Inaugural Healdsburg Wine & Food Experience kicks off with benefit barbecue

Susan S. Johnson

The inaugural Healdsburg Wine & Food Experience opened Friday with the outdoor Live Fire BBQ fundraising event, held next door to farm-to-table restaurant The Matheson. Several hundred epicurean enthusiasts attended the noon barbecue, which was the first of the festival’s 28 events happening over the weekend.

Chef Matt Horn, the celebrated pitmaster of Oakland’s Horn Barbecue and who was named one of Food & Wine magazine’s “Best new chefs” in 2021, smoked a whole hog and made several traditional barbecue sides like coleslaw, macaroni and cheese and banana pudding, while event sponsor Foley Family Wines and Golden State Cider provided drinks to guests during the sold-out barbecue.

“Every time I come out here, it’s beautiful, we’re grateful to be up here to do this festival,” Horn said.

A substantial portion of the proceeds from the Live Fire BBQ will go to fund scholarships for students from the Healdsburg High School Future Farmers of America who want to pursue a career in farming and agriculture.

“FFA is a beautiful program so we’re grateful to be a part of this,” Horn said.

Horn was in Aspen, Colorado, when he got the invitation to participate in the barbecue. “Before they could finish telling me about it, I said let’s do it,” he said.

The barbecue was accompanied by a wide variety of locally-produced wines from Sonoma County wineries owned by Foley Family Wines, which operates a portfolio of boutique wineries along the West Coast and in New Zealand, Argentina and France.

“It’s amazing; there’s an excitement (about the event),” said Sarah Quider, vice president of winemaking with Foley Family Wines. “Healdsburg is such a wine destination, and it’s great to have people actually experience Healdsburg, as well as the wine and the food.”

Quider’s team poured sparkling wines, sauvignon blanc, pinot noir, merlot, chardonnay and cabernet wines from Sonoma County wineries Banshee, Ferrari-Carano, Chalk Hill and Roth Estate.

“Sonoma County offers so many different areas for growing a variety of grapes,” Quider said.

The fundraiser even attracted visitors from as far away as barbecue hot spot Lubbock, Texas. Texans David Jones and Sandy Derise came to the event as part of a wine country vacation.

“We saw it in a magazine, and here we are,” Derise said. “We came to enjoy some wine and have a good time.”

Jones and Derise are also planning to attend several other Healdsburg Wine & Food Experience offerings, including Saturday’s Vintners Plaza Grand Tasting Experience and the outdoor concert at Rodney Strong Vineyards featuring The Band Perry.

Healdsburg Wine & Food Experience is produced by Sonoma County Winegrowers and SD Media Productions and features three days of tastings, performances and VIP events intended to educate participants on the region’s farmers and growers.

“We are thrilled to introduce this special event that will showcase the deep connection to agriculture at play throughout Sonoma County – the true makers behind the magic of the destination,” Karissa Kruse, president of Sonoma County Winegrowers, said in a statement.

For more information on Healdsburg Wine & Food Experience events, visit healdsburgwineandfood.com.

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