks to Chaminade Resort & Spa for hosting us as their guests. The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.

Chaminade Resort & Spa Farm to Table Dinner September 2016
Chaminade Resort & Spa Farm to Table Dinner September 2016
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

 

Boney James, Rodney Strong Concerts 2016

Rodney Strong Concerts 2016

Cover: Boney James at Rodney Strong
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


As the crowd swayed to the soulful sounds of sax-man, Boney James, and sipped award-winning Rodney Strong wines, the 26th season of Rodney Strong Concerts kicked off in Sonoma County on June 18. A wine country summer ritual for many, including us, the concerts are well-known and well-loved for presenting top artists in an intimate setting amidst the vines. If you’ve never attended a Rodney Strong concert, or if it’s been a while since you visited, here’s why they deserve a place on your summer schedule.

26th season of Rodney Strong Concerts
26th season of Rodney Strong Concerts
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Top performers

Boney James heading to the stage, Rodney Strong Concerts 2016
Boney James heading to the stage, Rodney Strong Concerts 2016
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Four-time Grammy nominated Boney James has an amazing stage presence and delivered a fabulous show in the early evening Sonoma summer sunshine.

Boney James performs at Rodney Strong Concerts 2016
Boney James performs at Rodney Strong Concerts 2016
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Performing from his latest release, Futuresoul, along with some longtime crowd favorites, Boney continues to bring a fresh sound to his R&B and jazz style.

Boney James performs at the Rodney Strong Concerts 2016
Boney James performs at the Rodney Strong Summer Concerts 2016
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Backed by a phenomenal band, the clear evening sky was filled with sultry sounds and an energy that had the entire crowd participating in the experience.

Boney James & his phenomenal band, Rodney Strong Summer Concert Series
Boney James & his phenomenal band, Rodney Strong Summer Concert Series
Photos: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Perhaps it’s the venue, perhaps it’s relaxed wine country atmosphere, but artists appear to enjoy the Rodney Strong Concerts experience almost as much as the crowd.

Boney James in the crowd, Rodney Strong Concerts 2016
Boney James in the crowd, Rodney Strong Concerts 2016
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Having seen B.B. King, George Benson, Mindy Abair, Michael McDonald and more at the concerts of the years, each evening has always been an unforgettable experience.

Professional production

Rodney Strong Summer Concert Series
Rodney Strong Summer Concert Series
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

After 26 years of hosting concerts, Rodney Strong has the process down. The events are professionally produced, with great sound quality and concert-goers’ needs considered and wants delivered. Local jazz radio station, KJZY sponsors the event and on-air personalities, such as Scott Mitchell, are on hand to MC the concert, enjoy the music and have been seen capturing a few shots themselves before and during the concerts.

Scott Mitchell, KJZY, Rodney Strong Concerts 2016
Scott Mitchell, KJZY, Rodney Strong Concerts 2016
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Phenomenal venue

Phenomenal venue, Rodney Strong Concerts 2016
Phenomenal venue, Rodney Strong Concerts 2016
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

One of our favorite concert venues anywhere, the Rodney Strong Concerts are hosted in a casual, intimate setting surrounded by vineyards. If that sounds ideal – it is and makes for a perfect summer evening!

Concert goers have the option of bringing low chairs or blankets for general admission or purchasing VIP tickets, which provide reserved seating in the front on white folding chairs provided by the winery. Regardless of which option you choose, the location is small and once the music starts, it’s all about the experience. We’ve had VIP seats up front and it was great. We’ve sat on the ground under a big shade tree and it was perfect. We’ve stood at the back for an entire evening, chatting with new friends, sipping wine, watching the crowd and grooving to the sounds – also, a fabulous evening.

Rodney Strong Concerts 2016
Rodney Strong Concerts 2016
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Amazing wines

Great music is only made better when a glass of amazing wine is in hand.

