Gay Wine Weekend's bigger and gayer

  • by Heather Cassell
  • Tuesday June 20, 2023
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Out in the Vineyard guests enjoy the Twilight T-Dance.<br>(all photos: Out in the Vineyard)
Out in the Vineyard guests enjoy the Twilight T-Dance.
(all photos: Out in the Vineyard)

California wine country's premiere gay wine event, Gay Wine Weekend, will be hosted in a new part of Sonoma County July 14-16.

After four years of hosting the three-day wine event in Sonoma Valley in Kenwood's at Chateau St. Jean, Out in the Vineyard, which produces Gay Wine Weekend, and owner Gary Saperstein are taking the event to the Russian River Valley and Healdsburg regions of Sonoma County.

Saperstein founded the LGBTQ wine event and travel company that's now in its 14th year.

The nearly sold-out event showcases a new host hotel, the Vintner's Resort Spa and longtime sponsor, La Crema Winery, which is the new premier wine sponsor this year that will host the Twilight T-Dance that will also host two live performances by Debbie Holliday and British singer Jamie Hannah.

Saperstein said Holliday has a "powerhouse voice. She is just going to really raise those vineyards," since there is no roof, he said laughing. Hannah "has just one of the most beautiful voices I've heard in a long time," he added.

Gay Wine Weekend guests strike a pose for the camera at the Twilight T-Dance at Chateau St. Jean Winery in 2022.  

The weekend event will also highlight many wineries and restaurants new to Gay Wine Weekend guests with wine tours and wine dinners including a plant-based dinner at Little Saint featuring wines by Head High Wines and dinner with Equality Vines.

"To have the opportunity to move it around and introduce people to more of this region that I love so much is exciting to me," said Saperstein. "Sonoma County is large," he added. "Each region of our county is just so beautiful. In order to get to know more about the county you really have to stay in that area.

"It's just really great just to be able to introduce people to all these new places that they haven't been to," he said.

People have responded positively to the change.

"People are excited about the new venues," Saperstein said, stating that past Gay Wine Weekend attendees have also expressed their excitement "to come and visit all new places."

Out in the Vineyard was launched in 2009, as a local wine event gathering LGTBQ vintners, winemakers, chefs, and hundreds of queer people in the San Francisco Bay Area who love food and wine together in the Sonoma Valley for its signature event, Gay Wine Weekend.

Since then, OITV has grown year after year, attracting thousands of LGBTQ people and allies from all over the country, and this year as far-flung as Australia and England, to Sonoma and Napa counties to celebrate California's LGBTQ wine industry makers.

Gay Wine Weekend guests dancing the night away at the Twilight T-Dance at Chateau St. Jean Winery in 2022.  

In nearly 15 years since its founding, OITV has hosted events starting in May with Pink Saturday through harvest season grape stomping in October. The events have included the former Big Gay Wine Train in Napa, wine cruises on the San Francisco Bay, a Caribbean cruise, a Pride Wine Fest celebrating diversity in wine with Black Vines, and smaller, more intimate wine events from Sonoma to San Francisco.

This summer, Gay Wine Weekend guests will enjoy staying at Vintner's Resort Spa, a four-diamond California-certified green resort 78-room resort set on a sprawling 92-acre estate surrounded by vineyards, on the outskirts of Santa Rosa heading toward the popular LGBTQ resort town, Guerneville. The weekend's closing pool party (July 16) will be hosted at Guerneville's Triple R Resort.

Out in the Vineyard founder and owner Gary Saperstein, center, flanked by the "Pink" during Gay Wine Weekend.  

Some of the featured wineries guests will be able to experience are Balletto Vineyards, Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery, MacRostie Winery and Vineyards, Rodney Strong Vineyards, Silver Oak Cellars, Stonestreet Winery, and Trentadue Winery.

A percentage of Gay Wine Weekend proceeds will benefit Sonoma County's HIV/AIDS organization, Face to Face, where Saperstein is the development director. In 14 years, OITV has raised more than $500,000 for the organization that provides HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment services, drug education and prevention, and housing and income support.

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