California Beer Fest hits Novato! June 4-5

For a change of pace check out this roaming festival, making a cbf2010weekend stop north of SF on June 4 & 5. The California Beer Festival comes to Stafford Lake in Novato, a lakeside encounter with beer, food and music.  Sounds like a great way to get the summer rolling!

Chardonnay collage & Symposium wrap-up to celebrate the day!

Happy Chardonnay Day!

chardsignYes, its true May 26th is a National Chardonnay Day, a festive date completely devoted to the precious golden colored grape grown in medium to cool climate areas around the globe. And I’m happy to say there is more to celebrate about Chardonnay than ever before!
In addition to the highly successful Chardonnay Symposium held in San Lis Obispo in mid May; this year represent the 40-year anniversary of when the Chateau Montelena 1973 Chardonnay won over the won over the top

Fabulous new offering of the 2013 Estate Chardonnay from famed Hanzell Vineyards in Sonoma Valley, with Hanzel winemaker Mike McNeill and David Paige of Adelsheim Vineyards in the background.
Fabulous new offering of the 2013 Estate Chardonnay from famed Hanzell Vineyards in Sonoma Valley, with Hanzel winemaker Mike McNeill and David Paige of Adelsheim Vineyards in the background.

producers of Burgundy at the famous “Judgment of Paris” tasting.
At the time of the Paris tasting, there were just over a thousand acres planted in California. Over the next decade, the number rose 7,000 acres. But the real turning point came in 1988, when the 45,000 acres planted primarily in the interior and coastal regions of California finally surpassed the amount planted in Burgundy.
Of course, there were pluses and minus along the way. On the good side, the special version of Wente clones developed by Wente Vineyards and university of California Davis became the dominate grape planted in almost 75 percent of the Chardonnay vineyards in California.

Two world-class Chardonnay offerings from special sites in San Luis Obispo County: Talley 2013 Estate from Rosemary's Vineyard and #Sinor-LaVallee 2014 from Bassi Vineyard.
Two world-class Chardonnay offerings from special sites in San Luis Obispo County: Talley 2013 Estate from Rosemary’s Vineyard and #Sinor-LaVallee 2014 from Bassi Vineyard.

In the cellars, Hanzell Vineyards in Sonoma developed a special heating and cooling system that made it possible to make it possible for all wineries to create creamy flavors through the process of malo-lactic fermentation. They were also the first to use French oak barrels to create more expressive and ageworthy wines with more complex nuances of wood and spice.
While many of these historic wineries continued to produce world class wines. In the 1980s and early 1990s, the styles in the bigger US market started to shift towards big fat butterball styles highlighted by overripe flavors of baked apples, pears, tropical fruit, vanilla, a heavy creamy or buttery texture, and a good helping of oak to slam the point home. In turn, the true natural flavor and versatile character of the grape variety was lost in transition to many consumers.

Forty years after winning the Paris Tasting with the wine he made for Chateau Montelena in 1973, Mike Grgich and his team at Grgich Hills win the Best Oaked Chardonnay at The Chardonnay Symposium in 2016!
Forty years after winning the Paris Tasting with the wine he made for Chateau Montelena in 1973, Mike Grgich and his team at Grgich Hills win the Best Oaked Chardonnay at The Chardonnay Symposium in 2016!

But just when you though all hope was lost; Chardonnay has come back to being one of the most talked about grape varieties in restaurants and wine shops across the nation. We can thank a lot of the great brands who are focused on making wines with bright fruit flavors, vibrant acidity, and elegant natural texture. In a nutshell, the artistry of working with the grape is back!
“Every decision you make in the vineyard or the cellars is another brushstroke,” says winemaker Matt Crafton of Chateau Montelena. “So it’s really more about the judicious use of paint on that canvas, or else you can completely overwhelm the wine.”
Over the next month, look for my upcoming stories in the SOMM Journal, Napa Sonoma Magazine and other publications that are focused on my seminars and top picks from The Chardonnay Symposium; inside looks at Chateau Montelena and Bacigalupi Vineyards, which provided 40% of the Chardonnay grapes that went into the 1973 vintage that won the Pairs Tasting; Champagne producers specializing in working with Chardonnay; and detailed interviews with star winemakers, vintners, and growers who are passionate about working with this noble grape with a golden hue. In the meantime, cheers to drinking more Chardonnay every day!