We usually start a summer evening with a crisp white, so we began the evening with a Davis Bynum Virginia’s Block Sauvignon Blanc. We fell in love with the Davis Bynum wines early this year when we were on the Rodney Strong Master Blender experience and, since then, that’s what’s in my glass many an evening.

Davis Bynum Virginia’s Block Sauvignon Blanc, Rodney Strong Vineyards
Davis Bynum Virginia’s Block Sauvignon Blanc, Rodney Strong Vineyards
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Moving on to red, the line up was deserving of a sampling of more than one. We started with the Alexander Valley and ended the night with a bit of Symmetry.

The line up of reds, Rodney Strong Vineyards
The line up of reds, Rodney Strong Vineyards
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

While the winery is closed during the concert, the Rodney Strong tasting room is open daily and offers a complimentary tour of the vineyards and winery, subject to availability.

The tours are a perfect way to learn about the winery’s history and catch a behind-the-scenes view of how the wines are made, so be sure to either visit the winery earlier in the day before the concert or the following day after brunch.

Tours and tastings at Rodney Strong
Tours and tastings at Rodney Strong
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The July – September Rodney Strong Concerts 2016 lineup

July 2016

The legendary Smokey Robinson is next to appear in the 2016 concert series on July 23.

August 2016

On August 13, Dave Koz and David Sanborn will perform together and on August 21, Huey Lewis and The News take the stage.

September

The B-52s close out the season on September 17.

Rodney Strong Summer Concert Series 2016
Rodney Strong Summer Concert Series 2016
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Making the most of your Rodney Concert

Doors open an hour before showtime, however, the gates may open earlier. General admission attendees may start lining up hours before the doors open.

What not to bring

We’ll start with things not to bring to the concert since the list is shorter. No glass, video camera or alcohol can be brought into the venue. High back chairs and umbrellas are also not allowed.

The Terrace, Rodney Strong Concerts 2016
The Terrace, Rodney Strong Concerts 2016
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

What to bring

Concerts are held regardless of the weather, hot, cold, rain or shine. It can be warm, okay hot, in the late afternoon sun, so wear/bring sunscreen, comfortable clothing, and a hat. Toward the end of the show, it can cool off, so bringing a light jacket or sweater is always s a good plan. Bring a rain jacket if rain is in the forecast.

For those in the general admission area, chair legs cannot be taller than 12 inches and the overall chair should not exceed a maximum height of 32 inches. Otherwise, bring a blanket to sit on.

Water is provided free during the concert, so bring a plastic cup or water bottle (no glass) to fill. Coolers, ice, food and non-alcoholic beverages can be brought into the concert area. Beverages, including wine, can be purchased on site and local food vendors are on hand. Rodney Strong’s beverage sales locations accept cash or credit cards. The food vendors typically only accept cash.

Local food vendors, Rodney Strong Concerts 2016
Local food vendors, Rodney Strong Concerts 2016
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Rodney Strong Vineyards is located at 11455 Old Redwood Highway, Healdsburg


Disclosure & Disclaimer: Special thanks to Rodney Strong Vineyards for hosting us as their guests. The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.

Boney James
Boney James
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, Albuquerque, New Mexico

Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta by the numbers

Cover: Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


There are quite a few hot air balloon festivals held each year but, each October balloonists from around the globe make their way to Albuquerque, New Mexico for the world’s largest event, the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.

Why Albuquerque? In an area that is known for its out-of-the-box artistic creativity, balloonists want to be “in the box” and Albuquerque is ideal for it. The Rio Grande Valley and the nearby Sandia Mountains create a “box”, where cool air from the north takes balloonists in one direction, and then, when the pilots want to return to the launch site, they simply change elevation to find winds blowing in the opposite direction.

These ideal conditions make Albuquerque a favorite location for flying balloons and have brought the balloonists back year after year for the event.

Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

When did the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta begin?

1972

1972 was the first year the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta was held with 13 balloons launching from a shopping mall parking lot.

Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

How many balloons participate in the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta?

500+ balloons

In 2015, 547 pilots registered to fly in the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta. A Mass Ascension of hundreds of balloons from the launch site can only be described as a carefully choreographed spectacle of color and grace.

Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

What is Dawn Patrol and Morning Glow?

Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Beginning far before sunrise, ballooning fans head to Fiesta Park to watch the pilots and crews prepare for launch. Each day begins with Dawn Patrol – a small group of balloons that lift off in the dark and provide an early assessment of wind speeds and directions at different altitudes. Following Dawn Patrol, about a dozen balloons are inflated on the ground, providing a pre-dawn Morning Glow show for the crowd.

How do all those balloons take off during Mass Ascension?

Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

2 consecutive waves

As the sun begins to rise, so do the balloons. As thousands of onlookers watch and photograph the launch activities, hundreds of balloons are filled with air before gently lifting off into the sky. The balloons depart in two consecutive waves from an area of 72 acres of grass (the equivalent of 54 football fields) that contains 208 launch sites, with the Mass Ascension taking up to two hours.

How many countries are represented at Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta?

Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

In 2015, balloons from 17 different countries participated including Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, France, Germany, Ireland, Mexico, Russian Federation, Spain, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and the United States.

How many people attend Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta?

840,000+ attendees

It is estimated over 848,000 people attended the 2014 Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.

In addition to watching the magical show of the hot air balloons taking flight each morning, attendees can stroll through a concourse of 43 merchandise concessions, grab a bite to eat at one of the 45 food vendors and pick up a few of the 60,000 balloon fiesta pins sold each year. In the evening, attendees can return to the park for glow shows, fireworks, and musical performances.

The Anderson-Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum, which is operated by the City of Albuquerque, is located adjacent to Fiesta Park and showcases a vast collection of balloons, art work, and aerial artifacts.

Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Know before you go

Book travel early. Hotels in and around the area sell out fast, so booking travel as far in advance as possible is a good idea.

Dress in layers and wear comfortable shoes. Pre-dawn hours can be chilly, with the temperature quickly warming as the sun rises. Enclosed, comfortable shoes are your best footwear choice for the walk from the parking area and for walking and standing in the fields that serve as the launch site.

Leave early – really early. Traffic to Fiesta Park begins to get heavy as early as 4:30am. Park and ride locations are also available. Pricing, parking locations, schedules and other travel information are available on the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta website.

Weather can be a factor. Hot air balloons can only fly in certain weather conditions. If the wind speed is faster than 11.5 mph (10 knots) or if it is raining, the event will be delayed or canceled. If an individual flying session is canceled, no refunds are given however, rain checks are issued that can be used for another flying session during the same year’s Balloon Fiesta.


Disclaimer: The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. We received no compensation for this article. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.

Reno National Championship Air Races

Reno National Championship Air Races

Cover: Thom Richard, Hot Stuff, Formula One class, Reno National Championship Air Races
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


It didn’t take long after the airplane was invented for pilots to decide they needed to race them. As early as 1909 in France and 1910 in the United States, daring aviators took to the skies to race their flying machines.

Reno National Championship Air Races
Andrew Findlay, One Moment, Sport class
Reno National Championship Air Races
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Fast forward to 1964, when a Nevada rancher, Bill Stead, organized an air race in the desert just north of Reno, Nevada. Soon after, the races moved to Reno Stead Airport, which had been named in honor of Bill Stead’s brother, Croston, in 1951. The National Championship Air Races have since grown to an event attracting more than 200,000 spectators.

Reno National Championship Air Races
Reno National Championship Air Races
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The only closed course pylon racing event in the world, the Reno National Championship Air Races, feature a large display of static aircraft, world-class military and civil flight demonstrations and six racing classes.

