The Sonoma Gay Wine Weekend, which was begun by Out in the Vineyard a few years ago as a relatively intimate event for LGBT folks interested in socializing and connecting in the Sonoma Wine Country, has blossomed into one of the top gay gatherings in the Bay Area. Held in mid-June just a couple of weeks after the Sonoma Gay Pride festival, the Gay Wine Weekend comprises three days of parties, restaurant experiences, winery tours, and other fun events, and it's a wonderfully fun adventure for everyone from seasoned experts on wine to novices simply wanting to explore the gorgeous Sonoma Wine Country and learn a little more about wine and food.
This year's Sonoma Gay Wine Weekend, which is expected to draw more than 700 participants, takes place the weekend of June 17 through June 19, 2016.
There are dozens of great events taking place throughout this three-day weekend. One big opening highlight is the Friday-night Wine & Dine OUT in Sonoma (these winemaker dinners take place at several of the top eateries in town, this year including The Girl & The Fig, Harvest Moon Cafe, Williams-Sonoma, Aventine, a farm-to-table dinner at Fifth St. Farms, Saddles Steakhouse, and more). Some of the area's top wineries participate in this one, including talented (and openly gay) vintner Lloyd Davis of the superb Corner 103 winery (which also has a beautiful tasting room overlooking Sonoma's central plaza).
There are vineyard tours and lunches throughout the day on Saturday, including - new this year - a hop-on bike tour that visits several of the most historic wineries in the area.
That evening, the hugely attended Twilight T-Dance takes place from 5 until 10 pm at Chateau St. Jean Winery, which is one of the most beautiful wine estates in the Sonoma Valley.
Then on Sunday, there's the Gay Wine Auction & Recovery Brunch at the Hotel MacArthur (proceeds raise money for Sonoma County AIDS Network), followed by a relaxing Sunday pool bash at the very same hotel.
One thing to consider if you're attending all of these events is obtaining a VIP Pass, which for $495 gets you into all events as well including some other great perks, such as admission to a VIP Welcome Reception on Friday and a special VIP Reception during the Twilight T-Dance. You can purchase these passes here, and at this page you can also buy tickets to any of the individual events taking place throughout the weekend.
More on Gay Travel in the Sonoma Wine Country
Although the organizers of Gay Wine Weekend work directly with the excellent MacArthur Place Inn & Spa, which is the official host of the event (you can book with them here online), another very popular option of attendees is staying at one of the other many wonderful hotels in the region. You can take a look at both the Russian River Hotels Guide and Sonoma County Hotels Guide for a range of options - everything from smaller LGBT properties to simple economical choices to luxury stunners. Right in downtown Sonoma, the very gay-friendly Best Western Sonoma Valley Inn is a terrific choice if you're on a moderate budget - the location is perfect, there's a lovely pool and hot tub, and the rooms are warmly appointed. Also keep in mind that the town of Sonoma is only 45 miles from San Francisco.
If you're here for Gay Wine Weekend, you probably already have a busy schedule, but for more suggestions on fun things to do in and around the county, see our Top 5 Attractions in Sonoma County article as well as the Sonoma Gay Guide and Russian River Gay Guide.
You'll find more details on the gay scene in the area at GaySonoma.com and GayRussianRiver.com, and on the Gay Wine Weekend website, there's also a great section with describing three-day and six-day itineraries on the area. It's also definitely helpful to check out the GLBT site produced by the region's official tourism organization, the Sonoma County Tourism Bureau.