Yes, I am so very grateful to win Best Sommelier in Sonoma County for the fourth year in a row! I am truly honored at your support and appreciation. Thank you to the Bohemian Magazine for offering this platform for the public to share their opinions. Cheers! Christopher
The final tally is upon us. Just a reminder if you have not already mailed or dropped off your ballot that Tuesday November 8th is the final day cast your vote! Your voice matters.
After you participate in the general election, use that momentum to participate in the Bohemian Best of Sonoma 2017! Please consider voting for me as Best Sommelier for Sonoma County?
Just type in Christopher Sawyer! Many thanks for your support!
Why enter your wines? Because the Harvest Challenge 2016 is a wine competition that bases its judging on a group of vineyards (or even vines) from the same region, belonging to a specific appellation, and sharing the same type of soil, weather conditions, grapes and wine making savoir-faire, which contribute to give the specific personality to the wine.
In other competitions, this factor is ignored. At the Harvest Challenge, judges taste wines with other wines of the same appellation. Thus, with cross-regional competition removed, the inherent quality of wines can be seen without the influences that sometimes eclipse even a wine of very high quality.
Convinced yet? Follow this LINK to enter the competition!
I hope to taste your wines there! Cheers, Christopher
If you are looking for something fun to do in wine country this weekend, then jump in your car and head directly to Santa Rosa for the 42nd Annual Sonoma County Harvest Fair, September 30-October 2.
Located inside the easy to get to fairgrounds in Santa Rosa, this fun and lively three-day event offers great chances to taste over 500 award winning wines that were judged by me and 24 other wine pros earlier this month, as well as craft beer and cider, and food from top restaurants in the county.
In addition to browsing in the expansive Wine Country Marketplace; there are plenty of educational activities, including food and wine pairings, chef demonstrations, harvest workshops and seminars, and more!
To kickoff this interactive weekend event, a series of special awards were handed out at the Harvest Fair Gala & Dinner held at the Luther Burbank Center for the Arts last Sunday.
For wine, the big winners included:
Sweepstakes White Wine: J. Rickards 2015 Sauvignon Blanc, Croft Vineyard, Alexander Valley ($24). This wine also won Best of Class in the category Sauvignon Blanc/Fume Blanc, retail price $20 and above.
Sweepstakes Red Wine: Russian River Vineyards 2014 Pinot Noir, Horseridge Vineyard, Russian River Valley ($65). Best of Class in the Pinot Noir category; retail price $45 and above.
Sweepstakes Specialty Wine: Gloria Ferrer 2007 Royal Cuvee Sparkling Wine, Estate Grown, Carneros ($37 Best of Class in the category that covered all sparkling wines, retail price $20 and above.
For beer, the beloved cult sensation Russian River Brewing Company won the top award for Excellence in Craft Beer Industry.
[Photo Captions (clockwise from left): What do you know! My good friends Shane Finley of Thirty Seven Wines, Nicole Bacigalupi Dericco of Bacigalupi Vineyards, Victoria Jo and Billy Green of Matrix Wines, and Donna Joyner and the Zanin family of Bennett Valley Cellars and Bin 6410 Wines were all represented with gold-medal winning wines!; Feeling refreshed at the awards ceremony gala for the Sonoma County #Harvest Fair!; Some of the top wines I tasted with my fellow wine judges a couple weeks ago were spectacular and great indicators why the 2013, 2014 and 2015 were all special vintages for so many different reasons!; Petaluma represented! Congrats to Out to Lunch Catering for this fabulous award!]
In the food judging categories, each dish was rated based on creativity, flavor and presentation. The following gold medal winning restaurants will be serving their entries at the Harvest Fair celebration this weekend too.
Salad – Charlie’s at the Windsor Golf Course, Windsor: Roasted Chicken, Farro & Quinoa Salad
Appetizer – Thai Time Asian Bistro, Santa Rosa: Fresh Summer rolls
Dessert – John Ash & Co, Santa Rosa: Bella Rosa Coffee S’mores Pie
During the ceremony, other important agriculture awards were handed out by Karissa Kruse, the executive director of Sonoma County Winegrowers, and videos were shown about each of the recipients. This year’s winners included: Shannon Donnell for Outstanding Young Person in Agribusiness; Marissa Ledbetter-Foster for Outstanding Young Farmer; Singing Frog Farms for Excellence in Food Production; Jackson Family Wines for Outstanding Sustainable Processor/Maker; and Redwood Empire Vineyard Management for Outstanding Sustainable Farmer.
“Sustainability is just the right thing to do,” said Kevin Barr, who accepted the award for his family’s company Redwood Empire Vineyard Management. “We have to make sure that the future generations can farm here too!”
To honor their contributions to Sonoma County over the years, Buck Sangiacomo of the Sonoma-based Sangiacomo Vineyards won the special award Lifetime Contribution to Sonoma County Agriculture for the over 1600 acres of vineyards his family farms in Sonoma Valley, Carneros, and the exciting Petaluma Gap region located in the southern portion of the Sonoma Coast appellation.
The other big honor went to Alexander Valley-based Robert Young Family, which received the “Methuselah Award” for Lifetime Contribution to the Sonoma County Wine Industry.
“It’s a celebration of who we are and what we do,” says Mike Martini, proprietor of Taft Street Winery and a member of the Harvest Fair Board of Directors, who was the emcee for this year’s event.
To buy tickets or see the more comprehensive list of Wine or Food Competition winners, visit www.harvestfair.org.
Yep, you guessed it. I have won this prestigious honor again for 2016, third year running! HUGE thank you to all of you that took time to vote for me, it is ever so much appreciated.
Sorry I had to miss the celebration as well, hosted by my good friend Daedalus Howell at the Flamingo in Santa Rosa on Friday night. I was kinda busy working Flavor! Napa Valley as Wine Director (hey, Best Somms gotta work!), which was an incredibly fulfilling experience.
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