Category Archives: Competition

AMAZING EVENING AT THE LEDSON CASTLE

Please welcome guest writer Steve Ledson in this wonderful recounting of the Judges Dinner for East Meets West Wine Challenge, which was graciously and deliciously hosted at the Ledson Castle.

Hosting Chris Sawyer and 35 amazing wine judges and wine writers from all over the United States.

As I approached the Castle from the south, the sun was just setting against Hood Mountain creating this amazing back drop for the Castle. The driveway lanterns were lit and the Castle just glowed with all its lights setting it off against the twilight of this majestic backdrop. What an amazing site.

Walking up the steps and into the entrance I could hear the chatter of everyone’s excitement of what this evening had to share for all of us. To my right was our Dining Room that Stacey and her staff including her incredible husband Sean had set up with black table cloths and napkins and a beautiful flower arrangement of red, white and blue in the center of each table. Every glass and piece of china was in perfect order. I stood and just stared for a moment. It was so rich and inviting. Probably one of the best dining room settings I’ve seen over the last 20 years.

Stacey shuttled me along into Winslow’s Bar where everyone was mingling, Jerry and Brendon were pouring behind the bar with their amazing smiles and incredible hospitality. It was easy to see how everyone was soaking up the attention and kindness of these two handsome gentlemen. I was extremely proud of them as I watched everyone’s enthusiasm as the night unfolded. Scott Eddinger and his lovely wife Audrey were seamlessly moving through our guests passing hors d’oeuvres while mingling and chatting as the guests arrived. Both perfectly dressed for the occasion. Chef Kendyl Bilenkij stole the night starting with her amazing pairing of pickled Shrimp in a Meyer Lemon sauce and Chicken Pate paired so perfectly with our Russian River Pinot Noir Reserve and our Mountain Terraces Viognier. It was quite impressive to watch these two as they offered up Chef Kendyl’s amazing appetizers’ with a very warm and nourishing smile making guests feel so welcome.

With a tap of the glass Chris Sawyer froze the crowd as he introduced me in a way that made me feel like a King. This man has a way of making every person feel important. Chris shared stories of some of the great times he and I have shared over the last 30 years bringing back very special moments during my life here in Sonoma County. There is nothing better than reminiscing great moments of your life.

As I spoke to our Guests it was important to me to recognize all of you here at Ledson. I explained we are just one big family and each and every one of us plays a very important role in the success and most importantly the image we have in the wine world today.

I was very proud to speak and represent all of us in front of some of the greatest wine judges and wine writers in the United States today. Thank all of you for your continued efforts and hard work that has lifted us to an image anyone should be very proud of.

Stacey announced that dinner was served so we slowing flowed into the Dining Room. Stacey and Sean along with Scott and Audrey, as well as Brendon seamlessly served us an incredible meal. The first course, a citrus salad paired with our Zina Hyde Russian River Sauvignon Blanc. The phenomenal entrees of Salmon and Filet Mignon were shared with our Mes Trois Amours, Bellisimo and the Sonoma Valley Estate Reserve Merlot. To finish the evening, Chef Kendyl prepared decadent chocolate cake served with fresh raspberries which we paired with our award winning Stagecoach Reserve and the Mountain Terraces Lex’s Cabernet Sauvignon.

With each course and each pairing, Chris and I introduced the wines as our Guests anxiously listened and graciously commended the entire setting and event. Hours passed by like swift moments in time. Each and every attendee was provided with the most impeccable wines, food and service. At the close of the evening every single person there made a point to come to me personally and thank me.

It just shows what can happen when you have a team of passionate people working together.

To sum it all up for the evening in short.  Incredible food, incredible service in and incredible atmosphere with and Amazing group of very talent People.

 I’m very proud to be a part of this amazing event, not only should all of you me proud for the incredible job you all did last night, each and every one of you who works here at Ledson should be proud of the image that was present last night to some very talent wine writers and wine judges traveling here from all over the United states.

A very special thanks to my Dear Friend Chris Sawyer for making this all happen.

Enter Your Wines NOW in East Meets West next week!

Happy New Year,  just getting back after a family loss and a slew of travel, including Miami, the Capital city and the lovely Sierra Foothills!

But next week I will be local and working my palate at the EAST MEETS WEST Wine Challenge: Two competitions in one and open to all domestic and internationally produced wines according to regional designations.

Follow this LINK to enter your wines ONLINE
( & to save $5 per wine)!
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Z-List! 23rd Annual Thanksgiving Wine Picks!

This years WINNING wines that pair perfectly with your Thanksgiving Turkey!  A big thanks to our 16 judges who (blindly) judged almost 175 wines together with turkey.  Near each wine you’ll find descriptions of the wine as well as the winery link.  Need wines shipped to you?  No problem, the wineries can do that! So can Bottle Barn. Yay!

 

Thank you to Grand Cru Custom Crush & Olivers Markets
for sponsoring this years epic competition.