Crushing it with winemakers and vineyard specialists Randy Bennett of Sojourn Cellars, Eric Pooler of Deloach Vineyards, Jim Clendenen of Au Bon Climant, Mark Williams of William Hill Estate and our host Mark Steel of Edna Valley Vineyards. Look for my story on our seminar in the SOMM Journal this summer!
Crushing it with winemakers and vineyard specialists Randy Bennett of Sojourn Cellars, Eric Pooler of Deloach Vineyards, Jim Clendenen of Au Bon Climant, Mark Williams of William Hill Estate and our host Mark Steel of Edna Valley Vineyards. Look for my story on our seminar in the SOMM Journal this summer!

My Wine Seminars at the Telluride Wine Festival, June 23-25!

Telluride Wine Seminars are coming together and you are invited to partake in the mountain adventure! Join me and other educated panelists to learn more about:

  • The Saveur Pass Luncheon & Sparkling Wines
  • Mountain-to-Mountain: High Elevation Wines
  • Que Syrah Shiraz with winemaker Ehren Jordan of Failla and Aril Wines
  • Extraordinary Tuscan Experience with Banfi Wines
  • The Tales of Two Valleys: Interview and Tasting with Jeff Boyer of Ramey Wines
  • Napa Valley, Living on the Edge of Reality: Exploring the Flavor Profiles of Coastal Pinot Noirs
  • Taste Elite Wines at the Reserve Tasting & Grand Tasting
  • And more . . .

Go to Telluride Wine Festival for ticketing info!

To get your wines involved either in a seminar or the Grand Tasting, or any questions, send me an email:  wine@sawyersomm.com

The Return of Lake County!

lakecoAfter the devastating Valley Fire last autumn local organizations and citizens have been collaborating in  a multitude of ways to help support the recovery and redevelopment of Lake County.  It seems the efforts are making a difference, particularly in regards to their wine industry, with events in addition to ample tourism.

Read this recent Press Democrat article by Bill Swindell to find out more and perhaps think about ways we can continue supporting our neighborto the North:

Lake County Wine Industry is Ready for Takeoff!

Wine & Poetry at Gun Bun this Sunday, May 22!

poemwineCome get poetic with me and some friends at the Flight of Poets event, this Sunday May 22. It will be from 2-4:30pm at Gundlach Bundschu Winery in Sonoma, 2000 Denmark Street in Sonoma.

Poets Hollie Hardy, Ada Limon, Dean Rader, and Tess Taylor will share their work along with a complementing wine flight of four tastes prepared by myself.

$20 entry fee (includes flight), Presale tickets HERE! Must be 21+. This is a KQED Lit Pick for the month of May, not to be missed.

May Tours at Redwood Hill Farm in Sebastopol

Care to frolic with goats?  Well here is your chance!  For two weekends in May, Redwood Hill Farm offers farm tours which of goatscourse means playing with baby goats, learning to milk a goat, or feeding and brushing the goats! There will be milking parlor demonstrations, lots of kids’ activities and of course  picnicking in the beautiful Gravenstein Apple orchard.  But will there be wine you ask?  Not sure, that depends on how you load your picnic . . .

Redwood Hill Farm tour dates are May 8 and May 21 & 22, 11 am – 3 Redwood-Hill-Logo-Website-2016pm.  Rain cancels so be sure to check the website beforehand, then plan your trek over to 5480 Thomas Road in Sebastopol.  Until then check out this interview by Daedalus Howell with the goat cheese man himself, David Bice!

