All posts by christopher

Reading Time: American Wino by Dan Dunn

At the ZAP Expo last weekend I ran into my friend Dan Dunn, author of the book American Wino: A Tale of Reds, Whites, and One Man’s Blues.  He inscribed my copy with “This doesn’t happen without you man!”  High praise.  Looking forward to the read.

Here is an informative Forbes review to warm up your mental palate for the excursion:  American Wine: A Fun New Wine Book Wine Snobs Will Hate

Dinner with legendary winemaker Heidi Barrett – March 23rd

Known for her love of Cabernet, Heidi Barrett will be honored at a special Winemaker Dinner next month for Flavor! Napa Valley.  Since the 1980s, she has created some of the Napa Valley’s most famous wines, including Screaming Eagle, Dalla Valle, Grace Family, Paradigm, and many others. She started La Sirena, in 1994, and began her collaboration brand, Barrett & Barrett, with her husband, Bo Barrett of Chateau Montelena, in 2010.

Icons Dinner honoring legendary winemaker Heidi Barrett
Thursday, March 23, 2017 6:00 PM – 10:00 PM

Don’t miss this opportunity to taste her amazing collection of Muscat, Grenache, Pirate’s Treasure and Cabernet Sauvignon paired with amazing dishes made by star chefs from across the nation; Host Chef Jeffrey Jake (Silverado Resort and Spa), Matthew Accarrino (SPQR), Stuart Brioza & Nicole Krasinski (State Bird Provisions and The Progress), Waldy Malouf (CIA), Ken Frank (La Toque) and Michael Schulson (Schulson Collective)

Limited seating – get tickets while they last!

Take a trek Behind The Cellar Door: March 4-5

Seriously!  This is an opportunity to go taste some of those foothill wines I keep telling you about.  In fact, I have 2 FREE DAY PASSES to this one, Behind the Cellar Door, for the first person to write a note to wine@sawyersomm.com with their mailing address.  What you get in return is a weekend of touring the lovely Amador County wineries, towns and landscape. The caveat?   I just ask you to report back here for all of SawyerSomm with your favorite wines from the tour.  Believe me, you will thank me for this!

For those that aren’t quick enough on the draw, you can still
purchase tickets HERE until Feb 28th.  Have fun everyone!

Live Thurs Feb 16th on KGO! SFWC Public Tasting on Feb 18th.

The final round of our my team’s flights of high-end Viognier.

I will miss the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition Public Tasting this year, but instead I get to share my thoughts about the exciting results from a wine judge’s perspective ahead of time on KGO! Catch me tonight, February 16th, from 8:45 to 9pm with Pat Thurston.

The SFWC Public Tasting will be Saturday, February 18th at Festival Pavilion, Fort Mason Center, San Francisco from 1:30-5pm.
Get your tickets HERE!

East Meets West: 2017 Competition Results!

As promised, results from the recent East Meets West Challenge results.   Check the site for a more thorough summary later this month.

Best of Show: East
Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards, 2014 Vidal Blanc Ice Wine, Finger Lakes Natural Ice Wine, $45

Best of Show: West
Miro Cellars, 2014 Petite Sirah, Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley, Reserve Coyote Ridge Vineyard, $32

Best Sparkling: East
Trump Winery, 2009 Brut Reserve Estate Monticello, Methode Champenoise, Estate Bottled, $75

*Best Sparkling: West
Gloria Ferrer, Royal Cuvee 2007, $37

Best White: East
Wine Insiders, Simue 2016, Verdejo, Spain, $30

Best White: West
Oak Farm Vineyards, 2016 Albarino, Lodi,
Certified Green under Lodi Rules, $24

Best Rosé: East
Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard, 2015 Rosé, Maryland, $20

Best Rosé: West
Stave & Stone Winery, 2016 Dorothy Pinot Noir Rosé, Columbia Gorge, Broten Boulder Vineyard, $25

Best Red: East
Pollak Vineyards, 2014 Cabernet Franc, Reserve Estate, Monticello Estate Grown Reserve, $50

Best Red: West
Miro Cellars, 2014 Petite Sirah, Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley, Reserve Coyote Ridge Vineyard, $32

*Best Riesling: East
Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards, 2014 Vidal Blanc Ice Wine, Finger Lakes Natural Ice Wine, $45

Best Riesling: West
Carol Shelton Wines, 2014 Black Magic Late Harvest Zinfandel, $20

*Indicates Best of East Meets West in Class

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Valentine Delights: Pairing sexy food and wine with Chef Domenica Catelli

When it comes to fine cuisine, the love of food goes deeper than most people think. That’s especially true around Valentine’s Day when the subject of aphrodisiac ingredients takes center stage.

