Smiles everyone smiles, welcome to Super Bowl 50! Great fun stopping by the Taste of Sonoma Lounge in Super Bowl City in SF this weekend. Even better seeing enthusiastic football fans from across the nation lovin’ the wines from Sonoma County!
Here are some photos to pique your curiousity: Later this week, catch me at Market One restaurant on Feb 5 & 6 as a featured pre-game sommelier!
Every wine competition has its own unique shtick. Some are focused on specific varietals or regional specialties; while others are concentrated on wines from around the globe at different price points. For these reasons, it’s very rare to find a large-scale competition that is solely focused on high-end wines. An exception to this rule is the American Fine Wine Competition.
In mid-January, myself and twenty-three extremely qualified wine professionals from all areas of the wine and food industry were put through the test of judging 770 high-end wines at the 9th Annual AFWC held at the Chaplin School of Hospitality Management in the Wine Spectator Restaurant Lab at the Florida International University in Miami.
Co-founded by Shari Gherman and Monty & Sara Preiser in 2007, the AFWC has become one of the most influential wine events in the country over the past decade. The competition is followed by the annual Charity Wine Gala which takes place in April. There is also a series of Wine & Business After Hours events that raise money for a variety of non-profits and promote award-winning American wines throughout the year.
Since its inception, AFWC has raised more than a million dollars for local charities. The organization also works closely with the Dolphins Cancer Challenge, an organization founded by Michael Mandich, whose father Jim “Mad Dog” Mandich, a popular player for the Miami Dolphins and a beloved broadcaster, died of cancer in 2011.
“We are also proud that most other competitions charge $25 – $75 for each bottle of wine entered, garnering big profits for the organizers. We charge nothing, and all profits realized go to charity. Few can make such a statement,” says Gherman, the president and co-founder of the organization.
In addition to myself and Dr. Barry Gump of FIU (who I annually judge with at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition), some of the other well know judges included Masters of Wine Dr. Liz Thach and Peg San Felippo; Master Sommelier Virginia Philips; internationally renown sommelier and wine educator Charlie Arturaola; Wine Director Kris Margerum from Auberge du Soleil in St. Helena; East Coast wine sales experts Veronica Litton and Scott Caruso; and Patrick Sullivan, editor of DINE Magazine.
In the end, the top awards for 2016 went out to a fabulous mixture of producers from northern California:
Best of Show Sparkling Wine (Tie): Signal Ridge, Anderson Valley ($25) and Breathless Blanc de Noirs, North Coast ($30) Best of Show White Wine: Rivino 2014 Pinot Blanc, Mendocino ($25) Best of Show Red Wine: Luna 2013 Canto Super Tuscan Style, Napa Valley
($70) Best of Show Sweet/Dessert Wine: Castello di Amorosa 2013 LH Gewurztraminer, Anderson Valley ($39 – 375ml) In addition to California, there other top wines entered in the competition from Virginia, Maryland, New York, Texas, Oregon and Washington State. The complete list of the Best of Class winners and all the medalists will be out next week on www.AmericanFineWineCompetition.org.
In the meantime, to get your taste buds primed for the great results from the AFWC, here are my notes on for some of my favorite gold and double gold medal wines that I tasted at the two days of judging in Miami. Enjoy! -CS
Miner Family 2012 Chardonnay, Wild Yeast, Napa Valley: Complex flavors of ripe pear, apple, citrus and creamy custard accented with notes of cinnamon, nutmeg, pumpkin spice and roasted nuts. Elegant texture with plenty of depth, structure, and length, ($50). DOUBLE GOLD www.minerwines.com
Lobo Wines 2014 Chardonnay, Wulff Vineyards, Oak Knoll District, Napa Valley: Sultry combination of golden delicious apple, melon, white peach, coconut, lemon and grapefruit. Bright, expressive, lovable ($60). DOUBLE GOLD www.lobowines.com
Shadowbox 2013 Chardonnay, Forty-Sixth Leaf, Oak Knoll District, Napa Valley: Sweet fruit notes of ripe melon, apple, citrus, banana cream pie, chamomile and subtle spices lead to a lingering finish. Superb! ($60). DOUBLE GOLD www.shadowboxcellars.com
Fisher Vineyards 2012 Chardonnay, Mountain Estate, Sonoma County: Lovely aromas of spring flowers, honeysuckle, ripe melon, citrus, vanilla and toasty oak; elegant flavors of poached pear, Crenshaw melon, peach, mineral, and roasted almonds; smooth mouthfeel; and long finish. ($70). DOUBLE GOLD www.fishervineyards.com
Coastal Pinot Noirs
Castello di Amorosa 2014 Pinot Noir, Il Rubino, North Coast: Pretty nose and complex flavors of ripe blueberry, candied red fruits, earth and spice ($39). DOUBLE GOLD www.castellodiamorosa.com
Calstar Cellars 2012 Pinot Noir, Sangiacomo Vineyard, Sonoma Coast: Elegant and fruity, with notes of wild, berries, cherry cola, ripe plum, cinnamon, nutmeg, licorice and smoked meats; vibrant acidity, and a rewarding finish ($40). DOUBLE GOLD www.calstarcellars.com