Aircraft displays and demonstrations

Reno National Championship Air Races
Breitling Jet Team
Reno National Championship Air Races
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Flying with power and grace, jet formation teams perform high speed passes and aerobatics, exhibiting skill, precision, and speed. Always a crowd favorite, jet formation displays are a thrilling combination of loops, rolls, spins and passes with planes sometimes flying within 3 meters of each other – and all at speeds over 500 mph.

Reno National Championship Air Races
Ernie Sutter, Jus Pass’n Thru, Sport class Reno National Championship Air Races Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

For the Reno National Air Races 2015, the world’s largest professional civilian performing jet team, the Breitling Jet Team from Switzerland, thrilled the with audience with their unique formations and graceful acrobatics. In addition to watching air races and jet formation team performances, Reno National Air Races attendees can stroll amidst static aircraft and enjoy both civilian and military flight demonstrations each day.

 Six racing classes

Reno National Championship Air Races
David A. Culler, Jr., Riff Raff and Doug Matthews, Blue Streak, Jet class
Reno National Championship Air Races
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Aircraft from six different classes race throughout the week with a schedule that includes several days of qualifying, followed by four and a half days of heat racing.

T-6

Reno National Championship Air Races
Joey “Gordo” Sanders, Big Red, T-6 class Reno National Championship Air Races Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The T-6 class includes single-engine aircraft used to train pilots during World War II and into the 1970s. They are known by a variety of names based on the model and operating air force. With race speeds up to 230 mph, the T-6 class includes the AT-6, the SNJ, and Harvard, and races over a 5.065 mile course.

Biplanes

Reno National Championship Air Races
Biplane class Reno National Championship Air Races Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The Biplane class races on a 3.313 mile course, with the agile aircraft regulated by size, weight and power. Known for their frequent maneuvering and close race finishes, biplanes race at speeds approaching 200 mph.

Sport

Reno National Championship Air Races
Ernie Sutter, Jus Pass’n Thru and Kevin Eldredge, Relentless, Sport class Reno National Championship Air Races Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The sport class races high-performance kit-built aircraft on a 6.968 mile course at speeds reaching nearly 350 mph.

Formula One

Racing on a course of 3.175 miles, the small Formula One aircraft can reach speeds over 200 mph. They must have a minimum wing area of 66 square feet and an empty weight of 500 pounds or more.

Jets

Reno National Championship Air Races
David A. Culler, Jr., Riff Raff, Jet class Reno National Championship Air Races Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Racing at speeds in excess of 500 mph, the jet class planes take off before the race begins, following a pace jet as they line up in formation for the race start. The jets fly the course in a counter-clockwise direction, always making left turns around around the pylons.

Reno National Championship Air Races
Jeff Turney, Robin 1, Jet class Reno National Championship Air Races Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Unlimited

Reno National Championship Air Races
Curt Brown, Sawbones, Unlimited class Reno National Championship Air Races Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Always a crowd favorite, the Unlimited class flies in speeds exceeding 500 miles per hour, typically with with stock aircraft or modified WWII fighters.

The class gets its name from the few requirements placed on the aircraft and the class is allowed to use fuel blends and nitrous oxide injection.

Reno National Championship Air Races
Sal Rubino, Grim Reaper, Unlimited class Reno National Championship Air Races Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

If you go…

  • Get a pit pass. Pick up a pit pass to get an up-close experience with the pilots, planes and crews as they ratchet up plane performance before heading out to race.
  • Bring sunscreen & a hat. There is little to no shade at the air races so reapply sunscreen often.
  • Stay hydrated. At 5,046 ft in the desert, it is very hot and arid at the Air Races. While the concessions offer a wide variety of beverage choices, water is the best drink to stay hydrated.
  • Book a hotel in Reno. The Reno-Stead Airport is located about 8 miles north of downtown Reno.
  • Race and ticket purchasing information can be found on the National Championship Air Races website.

Dedicated to Lt. Colonel Ernest L. Faulkner

Throughout my life, we rarely passed an air base, no matter the state, without my father telling us a story of when flew in there.