Traced back to the Greek goddess Aphrodite, an expert in the fields of sexuality and love, the term “aphrodisiac” refers to edible bites that can stimulate the heart, brain and body, seduce the senses, and inspire lovers to have intimate encounters—particularly if they use the right ingredients.

While expensive delights like oysters, caviar and wild mushrooms fall into this category, most of the basic items are things we eat quite often, including: arugula, fennel, onions, radishes, carrots, figs, lemon and other citrus, olives, pine nuts, coconut, coffee, cocoa, and chocolate.

Studies have also found that complex wines made with pinot noir and other red grapes typically contain resveratrol, an antioxidant that helps boost blood flow and improves circulation before and during physical intimacy.

The topic of aphrodisiacs is also a great subject to bring up with star chefs, many of whom have a fun time crafting a mixture of sexy bites around the Valentine’s Day theme.

With these thoughts in mind, earlier this week I teamed up with my longtime friend Chef Domenica Catelli of Catelli’s Restaurant in Geyserville to test some of these love-inspiring ingredients on a special group of eager diners, my fellow wine judges from the East Meets West Wine Challenge 2017, which was held at the Santa Rosa Fairground earlier that day.

A native of Sonoma County, the roots of Domenica’s love for food started when her grandparents, Italian immigrants Santi and Virginia Catelli, founded the original Catelli’s restaurant in the historic downtown district of Geyserville in 1936. Thus, Domenica’s early years in Sonoma County were filled with memories of fresh, seasonal foods.

As a result, after creating a series of magnificent menus at several restaurants in Laguna Beach and the Stanford Inn on the Mendocino Coast in the 1990s, she began working on her first cookbook, Mom-a-licious: Fresh, Fast Family Food for the Hot Mama in You!, which hit bookstores in September 2007.

Thanks to ongoing success of the book, coupled with her unique style of working with healthy products in the kitchen and her cool appearances on Iron Chef America, CBS News, and Oprah and Friends on XM radio, Domenica became the national spokesperson for the Organic Trade Association and brand ambassador for Safeway’s O Organic line. Before and after she reopened the family restaurant with her brother Nicholas in 2010, celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey, Nelson Mandela, Julia Roberts, John Travola and Lady Gaga have enjoyed her food.

From a sommelier’s standpoint, having watched Domenica become one of the star chefs of Sonoma County, it was a joy to once again work with her on this special aphrodisiac-themed dinner and the fun romantic movie-themed names we gave to each course. Here is a summary of the ingredients and wine pairings we worked with that evening:

Appetizer: Love Bites

Domenica’s Romantic Delight: Artichoke Hearts & Burrata with Crispy Prosciutto. For starters, artichoke hearts are naturally high in vitamins and antioxidants, which helps increase blood flow to enliven the senses. However, the rich texture and earthy flavors of this spiny and bulbous vegetable is often quite hard to pair with wines. Thus, Domenica took this factor to heart by softening the texture and adding additional layers of creamy Burrata cheese and salty sensations provided by the prosciutto. These components were presented beautifully at the end of the artichoke skin to resemble the naturally smooth slurping process used to consume a raw oyster on the half-shell.

SawyerSomm Sexy Wine Pairing: To compliment these flavors, I served the new release of the Gloria Ferrer 2007 Royal Cuvee Brut, Carneros. Highlighted with elegant flavors of crisp apple, lemon, roasted almonds, vibrant acidity, and a long dry finish; this special vintage style of sparkling wine worked wonders with the rich texture, salty components and earthy nature of the appetizer. A fabulous way to start the evening off in style! www.gloriaferrer.com.

(As a fun side note: The Gloria Ferrer Royal Cuvee would go on to win the Best of Class for all Sparkling Wines from the West Coast and eventually beat the Trump Sparkling Wine by a landslide to win the prestigious honor of the Best Sparkling Wine of the entire competition. For complete results from the East Meets West Wine Challenge, watch for my upcoming SawyerSomm post!

Salad: Eat Drink Man Woman

Domenica’s Romantic Touch: Organic Kale, Blood Orange, Honey Glazed Walnuts. Much like arugula, kale is leafty, minerally, and high in antioxidants—the latter of which helps promote good health and prevents diseases. In the dressing, the blood orange added amino acids to compliment the rich and fatty compounds in the Dry Creek Olive Oil, which is commonly known to help stimulate hormonal activity. For toppings, the natural sweet flavors of the honey provides Vitamin B, estrogen, and helps boost strength, endurance and regenerates sexual energy; while the walnuts (sourced from Lou Preston’s organically farmed orchard in Dry Creek Valley), provided a burst of extra protein to give the sex drive a boost. Granted, while we have no idea what happened amongst the guests later that evening, we can say the complex flavors in this salad stimulated plenty of fun conversations around the two large wooden tables we dined at in the private dining room!