Sunset Celebration Weekend coming to CornerStone in Sonoma! May 14-15

With the recent relocation of Sunset Magazine headquarters, Sonoma County also inherits the 18th Annual Celebration Weekend! sunsetcwJoin editors, celebrity chefs, vintners, craft beer brewers and renowned lifestyle experts at Cornerstone in Sonoma, CA, for this two-day series of culinary, wine, garden and lifestyle events. Enjoy the grand opening of Sunset’s Test Gardens and Outdoor Kitchen, as well as an all-new, high-design Airstream Village.  More event information at Sunset Magazine.

VIP ticket holders will experience
even more at Celebration Weekend, including:
Early entry at 10am
Welcome gift bag
Unlimited tastes from wine, beer, and spirits purveyors
Exclusive VIP lounge access, including live entertainment, featured regional wines, refreshments, catered meals and snacks
Purchase you tickets HERE!

See what Celebration Weekend has in store for you
in this video montage!

International Chardonnay Symposium on May 12-14

I am getting ready for another trip to the lovely Central Coast.  This time for The Chardonnay Symposium, May 12 through 14, in the coastal resort towns of Pismo Beach and Avila Beach.

I will be moderating the seminar Taste the Difference: Exploring California’s Distinct Chardonnay Regions on Saturday (10am to 11:30am) at Edna Valley Vineyard, where I will talk about how climate, soil and elevation influence each of these five world-class regions and how to determine the origin by simply nosing and tasting the wine.

However there will be a fabulous selection of events and locations to attend starting on Thursday, here is the list, with more details on each HERE:

Thursday
Vintners Wine Tech Symposium (9:00am–4:00pm)
Sommelier Chardonnay Challenge (10:00am–3:00pm)

Friday
French Forum: Exploring The Wonders of French Chardonnay-lunch included (11:00am–1:30pm)
Wente Clone Comparative Tasting (2:00pm–3:30pm)
Pét-Nat, Sparkling Wine & Oysters Gala (4:00pm–6:00pm)
La Paulée Dinner and Vintners Awards Ceremony (7:00pm–10:00pm)

Saturday
Hone Your Chardonnay Blind-Tasting Skills (10:30am-12:30pm)
What’s Oak Got To Do With It? (11:00am–12:30pm)
Pairing Chardonnay & Artisanal Cheese (11:30am–1:00pm)
Saturday Grand Tasting (1:00pm–5:00pm)
Winemaker Dinners (7:00pm–9:00pm)

Hope you are able to join me for this exciting event!
Cheers, Christopher

 

Final Resolution in French Laundry Wine Heist

FLheistAs reported in the April 30 issue of Press Democrat, federal prosecutors indicted two California men in the heist and two other Bay Area wine thefts.

This infamous 2014 burglary involved about 100 bottles of wine valued at roughly $300,000. Read the full story by Julie Johnson:

Suspects Indicted in French Laundry Wine Theft-Spree

The Annual Paulée dinner at Arista, April 30th

To celebrate the SoCo Barrel Auction, the Russian River Valley Winegrowers and Arista Winery in Healdsburg will be hosting THE ULTIMATE WINEMAKER DINNER on April 30th.

The Annual Paulée Dinner is timed to coincide with the Sonoma County Barrel Auction.  In the spirit of the Paulée tradition, which originated in Burgundy, the Russian River Valley Paulée brings winemakers and collectors together to enjoy an elegant multi-course meal paired with rare and favorite wines from winemakers’s & guests’ personal cellars, in a family style seating which fosters the spirit of community and an ideal format for the shared love of great wine.

Purchase Tickets!

paulee dinner
Savor specialties from Russian River Valley chefs:
Tim Kaulfers of Arista Winery, Duskie Estes of ZAZU kitchen & farm, Dustin Valette of Valette Restaurant and Cheyenne Simpkins of Wine Country Feasts.

Enjoy the Wines of Arista Winery, Bacigalupi Vineyards, Balletto Vineyards, Benovia Winery, Davis Bynum, Davis Family Vineyards, Dutton-Goldfield, Gary Farrell, Gordian Knot, J Vineyards & Winery, Joseph Swan, MacPhail Family Wines, MacRostie Winery & Vineyards, Martinelli Winery, Migration, Ramey Wine Cellars, Sonoma-Cutrer & Viszlay Vineyards.

paulee