Lando Wines 2013 Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast: Sophisticated Pinot with concentrated flavors of blackberry, dark cherry, blueberry, mineral, and silky tannins. Dense, spicy and generous($42). GOLD www.landowines.com
MacPhail 2013 Pinot Noir, Sangiacomo Vineyard, Sonoma Coast:
Well-balanced wine with vibrant flavors of black raspberry, cherry, blackberry, and layers of spice ($49). GOLD www.macphailwine.com
Lichen Estate 2012 Pinot Noir, Estate Grown, Lichen Estate, Anderson Valley: Dark berries, raspberry, plum, mint, vanillin, and forest floor. Beautiful Burgundian-style wine with a rustic twist ($65). DOUBLE GOLD www.lichenestate.com
Donum 2013 Pinot Noir, Angel Camp Vineyard, Anderson Valley: Rich flavors of blackberry, blueberry, dark cherry, blood orange peel, wild herbs, and mineral. Gracious, complex and ageworthy ($72). DOUBLE GOLD www.thedonumestate.com
Alquimista Cellars 2014 Pinot Noir, Manchester Ridge, Mendocino Ridge: Wild strawberry, red cherry, clove, tangerine rind, and a linger finish ($75). DOUBLE GOLD www.alquimistacellars.com
Napa Valley Cabernets
Triumph Cellars 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley: Young, vibrant wine with layers of ripe raspberry, dark cherry, plum, cocoa, wild herbs, and a burst of bright acidity on the long, engaging finish ($40). DOUBLE GOLD www.calistogacellars.com
Triumph Cellars 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve, Napa Valley: Rich, lively and extremely balanced. Deep flavors of dark berries, cherry, cassis, vanilla, smooth texture, and toasty oak ($52). GOLD www.calistogacellars.com
Roberts & Rogers 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, Howell Mountain: Concentrated notes of black raspberry, blueberry, cassis, maple, black pepper and wild mountain herbs ($55). DOUBLE GOLD www.robertsandrogers.com
Lagniappe Peak 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, Pere, Napa Valley: Rich texture with dark berries, black currant, bittersweet chocolate, layers of spice, chewy tannins, and a persistent finish ($75). DOUBLE GOLD. www.lagniappepeakwines.com
The countdown to Valentine’s Day is on! This Saturday, January 30th, listen to KGO Radio 810 AM from 5-6 pm to hear the live broadcast of foodie Ryan Scott and I discussing the exciting results of the 7,200 wines that were judged at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, aphrodisiac food pairings with gold medal winning wines, and what to expect at the upcoming SFCWC Public Tasting at Fort Mason on February 13th.
For more information about the “Cooking with Ryan Scott” show visit www.kgoradio.com and for tickets to the Public Tasting visit www.winejudging.com. And don’t forget to look for the special spread focused on the top medal winners in the San Francisco Chronicle on Super Bowl Sunday, February 7th.
Foodies unite! Need a good excuse to visit San Francisco in January? Then check out the magnificent list of culinary delights that will be featured as part of the annual SF Restaurant Week January 20-31th.
Find out more about participating restaurants that are serving 2 and 3 course lunch and dinner menus sampling from a selection of 25 different cuisines. Another special deal during SF Restaurant Week, when you eat at 4 or more participating restaurants, make a qualifying post on the Facebook event page, and you will be eligible to win 12 – $100 gift certificates to different restaurants in the City. RSVP on Facebook right now!
Your gastronomical endeavors benefit the 50 Fund charitable organization so go BIG!
The countdown to Flavor! Napa Valley is on! I am the wine director for this year’s festivities March 16-20: Organizing tastings, food pairings and seminars has given me some things to get excited about, hopefully you can join in the fun as well. For more info, visit FlavorNapaValley.com.
Here are a few photos from the exciting Preview Party in SF, featuring a great mixture of media and team members from American Express, CIA Greystone, Celebrity Cruise, Visit Napa Valley, DPEM, AF&Co and me, who brought a tasty array of sips provided by four special wineries that will be involved in the culinary festival along with other members of the Napa Valley Vintners.
My resolution for 2016, to share a calendar of my upcoming adventures that may be investigated by my readers: This is a way for you to anticipate upcoming events that might be of interest, and maybe even join in the fun!
The Calendar Page is here on my site, among the tabs at the top right, and will be updated periodically as new plans are made, so hope to be seeing you in this exciting new year.
So sad to hear about the passing of David Bowie just a few days after his birthday at the age of 69. There is no doubt the man was an icon, a legend, and helped change the face of music in the 70s & 80s. He will always be one of the greatest entertainers of our lifetimes and a star that will always shine bright not only as a musician but as an actor as well. For that reason, this week I will have his vinyl playing in the cellar and opening fine bottles of wine with friends in his honor!
#RIP #ZiggyStardust #DiamondDogs #RebelRebel #cancersucks
Read more about the amazing life of David Bowie
in this BBC article.
