Just in time for Valentines, Crab is back!

Dungeness Crab is back! As seen in this tasty new pasta dish at Cucina Paradiso in Petaluma with fresh crab, cauliflower, pepper flakes, lite cream, and a lovely bottle of #Presqu'ile Pinot Noir. Yum!
Dungeness Crab is back! As seen in this tasty new pasta dish at Cucina Paradiso in Petaluma with fresh crab, cauliflower, pepper flakes, lite cream, and a lovely bottle of #Presqu’ile Pinot Noir. Yum!

The glorious news just in this week, Dungeness crab is back!  Happy days ahead for lovers of the crustacean delicacy and most especially the fabulous fishermen that collect them for our markets. Congratulations to all!

Read more in this SF Examiner article: Recreational Dungeness Crab Season Opens

Cheers! Christopher

La Vie En Rose: Pink Bubbles for Valentines Day!

Until recently, it was rare to find sparkling wines with majestic pink hues outside of Champagne, the bubbly capital of France. But thanks to the growing interest in Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, the two main red grapes used to add layers of flavor and color to these wines, the fascination for the color pink has spread around the globe.

lavieMost of these marvelous new wines are made using the classic méthode champenoise technique, which helps convert the base wine into a sparkler. When making the base wine, a portion of the Pinot Noir or Pinot Meunier grapes used in the blend are fermented separately on the skins to add depth and subtle color to this unique sparkling wine.

A tasty example of this technique is the Schramsberg 2012 Brut Rosé, $44, a bright and beautiful wine made with Pinot Noir grapes grown in Carneros, Anderson Valley, and other premium locations in Northern California. To add more complexity, a smaller portion of Chardonnay grapes is also used to give the wine more spice, structure and length on the palate. After the blend is made, the wine is aged in the bottle for about two years.

Once finished, the end result is an elegant bubbly that is creamy and lush with lovely aromas and complex flavors of fresh raspberry, wild strawberry, white peach, orange blossom, ruby grapefruit and toasted brioche, a burst of vibrant acidity, and a elegant finish. Along with tasting great by itself; this versatile wine pairs great with gourmet salads, fine cheeses, salmon, prawns, sushi, roasted chicken, and a wide variety of barbecued meats.

To find out more about the beauty of aging Schramsberg Sparkling Wines, visit www.schramsberg.com.

Wine & Film Pairing: Schramsberg Brut Rosé with La Vie En Rose

This is a wonderful wine to share with someone special while watching La Vie en Rose (2007). In French, this term means “The Life in Pink,” which loosely translates to mean “life through rose-tinted glasses” in English. In a dynamic performance that won her an Oscar, Marion Cottillard plays the legendary French singer Edith Piaf. This biopic journey follows Piaf’s life as a young girl singing on the street corners of Paris, to her emergence as a star at center stage. And despite the ups and downs of her life, it is not hard to tell that the legendary singer is a true believer in love.

Towards the end of the film, we see Piaf performing one of her best songs, “Non, Je Ne Regrette Rein.” In English, the title of the song means “No, I regret nothing” or “No regrets.” After enjoying this powerful film and a bottle of the delicious Schramsberg Brut Rosé, odds are you’ll feel the same way!

Schramsberg at Flavor Napa Valley, March 16-20

To extend your Valentine’s Day delights, taste more sophisticated bubbles made by Schramsberg and other Napa Valley producers at Flavor Napa Valley, March 16-20. In addition to being on a panel with me on Saturday March 19th to talk about the magnificent J. Davies Cabernet Sauvignon made with world-class fruit grown on the historic estate property between Calistoga and St. Helena; Schramsberg proprietor Hugh Davies will also be part of a special seminar focused on high-end sparkling wines prior to the splendid Brunch at Meritage Resort & Spa on Sunday, March 20th. See below for more details and to view the complete calendar of events, visit www.flavornapavalley.com. Hope to see you there!

Saturday, March 19, 3pm-4:30pm: High Elevation Wines Pt.2—Westside

Explore flavorful selections of wines made with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Syrah and other special varieties used to create limited release wines and proprietary blends from hidden sites on the Mayacamas Range overlooking Napa Valley, at the Rudd Center, Culinary Institute of America Greystone, St. Helena.

Hugh Davies, J. Davies/Schramsberg (Diamond Mountain); Mariano Navarro, Mt. Brave & Lokoya Wines (Mt. Veeder); Christopher Howell, Cain Vineyards & Winery (Spring Mountain); Stuart Smith, Smith-Madrone Winery (Spring Mountain); Jay Turnipseed, Mount Veeder Winery (Mt. Veeder). Moderator: Christopher Sawyer, Wine Director of Flavor Napa Valley SawyerSomm.com.

Sunday, March 20, 9:30am – 11am: Bubbly Sensation: Exploring the Top Sparkling Wines of Napa Valley

Start your Sunday off in style by tasting through the top sparkling wines of Napa Valley! Find out where the grapes are grown and how the winemakers create levels of flavor and complexity that make their sparkling gems so special. Bubbles and knowledge in every sip! Participating Wineries: Schramsberg, Domaine Carneros, Domaine Chandon, Mumm Napa.