Evelyn and Ernie Faulkner
Evelyn and Ernie Faulkner

My father, Lt. Colonel Ernest L. Faulkner, was a test pilot and flight instructor. When he was transferred to the Independence, KS airbase during World War II, he met a clerk, Evelyn, that issued him officer’s equipment. The two were married for 62 years.

Watching the Air Races brings back his many stories of piloting everything from an AT-6 to a B-29. Stories of flying a plane through a barn; a plane catching on fire then crashing in a field in Georgia; “borrowing” planes when he was in Texas to come see Mother in Kansas. And, the list goes on.

Special thanks to him, and to all of the men and women that have served, and continue to do so. Miss you Dad.

Lt. Colonel Ernest L. Faulkner
Lt. Colonel Ernest L. Faulkner
July 16, 1023 – February 23, 2015

Disclaimer: The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. We received no compensation for this article. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.

Rodney Strong Summer Concert Series: George Benson

Rodney Strong Summer Concert Series

Cover: Rodney Strong Summer Concert Series: George Benson
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


Nothing goes with great wine like fabulous music in an intimate setting.

With a wide range of world-class performers, a stunning venue surrounded by vineyards and, of course, their superb wines, the Rodney Strong Summer Concert Series delivers that and re, and deserves a place on everyone’s must-visit list.

In 2015, the Rodney Strong Concert Series celebrated their 25th anniversary of wine country summer concerts and we were on hand to close out the season with ten-time Grammy winner, George Benson.

Rodney Strong Summer Concert Series: George Benson
Rodney Strong Summer Concert Series: George Benson
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

It wasn’t our first visit to the series – over the years we’ve seen Mindi Abair, Michael McDonald, and the late, B.B. King.

Mindi Abair at Rodney Strong Concert Series 2014
Mindi Abair at Rodney Strong Concert Series 2014
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

25 years of summer concerts

Curious how the series began, we inquired with Rodney Strong Vineyards and were told:

Before the Summer Concert Series was created, the tasting room manager would put on impromptu concerts every once in a while and based on the success of those weekday shows, the Rodney Strong team decided it was a great idea to create an official concert series. We started with good, local talent covering many different types of music.”

Rodney Strong Summer Concert Series: George Benson
Rodney Strong Summer Concert Series: George Benson
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

As the years went by the series grew and, as they say… the rest is history.

Today, the Summer Concert Series is a must-see event. Surrounded by acres of beautiful vineyards, guests are treated to top performers in contemporary music while enjoying the winery’s intimate concert venue, The Green. There is no bad seat on The Green! Fans can bring a picnic to enjoy with friends or purchase an assortment of prepared foods from local purveyors on site. Rodney Strong Vineyards’ wines are available for purchase as well as non-alcoholic beverages.

Guests can purchase general admission tickets and bring a blanket and/or low back chair to enjoy the concert from The Green. VIP tickets are also available with up front seating directly in front of the stage with fantastic direct view of the performers.”

George Benson on the Green

Rodney Strong Summer Concert Series: George Benson
Rodney Strong Summer Concert Series: George Benson
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

We plan a visit to Sonoma every year in conjunction with the concerts and that always includes a Rodney Strong tour and tasting. This year was no exception and even included a stop by the stage during set up for the show.

Rodney Strong Summer Concert Series: George Benson
Rodney Strong Summer Concert Series: George Benson
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Rodney Strong Summer Concert Series: George Benson
Rodney Strong Summer Concert Series: George Benson
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Then, in the evening, after grabbing a few shots of the fabulous George Benson, we progressed to sipping the fine Rodney Strong wines while enjoying the smooth sounds of the jazz master as he delivered a fantastic performance to a sold-out crowd of over 1000.