My love of music runs deep, back to the days, and further, when I was a college DJ and wrote album reviews for the University newspaper. Especially 80’s music. I would say it equals my love of wine, a most beautiful pairing!
For that reason I am very excited to share this news from my friend Darwin Meiners about one of his current projects, David J and The Gentleman Thieves, which of course includes the founding member of Bauhaus and Love & Rockets.
They are currently cutting their first single and video filming this month in LA with Linda Strawberry directing. It will be released on a split 7″ with Darwin’s new solo song ‘Horrible Cocoon’ on the b-side to be released on Starry Records.
I recommend catching an extraordinary live show of David J and The Gentleman Thieves. Unfortunately for me I will be leaving for Miami to judge in the American Fine Wine Competition (more on that later!) while the NorCal shows are happening but perhaps you can report back in my stead. I am eager to hear more!
JANUARY 14TH @ THE LOST CHURCH in SF: David J performs with Chris Vibberts & Darwin. Darwin will also open with a short, acoustic set. Advance Tix are recommended:TICKETS HERE!
JANUARY 15TH @ THE BIG EASY in PETALUMA: Dominic East (from Our Lady of the Highway) opens, David J plays second (with Chris and Darwin). Following, Darwin’s band performs, David will then join for a few Love & Rockets tunes! TICKETS HERE!
JANUARY 22ND @ LUNARIO DEL AUDITORIO NACIONAL in MEXICO CITY: David J and The Gentleman Thieves perform. TICKETS HERE!
FEBRUARY 19TH @ UCO in OKC: David and Darwin will be performing at the University in Oklahoma City. There may be a few surprises in store as they were invited by those Flaming Lip fellows! TICKETS HERE!
Writing my retrospective of the year reminded me to share these published articles from 2015! As written, some of my favorite memories from the past year were based on the accomplishments of gifted winemakers and family owned wineries. One of those was a celebration of a number of fun days spent with Sonoma County winemaker Richard Arrowood of Amapola Creek.
Last spring marked the monumental kickoff to Arrowood’s 50th vintage and a series of retrospective tastings featuring over 60 wines from the iconic winemaker’s private collection. My great mentor Master Sommelier Fred Dame and I were on hand to help with each of these tastings. I must say it was a pleasure to taste through this vast collection of gems. Highlights include: a rare series of vineyard designate wines made with Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Riesling and Chardonnay grapes from legendary sites like the Laurel Glen, Wildwood and Glen Ellen (now Moon Mountain Vineyard) that were part of the Chateau St. Jean collection from 1974 to 1988; to a series of elegant and ageworthy wines from Arrowood Vineyards; and an impressive grouping of the more powerful styles made under the Amapola Creek label from 2005 to the present. You can read my stories on this experience in these two articles published by Napa Sonoma Magazine, Notes Worth Savoring: Richard Arrowood celebrates five decades of making fine wine, and The Tasting Panel, Celebrating 50 Years of Success with Richard Arrowood.
And now some special wine reviews —Into the Cellar: Six memorable Cabernet Sauvignon selections by Richard Arrowood
Here are six of my favorite cellar selections of Cabernet Sauvignon made by one of the great masters of the craft, Richard Arrowood. From a sommelier’s standpoint, it’s a wonder to taste these vintage wines over time. File under #Priceless! -CS
Chateau St. Jean 1975 Cabernet Sauvignon, Wildwood Vineyards, Sonoma Valley: Big, ripe and juicy flavors of wild berries, chocolate, black olive, mineral, and an ample amount of structure for a wine that is pushing 40-years since the grapes were picked. A true ethereal experience made with fruit from one of the most historic Cabernet Sauvignon vineyards in America. 97 pts
Chateau St. Jean 1977 Cabernet Sauvignon, Laurel Glen Vineyards, Sonoma Valley: Attractive aromas of leather, tobacco and seared meats; flavorful notes of wild mushrooms, soy and ripe berries; soft elegant texture; followed by a long, engaging finish. 98 pts
Chateau St. Jean 1978 Cabernet Sauvignon, Glen Ellen Vineyards, Sonoma Valley: Deep flavors of briary blackberries, blueberry, wild sage and mountain herbs, earthy tones, and a lingering finish. 96 pts
Arrowood 1993 Cabernet Sauvignon, Réserve Spéciale, Sonoma County: Sophisticated wine with aromas of dark fruits, bay leaf, tobacco and cedar leading to complex flavors of dark cherry, dried herbs, earth, rich texture, and a generous finish. 98 pts
Arrowood 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon, Monte Rosso Vineyard, Sonoma Valley: Magnificent Cabernet that still tastes young. Lively notes of ripe berries, tobacco, summer sausage, chocolate nibs, rich texture, and an impressive blast of vibrant acidity towards the end. 96 pts
Arrowood 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon, Réserve Spéciale, Sonoma Valley: Extremely concentrated wine with layers of dark cherries, plums, wild berries and dark chocolate enhanced with nuances of fresh mountain herbs, clove, cardamom, and chewy tannins. 97 pts
Make your special trip to Amapola Creek this year. Hours and tastings by appointment only. 392 London Way, Sonoma, CA (707) 938-3783