Sunday, March 20, 11:00 AM to 1:30 PM: Brunch Party – Meet Your Maker: The Butcher, The Baker, and the Sparkling Winemaker

Cap off the weekend with an exclusive brunch party hosted by The Meritage Resort and Spa. Engage with the ‘makers’ and learn how to cure bacon with artisan meat purveyors, bake with local pastry chefs, build a benedict with Meritage chefs, and more — all while sipping local sparkling wines and imbibing from roving bloody mary carts!
Participating Wineries: Schramsberg, Domaine Carneros, Domaine Chandon, Mumm Napa. Participating Artisans: Cate & Co., Cococlectic, Mr. Espresso, Napastak, Napa General Store, Napa Valley Cookie Co., Olive and Poppy, Platanito Pupusas. Secure your tickets!

SF Chronicle Public Tasting this Saturday Feb 13th!

The San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition is the largest competition of American wines in the world!  This Saturday, February 13,  is the chronicle22016 Public Tasting at Fort Mason Center, San Francisco.

Now in its 16th year and with more than 6,000 entries, thousands of wine lovers experience award-winning wines paired with delicious food, while top, professional wine judges have the challenging task of selecting the finest wines from a crowded field of varietals in various categories.

Join me and the other judges to learn more about delicious wine and fine food.  Get your Tickets online now!

Action shot: With my judging team of Kent Rosenblum and Victoria Wilson getting ready for the next round with a little gift from the SF Chronicle staff and Gloria Ferrer!
Action shot: With my judging team of Kent Rosenblum and Victoria Wilson getting ready for the next round with a little gift from the SF Chronicle staff and Gloria Ferrer!

Celebrating Sonoma County wines at Super Bowl City!

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!

Make sure to visit Ferry Building Wine Merchant & Wine Bar, Hogsland Oyster Co, Cowgirl Creamery Cheese Shop, Slanted Door, and the other amazing food and wine purveyors inside the Ferry Bldg this week too!
Make sure to visit Ferry Building Wine Merchant & Wine Bar, Hogsland Oyster Co, Cowgirl Creamery Cheese Shop, Slanted Door, and the other amazing food and wine purveyors inside the Ferry Bldg this week too!

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!

My kind of trophy! Festive SB50 photo taken by Carolyn Stark of Sonoma County Vintners.
My kind of trophy! Festive SB50 photo taken by Carolyn Stark of Sonoma County Vintners.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fabulous lineup of wines from Sonoma County producers Lambert Bridge Winery, Sehesio Family Vineyards and Parmeson Wines.
Fabulous lineup of wines from Sonoma County producers Lambert Bridge Winery, Sehesio Family Vineyards and Parmeson Wines.

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The Taste of Sonoma Lounge at Super Bowl City in San Francisco
The Taste of Sonoma Lounge at Super Bowl City in San Francisco

 

 

 

 

 

 

Selfie Delux with great friends from Sonoma County Vintners, Sonoma County Tourism, and a happy photo bomber in the background! — with Carolyn Stark, Capo Creek Winery, Ken Fischang, #designatedphotobomber and Marta Hayden at SB50 Super Bowl City.
Selfie Delux with great friends from Sonoma County Vintners, Sonoma County Tourism, and a happy photo bomber in the background! — with Carolyn Stark, Capo Creek Winery, Ken Fischang, #designatedphotobomber and Marta Hayden at SB50 Super Bowl City.

Tasty results from the American Fine Wine Competition 2016

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.

afwc1In 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.

Pink out! Kenwood-based Muscardini Cellars won the coveted Best of Class award for Dry Rose with this elegant wine made with fruit from Alpicella Vineyard in Sonoma Valley.
Pink out! Kenwood-based Muscardini Cellars won the coveted Best of Class award for Dry Rose with this elegant wine made with fruit from Alpicella Vineyard in Sonoma Valley.

“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

High-end Chardonnays

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

The Lando 2013 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir was one of the big medal winners in the high-end category at the the AFWC 2016.
The Lando 2013 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir was one of the big medal winners in the high-end category at the the AFWC 2016.

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

Four of the fabulous Merlots entered into the AFWC 2016 by top Napa Valley producers.
Four of the fabulous Merlots entered into the AFWC 2016 by top Napa Valley producers.

KGO spot on Ryan Scott show, Sat Jan 30th, to discuss SFCWC results

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.
KGO

Tastes of SF: This is Restaurant Week!

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!

50fund

Start getting ready for Flavor! Napa Valley

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.

flavor1Here 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.

Fabulous wines I brought to the event provided by Grgich Hills Estate, Trefethen Family Vineyards, Bouchaine Vineyards & Stags Leap Winery. Look for these wineries and other top producers at the events, March 16-20!
Fabulous wines I brought to the event provided by Grgich Hills Estate, Trefethen Family Vineyards, Bouchaine Vineyards & Stags Leap Winery. Look for these wineries and other top producers at the events, March 16-20!
As Wine Director for Flavor Napa Valley, a few words from me, about the irresistible wine offerings that will be happening at the upcoming Wine Seminars, Wine Tours, Terroir to Table events, and unforgettable dinners in the making.
As Wine Director for Flavor Napa Valley, a few words from me, about the irresistible wine offerings that will be happening at the upcoming Wine Seminars, Wine Tours, Terroir to Table events, and unforgettable dinners in the making.

The SawyerSomm.com 2016 Calendar is UP!

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.

Cheers!  Christopher

Ready for action at MacMurry Ranch for Taste of Sonoma, a few years back.
Ready for action at MacMurry Ranch for Taste of Sonoma, a few years back.