Rodney Strong Concert Series 2016

What’s ahead for the series in 2016? The  Rodney Strong team begins looking for artists for the upcoming season around the first of the year and announces the concert series lineup in late spring. To stay in the know about the concert series and all events, check the Rodney Strong Concerts and Special Events page.


Disclosure & disclaimer: Special thanks to Rodney Strong for hosting us as their guests. The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.

Rodney Strong Summer Concert Series: George Benson
Rodney Strong Summer Concert Series: George Benson
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Great Reno Balloon Race

Great Reno Balloon Race

Great Reno Balloon Race
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


What began in 1982 with 20 hot air balloons has grown into the world’s largest free hot air balloon event drawing more than 125,000 people each year – the Great Reno Balloon Race. Over the event’s three days, attendees gather before dawn at Rancho San Rafael Regional Park just north of downtown Reno, some in their pajamas, to watch up to 100 balloons take to the skies of northern Nevada.

Great Reno Balloon Race
Great Reno Balloon Race
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

First up is the glow show, where select balloons show their glow for the crowd. As the balloons light up like light bulbs in the dark, oohs, ahhs and wows can be heard throughout the crowd as the magical show of colors delights.

Great Reno Balloon Race
Great Reno Balloon Race Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

After the morning glow, five or six hot air balloons qualified to fly in the dark rise into the early dawn sky for Dawn Patrol. The balloons dance across the darkened sky to choreographed music as their colors illuminate the early morning hour.

Great Reno Balloon Race
Great Reno Balloon Race Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

As the sun inches up and the sky starts to lighten, the crowd begins to wander onto the field amidst the balloons as the pilots and crews prepare for flight. The roar of the fire burners fills the air as the balloons are filled and they begin to take shape with splendor as they inflate, forming a sea of vibrant colors.

Great Reno Balloon Race
Great Reno Balloon Race Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Balloons of all shapes and sizes come to life – a stagecoach, Darth Vader, Elvis, Yoda, and dozens more – preparing to depart into the sky as the sun continues to rise and begins to warm the morning, creating a cerulean blue backdrop to the rainbow of hues.

Great Reno Balloon Race
Great Reno Balloon Race Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

There is nothing quite like the Mass Ascension. The sheer beauty of nearly 100 hot air balloons leaving the ground at once with such grace and whimsy leaves one awestruck.

Great Reno Balloon Race
Great Reno Balloon Race Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Taking flight

Great Reno Balloon Race
Great Reno Balloon Race Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Lifting off with our pilot, Ron Sanchez, in the Wells Fargo hot air balloon, we headed east toward the University of Nevada Reno and downtown Reno. While pilots can control the altitude of the balloon, air currents determine the direction and speed of the flight.

Great Reno Balloon Race
Great Reno Balloon Race Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

As we gently glided away, the crews and spectators back on the ground were like ants aside the giants as they formed a parade of colors that soon surrounded us in the sky.

Great Reno Balloon Race
Great Reno Balloon Race Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The crew follows below keeping in touch with the pilot by radio. When it’s time to land, the pilot finds an open field or parking lot to bring the balloon back to the ground, as we did near Mackay Stadium at the University of Nevada Reno.

Great Reno Balloon Race
Great Reno Balloon Race Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The balloon is loaded by the waiting crew into the van and the group returns to the launch site for a toast and first-time flyer ceremony. Thank you to Ron and the Wells Fargo balloon team for a great flight and a wonderful day!

Great Reno Balloon Race
Great Reno Balloon Race Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Additional activities

Great Reno Balloon Race
Great Reno Balloon Race Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

In addition to enjoying the balloon events each day, attendees can stroll Balloon Boulevard where crafts, souvenirs, food and drinks are available. After Mass Ascension, the RE/MAX balloon provides tethered rides for children for a $5.00 donation to the “Children’s Miracle Network.”