SawyerSomm Sexy Wine Pairing: To further enhance the experience, my colleague Debra del Fiorentino and I served a wide array of the Best of Class white wines that we judged earlier in the day. My favorite pairing was the Oak Farm Vineyard 2016 Albarino from Lodi, which featured lively flavors of ripe melon, peach, lime and racy acidity that isolated and elevated the dynamic flavors of the kale, citrus, honey and walnuts that made this romantic salad so memorable. www.oakfarmvineyards.com

Entrée: Lady & the Tramp

Domenica’s Romantic Touch: House-made egg Tagliatelli, Domenica’s Organic Tomato Sauce and Catelli’s famous Mini Meatballs  Known for her tasty and healthy approach to cooking, this gorgeous dish was the epitome of Domenica’s style. For starters, the flavors of the mini meatballs, made with free-range beef and house-made pork sausage, were amplified with the natural richness of the sauce. In addition to organic tomatoes and virgin olive oil, other special ingredients included fresh basil, which naturally arouses the senses and boosts blood circulation; garlic, a strongly scented delight that provide the body with a bolt of allicin, which is known to increase blood to the organs, stamina and sexual energy; and celery, a powerful food source of Vitamin E, zinc, potassium, magnesium, and a natural stimulant to the volume of semen. In keeping with the theme, Domenica made the pasta with eggs that provide more protein and sexual energy. In addition to shaved parmesan, the dish was also topped with fresh arugula, an ancient source of Vitamins A and C. Brilliant flavors from first bite to last.

SawyerSomm Sexy Wine Pairing: In staying with the Italian theme, I chose one of my favorite regional wines from Alexander Valley, the LaStoria 2012 Cuvee 32 Red Wine from Trentadue Winery in Geyserville. Crafted by my fellow wine judge, winemaker Miro Tcholakov, this dazzling, food-friendly Super Tuscan-style blend was made with 54% Sangiovese, 29% Merlot, 8% Malbec, 5% Cabernet Franc and 4% Montepulciano. Layered with lively flavors of ripe blue fruits, wild strawberry, cherry, pomegranate and spicy notes of cinnamon, cocoa and allspice; the wine quickly seduced the senses and helped amplify the fresh and spirited flavors of this fabulous pasta dish. www.trentadue.com.

Dessert: Like Water for Chocolate

Domenica’s Romantic Touch: Chili and Cinnamon Spiced Chocolate Bodino, Maldon Salted Caramel, Banana Mousse  Chocolate. Need we say more? Besides a natural burst of sugar and energy, tasty bites of chocolate have more antioxidants than red wine. Studies also show that women who eat chocolate have sex more often than those that don’t. To make this dessert even more interesting, Domenica added cinnamon, which helps balance blood flow and increase sexual appetite; red chilies, which provide a boost of endorphin, a natural “feel good” stimuli for the brain and libido; and bananas, an easy source of Vitamin B, potassium, and testosterone. Plus, the texture of the caramel and mousse increased the sexy factor tenfold.

SawyerSomm Sexy Wine Pairing: To finish off the experience, we stimulated the palate with the Wilson 2013 Buzz Reserve Zinfandel, Buzz Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley. The ripe and juicy flavors of wild berries, black pepper and clove from this special selection of classic vines planted in 1976 added fresh, fruity and spicy elements to the dessert. A few judges were also enamored by how the Gloria Ferrer Royal Cuvee Brut matched up with the flavors of chocolate, caramel, banana and spice. www.wilsonwinery.com.

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While it’s true that Domenica is in a league of her own, the ultimate intent of this pre-Valentine’s Day menu was to show that putting extra focus on working with aphrodisiac ingredients and wines pairings is an easy way to amplify your love for your soul mate—not only around Valentine’s Day, but all year long.

“Try it, you might like it,” says Domenica, with a smile. “After all, you never know where a natural bounty of flavors might get you!”

Located at 21407 Geyserville Avenue in Geyserville, Calif; Catelli’s is open 7-days a week. For reservations, call 707.857.3471 or visit www.mycatellis.com. For special events, call 707.857.7142 or catellisevents@gmail.com. Moms can also purchase Domenica’s book at local bookstores or on amazon.com.

For further information about eating something sexy and pairing it with wine, read my Valentine’s Day article in the new issue of Valley of the Moon Magazine at www.vommag.com.  And for more stimulating ideas, check out Romancing the Stove: the unabridged guide to aphrodisiac foods, the new book by culinary author Amy Reiley, which is available at www.lifeofreiley.com.

Wine Education: In depth with Napa Valley!

