Events: Many Ways to Warm Your Spirits

Mark your calendars with these enticing events happening this winter.

January is the perfect time to catch sight of migrating gray whales traveling south for the winter. (Christopher Chung/ The Press Democrat)

JANUARY: Whale Watching
A gray whale breaching is a wondrous sight, soaring up out of the water and crashing back into the ocean with its full weight of 30 to 40 tons, causing a thunderous splash. In January, migrating gray whales headed south from their summer feeding grounds in the frigid waters near Alaska pass along the California coast en route to the subtropical lagoons and bays of Baja California. On weekends, whale fans gather at Bodega Head for a glimpse of the majestic sea mammals. In Baja, the whales mate and nurse their young. By April, pairs of cows and calves can be seen headed north again.
Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods,

A classic Gin Martini. (BETH SCHLANKER/ The Press Democrat)
A classic Gin Martini. (BETH SCHLANKER/ The Press Democrat)

JANUARY 9: Martini Madness
Ten local restaurants compete for the title of best olive-inspired martini, from 5 to 7 p.m. at MacArthur Place. The $40 admission includes appetizers and martini tasting. The $85 dinner package includes a three-course meal at Saddles Steakhouse.
MacArthur Place, 28 E. MacArthur St., Sonoma, 707-938-2929,

JANUARY 17-18: Winter WINEland
The 23rd annual event offers so many choices, you could easily stay busy for two full days. More than 140 wineries throughout the Alexander, Dry Creek and Russian River valleys offer tastings of limited-production wines, new releases, library wines and a chance to meet winemakers. 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Prices at the door range from $45 for a one-day ticket to $60 for a weekend ticket.

JANUARY 24: Yo-Yo Ma
The world-famous cellist plays an all-Bach program in Green Music Center’s acoustically outstanding Weill Hall at 7:30 p.m. Not surprisingly, the show sold out fast, but there are always possibilities on the Internet of finding a ticket-holder who’s had a change of plans.
Weill Hall, Green Music Center on the Sonoma State University campus, 1801 E. Cotati Ave., Rohnert Park, 866-955-6040,

JANUARY 25: Feast of the Olive Dinner
The Sonoma olive season runs throughout January and February, and one of the high points every year is this gathering of the best local chefs, winemakers and olive-oil producers to prepare a unique feast at the Ramekins Culinary School. It’s an elegant affair, with 19 chefs, five courses and three menus. 6-10 p.m. $150.
450 W. Spain St., Sonoma, 707-996-1090,

FEBRUARY 7-8: International Alsace Varietals Festival
Roam the hills of beautiful Anderson Valley and taste wines from around the globe. Wineries from France, Germany, New Zealand and across the U.S. will pour samples alongside local wineries. Enjoy food pairings, local cheeses, Tomales Bay oysters, Alsatian-style treats and more. A grand tasting runs from 1 to 4 p.m. Feb. 7 ($200). Other events include a winemaker dinner at Scharffenberger Cellars. Visit winery open houses across the valley Feb. 8.

Great Sonoma Crab and Wine Fest. (photo by Alvin Jornada)
Great Sonoma Crab and Wine Fest. (photo by Alvin Jornada)

FEBRUARY 7: Great Sonoma Crab and Wine Fest
A seasonal feast with a heartfelt mission, the 26th annual fundraiser for agricultural and business scholarships, education programs and youth activities is a chance to mingle with more than 1,000 local folks. It’s also a Dungeness lover’s repast to remember. The reception and silent auction start at 5 p.m. in Grace Pavilion at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds. The crab feed and live auction follow at 6:30 p.m. $75.
Sonoma County Fairgrounds, 1350 Bennett Valley Road, Santa Rosa, 707-544-5575,

FEBRUARY 13-15: Cloverdale Citrus Fair
Capture the flavor of Cloverdale’s agricultural history, with featured exhibits made of oranges and other citrus, plus live entertainment, rides, food and a parade. And don’t overlook the Citrus Fair Queen contest, a hometown tradition since 1924. $5-$7.
Cloverdale Citrus Fairgrounds, 1 Citrus Fair Drive, 707-894-3992,

FEBRUARY 14: A Glorious Mixer
For Valentine’s Day, take your honey or BFFs to Gloria Ferrer winery in Sonoma for its Glorious Mixer, a casual affair serving up yummy bites, sparkling-wine cocktails and plenty of straight-up bubbly from 6:30 to 9 p.m. You might even find your long-awaited soul mate by the chocolate fondue fountain. Tickets are $55 ($47 for wine club members) and limited.
Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards, 23555 Highway 121/Arnold Drive, Sonoma, 707-933-1917,

A pair of giraffes interact at Safari West in Santa Rosa. (BETH SCHLANKER/ The Press Democrat)
A pair of giraffes interact at Safari West in Santa Rosa. (BETH SCHLANKER/ The Press Democrat)

FEBRUARY 14: Wild Jungle Love
Maintain a Valentine’s Day frame of mind with a special “Safari Sex Tour” at the Safari West wild animal preserve. Witness ardor among the wildebeests and romance among the water buffalo. Adults only. The package includes the “Wild Love Bites” lunch at noon and a reception featuring chocolate paired with African wine and beer at 1 p.m. The tour starts at 2 p.m. $135; $95 for the tour only; $40 for brunch and reception only. Reservations required.
Safari West, 3115 Porter Creek Road, Santa Rosa, 707-579-2551,

FEBRUARY 15: “Café Music”
Enjoy the intimate atmosphere of the Green Music Center’s 250-seat Schroeder Hall with pianist John Novacek, who has performed with famed violinist Joshua Bell and master cellist Yo-Yo Ma. He’ll team with lesser-known but highly respected violinist Laura Frautschi and cellist Ellen Moon at 3 p.m. $25.
Schroeder Hall, Green Music Center on the Sonoma State University campus, 1801 E. Cotati Ave., Rohnert Park, 866-955-6040,

FEBRUARY 25: Jazz on the Menu
Credit the Healdsburg Jazz Festival for coming up with a winter event that supports music education and is also a lot of fun. Fans of fine dining are offered a choice of several top restaurants in Healdsburg and Geyserville, each donating a portion of the evening’s receipts to school music programs. Each restaurant will feature live jazz from 6 to 9 p.m. The after-party is 7:30-10:30 p.m. at Costeaux French Bakery. Party admission is $15.