Great Reno Balloon Race
Great Reno Balloon Race Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Things to know before you go

Dress in layers & wear comfortable shoes. It’s cold at 5 am but gets warm as soon as the sun is up. Layering will give you the flexibility to adjust as the day progresses. Additionally, enclosed, comfortable shoes are your best footwear choice. The balloons launch from a field that will be dirty and/or muddy and requires a short hike to access.

Leave Fido at home. Dogs would not enjoy the crowds or sounds, so the event asks that they remain at home.

Bring a blanket or chairs is you want to sit. There is a designated blanket area or you can sit along the very edge of the launch field.

Arrive early. There’s limited parking at the event site. Park for free at the University of Nevada Reno’s north lots, but cars must be removed by 10 a.m. Parking also will be available at the corner of N. Sierra St. and McCarran Blvd. for a donation to the event.

Find more event and information on parking at the event, consult the Great Reno Balloon Race website.

 


Disclaimer: The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. We received no compensation for this article. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.

Taste of Sonoma, Sonoma Wine Country Weekend

Sonoma Wine Country Weekend

Cover: Taste of Sonoma, Sonoma Wine Country Weekend
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


Sonoma Wine Country Weekend is Sonoma County’s largest fundraising event, held annually on Labor Day weekend with winery lunches, winemaker dinners, barbecues, one of the nation’s largest charity wine auctions, and the Taste of Sonoma.

Rodney Strong, Taste of Sonoma, Sonoma Wine Country Weekend
Rodney Strong, Taste of Sonoma, Sonoma Wine Country Weekend Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

A perfect place to close out the summer, the event brings thousands together under the late summer sun to sip fine wines, sample delicacies, and raise funds to support area youth and children.

Ferrari-Carano, John Ash & Co., Taste of Sonoma, Sonoma Wine Country Weekend
Ferrari-Carano, John Ash & Co., Taste of Sonoma, Sonoma Wine Country Weekend
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Sonoma Wine Country Weekend: Where the winemakers pour and the chefs serve

Jordan Wines and Tsar Nicoulai Caviar, Taste of Sonoma, Sonoma Wine Country Weekend
Jordan Wines and Tsar Nicoulai Caviar, Taste of Sonoma, Sonoma Wine Country Weekend
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures  © Chasing Light Media

Showcasing Sonoma’s exceptional wines and local chef creations, Sonoma Wine Country Weekend is where foodies and oenophiles gather for three days of nonstop eating, drinking and charitable wine buying.

Taste of Sonoma, Sonoma Wine Country Weekend
Taste of Sonoma, Sonoma Wine Country Weekend Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Against the sublime backdrop of Northern California’s vineyards, the event is a celebration of the best of Sonoma – with the chefs and winemakers in attendance, pouring their wines and serving their culinary delicacies in the relaxed, casual comfort the region is known for.

Taste of Sonoma, Sonoma Wine Country Weekend
Taste of Sonoma Sonoma Wine Country Weekend Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Taste of Sonoma

Sub Zero Ice Cream, Taste of Sonoma, Sonoma Wine Country Weekend
Sub Zero Ice Cream, Taste of Sonoma, Sonoma Wine Country Weekend Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

While Sonoma Wine Country Weekend is a three-day feast of the senses, the largest event of the weekend is Taste of Sonoma and a true star in its own right.

What makes Taste of Sonoma work so well?

Taste of Sonoma, Sonoma Wine Country Weekend
Taste of Sonoma, Sonoma Wine Country Weekend
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

It’s relaxed – not snobby

Paul Hobbs Winery, Taste of Sonoma, Sonoma Wine Country Weekend
Paul Hobbs Winery, Taste of Sonoma, Sonoma Wine Country Weekend Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Anyone that’s spent time in Sonoma would not be surprised by that statement but, a non-snobby wine event is actually worth noting.

Jordan Vineyard & Winery, Taste of Sonoma, Sonoma Wine Country Weekend
Jordan Vineyard & Winery, Taste of Sonoma, Sonoma Wine Country Weekend Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Attendees eat, drink, chat, and relax in the easy-going wine country atmosphere. So, feel free to leave those five-inch heels & the necktie at home. Sonoma Wine Country Weekend is about the wine, the food, and the cause.