Flavor! Napa Valley is just six weeks away, March 22 through 26!  Make sure to get your tickets for my seminars now.  Many are already SOLD OUT, so get them while you can!  To get both your palate and cerebellum ready, enjoy this article I wrote about Napa Valley below for BuyWine.com.  

Napa Valley, California

Mention Napa Valley, and most people have a story to tell about a memorable wine they’ve had from the region. It’s an interesting point when you consider that the valley is only 30 miles long, a few miles wide, and represents roughly 4% of the amount of grapes picked in California. But despite being a relatively small area, the big reputation is built on making world-class wines with fruit grown on family-owned vineyards.

Squeezed between the Mayacamas and Vaca Mountain ranges, 45 minutes north of San Francisco, Napa Valley was the first American Viticultural Area or AVA to be designated in California in 1981. Back then, there was only a handful of wineries in the region. But today, there are 500-plus wineries and a shared dedication to growing premiere vineyards in diverse soils and warm, arid climate conditions that are similar to those found in the famous winegrowing regions along the Mediterranean. The end result is an elaborate matrix of vineyards varying in elevation from sea-level to 2,600 feet that produce low yields and high-quality fruit used to make some of the most prolific wines enjoyed in America and around the globe.

Grape Expectations

Whites: Sauvignon Blanc is the dominant white grape planted in the gravelly soils on the valley floor, particularly in the warmer segments in the northern part of the valley. Whereas, ….In the more clay and sandy-based soils stretching from Yountville to San Pablo Bay at the southern end of the valley, Chardonnay is the most widely planted white grape at the southern end of the valley. Smaller offerings to look for include: Semillon, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris and Riesling.

Reds: For red grapes, Napa Valley is best known for Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Bordeaux-style blends made with smaller portions of Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Malbec. Other specialty plantings in the region include: Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Syrah, Grenache, and Pinot Noir.

Tasty Sensations

White Wines: The diverse styles of Sauvignon Blanc vary in style from racy and tangy to elegant and complex. Some are aged entirely in stainless steel tanks to preserve the purity of the grape; some have a portion of the blend aged in egg-shaped concrete fermenters; and others have a touch of neutral or new oak. The Chardonnays tend to be riper and more full-bodied than those from the more coastal regions of California. And in addition to being blended with Sauvignon Blanc to make a more complex, Bordeaux-style white wine; Semillon is also used to make aromatic sweet wines with flavors of ripe tropical fruits.

Red Wines: There’s no denying that Cabernet Sauvignon is the king of Napa Valley. The styles of the region range from earthy, tangy and spicy with emphasis on red fruits; to bolder styles with notes of dark berries, cherry, chocolate and varying levels of oak; to the more full-bodied opulent flavors, and the potential to age for decades in the cellar. Most of the Merlots are medium to full-bodied with emphasis on ripe red fruits, milk chocolate, and spice. The Zinfandels and Petite Sirahs are mainly from old vines—many of which are still farmed by the families who planted these vineyards before the focus of the valley shifted towards Bordeaux varietals. For that reason, many of the wines made with these grapes have distinctive fruit flavors and layers of spice.

Food Pairings

As a rule, many of the Sauvignon Blancs from Napa Valley match perfectly with a wide range of cuisine, including oysters on the half-shell, goat cheese, gourmet salads, sushi and lighter meats on the grill, to spicier dishes that fall under the categories of Mexican, Vietnamese and Thai cuisine. For Chardonnay, the lighter styles pair nicely with appetizers and starting courses; while the more full-bodied offerings are fantastic to pair with seafood, poultry, pork, pasta, and white sauces.

In the red wine category, the more elegant styles of Cabernet Sauvignon are very compatible with daintier dishes like grilled vegetables, seared Ahi tuna, roasted chicken and Asian cuisine with plum sauce. For the bolder and more complex styles, rib-eye steak, lamb and blue cheese are great choices. For Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Bordeaux-style blends; think wild mushrooms, quinoa, salmon, quail, and meats seasoned with herb-based rubs. While Zinfandels and Petite Sirahs are sassy, savory, and ideal for pairing with grilled red meats, veggies, and elaborate pizza.

 

Having cocktails with Sammy Hagar!

This week I attended the debut of Sammy Hagar’s new lounge The Passage Bar, next to his El Paseo restaurant in downtown Mill Valley.

Cocktails were on the menu where I was able to try the Santorita, Sammy’s new favorite made with his own Santo Mezquila.  Here is a short video of us and the preparation.

The first drink Sammy ever made was the Waborita, which featured his Cabo Wabo Tequila and originally developed at the old Avalon Bar in Mill Valley.

Here is The Passage Bar cocktail menu for your perusing pleasure!