MacMurray Estates Vineyards, Taste of Sonoma, Sonoma Wine Country Weekend
MacMurray Estate Vineyards, Taste of Sonoma, Sonoma Wine Country Weekend
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Speaking of food – there’s lots of food

Jordan Wines and Tsar Nicoulai Caviar, Taste of Sonoma, Sonoma Wine Country Weekend
Jordan Wines and Tsar Nicoulai Caviar, Taste of Sonoma, Sonoma Wine Country Weekend Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Other wine events can be so wine-focused you have to leave the tent and head to a restaurant when you get hungry, but not at Taste of Sonoma.

Taste of Sonoma, Sonoma Wine Country Weekend
Taste of Sonoma Sonoma Wine Country Weekend Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Most tables pair food with the wines. Fabulous, creative food. From mushroom tartlets to watermelon caprese to shrimp cocktail shots to some of the most amazing pickles you’ve ever tasted – it’s all so very Sonoma – fresh, local, innovative.

Taste of Sonoma, Sonoma Wine Country Weekend
Taste of Sonoma, Sonoma Wine Country Weekend Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Informative and entertaining seminars

Grape to Glass with Ray Isle of Food and Wine magazine, Taste of Sonoma, Sonoma Wine Country Weekend
Grape to Glass with Ray Isle of Food and Wine magazine, Taste of Sonoma, Sonoma Wine Country Weekend Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Seminars provide a wonderful opportunity to gain insights from experts about food, wine, and kitchen techniques and add to an unforgettable Sonoma experience.

Taste of Sonoma, Sonoma Wine Country Weekend
Taste of Sonoma, Sonoma Wine Country Weekend, Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

With cooking demonstrations, wine tastings, and panel discussions, Sonoma Wine Country Weekend provides a chance to learn from the masters – who are both informative and entertaining.

Grape to Glass, Taste of Sonoma, Sonoma Wine Country Weekend
Grape to Glass, Taste of Sonoma, Sonoma Wine Country Weekend Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

And, of course, it’s about tasting some of the best wine in the world

Breathless Wines, Taste of Sonoma, Sonoma Wine Country Weekend
Breathless Wines, Taste of Sonoma, Sonoma Wine Country Weekend Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Wine lovers have the opportunity to taste thousands of wines from hundreds of Sonoma County vintners and the informal atmosphere has wine fans mixing and mingling with the winemakers themselves.

Taste of Sonoma, Sonoma Wine Country Weekend
Taste of Sonoma Sonoma Wine Country Weekend Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Sonoma Wine Country Weekend: The Proceeds Matter

Mark Start, Taste of Sonoma, Sonoma Wine Country
Mark Stark, Taste of Sonoma, Sonoma Wine Country Weekend Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

At Sonoma Wine Country Weekend, the proceeds go to worthy causes supporting the children, environment, and health of the Sonoma County Community.

Taste of Sonoma, Sonoma Wine Country Weekend
Taste of Sonoma, Sonoma Wine Country Weekend Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The 2015 event set a new record with proceeds expected to be in excess of $5.5 million, with Fund the Future, supporting children’s literacy throughout Sonoma County, raising over $1.9 million alone.

Taste of Sonoma, Sonoma Wine Country Weekend
Taste of Sonoma, Sonoma Wine Country Weekend
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Sonoma Wine Country

Did you know Sonoma County has more than 370 wineries and over 500 restaurants?The fabulous climate makes Sonoma County a year-round destination so plan some visits throughout the year.


Disclosure & disclaimer: Special thanks to Sonoma Wine Country Weekend 2016 for hosting us as their guests. The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.

Taste of Sonoma, Sonoma Wine Country Weekend
Taste of Sonoma, Sonoma Wine Country Weekend
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media