CHAMPAGNE/SPARKLING

Claypool Cellars, Champagne $55.
Extraordinary, Apple-y, Brioche, Balanced, Pear Brûlée, Stone-fruit, Complex, Love…

ROSÉ

2014 Josh Cellars, Rosé, CA $14.
Succulent, Watermelons, Wild Strawberry, Tango’s with Turkey, Yummy, Easy Drinkin’

WHITE WINE *TIE*

2018 Alexander Valley Vineyards, Gewürztraminer, Mendocino $14.
Turkey Perfect, Exotic, Spicy, Crowd Pleaser, Ginger-not-Marianne, Luscious Lychee, Floral

2017 Dry Creek Vineyard, Chenin Blanc, Clarksburg $15.
White peaches, Crowd Pleaser, earth n spice & everything nice, Tropical fruits, Chamomile, Meyer Lemon

RED WINE

2014 Marimar Estate, Pinot Noir, Mas Cavalls, Doña Margarita Vnyd, Sonoma Coast $47.
Thanksgiving Velvet, Black Raspberries, Forest Floor, Dried Figs, Spiced Berries, Dancing in the Dark, Baking Spices, Cranberries-not the band, Elegant, Succulent, Gorgeous, Impressive

DESSERT WINE

2014 Gloria Ferrer, Demi-Sec Reserve Cuvée, Carneros. $40.
Fruitful, Succulent, Delicious, Creamy-Yum, Pretty, Ripe Juicy Green Apples, Ripe Pears

February 8th: Sawyer Radio-rama on KGO & KXSF!

I will be making the rounds via airwaves to discuss the results of the 2018 San Francisco Chronicle Competition.  So on Thursday February 8th, set your tuner for the following:

  • KGO 810AM at 5:30pm with Chip Franklin
  • KXSF (SFCR) 102.5 FM at 7pm with Steve King
  • Or follow the links to listen online

To followup, the list of big winners will be posted in the Sunday issue of the San Francisco Chronicle on Feb 11 and the Grand Tasting of the winners will happen on Sunday, Feb 18.  It is a great Valentine Day Weekend gift idea! Info is available at www.winejudging.com.

Get the results! 2017 Harvest Challenge

Well it was all quite a challenge indeed to make this happen in the midst of the October fires.  For that reason with every entry made to the 2017 Harvest Challenge, the net portion of proceeds are being donated to aid in recovery from the recent Northern California Wildfires.  Check out the links below for results! #CAWineStrong

Many thanks and appreciation are also extended to Cline Cellars for hosting the judges to a marvelous feast from A Girl In The Fig by chef John Toulze.  Cheers to all!

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And the winner is . . . Mendocino County Wine Competition!

On a rainy summer day in Booneville my fellow judges and I were able to taste rounds of spectacular wines!  The results are in, sprinkled with a few fun photos from our endeavors at the 39th annual Mendocino County Fair Wine Competition.  Enjoy!

BEST OF SHOW RED WINE & Best of Class (Pinot Noir 2015 & 2016) & Double Gold
2015 Lazy Creek Vineyards Pinot Noir, Middle Ridge Ranch, Anderson Valley – $50.00

BEST OF SHOW WHITE WINE & Best of Class (Blended White) & Double Gold
2016 Navarro Vineyards Edelzwicker, Anderson Valley – $16.00

BEST OF SHOW ROSÉ WINE & Best of Class (Blush and Rosé) & Double Gold
2016 Navarro Vineyards Rosé, Mendocino – $17.50

BEST OF SHOW SPARKLING WINE & Best of Class (Sparkling Wine) & Double Gold
NV Roederer Estate Sparkling Rosé, Anderson Valley – $29.00

BEST OF SHOW DESSERT WINE & Best of Class (Dessert Wines) & Double Gold
2016 Navarro Vineyards Riesling Cluster Select, Late Harvest, Anderson Valley – $69.00
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BEST OF CLASS (Blended Red) & Double Gold
2013 Alder Springs Vineyard 13 Tasks, Blended Red, Estate Grown, Mendocino – $45.00

BEST OF CLASS (Chardonnay 2015) & Double Gold
2015 Meyer Family Cellars Chardonnay, Donnelly Creek, Anderson Valley – $28.00

BEST OF CLASS (Chardonnay 2016) & Double Gold
2016 Navarro Vineyards Chardonnay Premiere Reserve, Anderson Valley – $27.00

BEST OF CLASS (Gewurztraminer) & Gold
2016 Navarro Vineyards Gewurztraminer Deep End Blend, Anderson Valley – $29.00

BEST OF CLASS (Italian Red) & Double Gold
2014 Campovida Nero D’ Avola, Mendocino County – $38.00

BEST OF CLASS (Other Red Varietals) & Double Gold
2014 Backbone Vineyard & Winery Malbec, Dry farmed without chemicals of any kind, Estate Grown, Produced and Bottled, Mendocino County – $55.00

BEST OF CLASS (Other White Varietals) & Double Gold
2015 Graziano Chenin Blanc, Mendocino County – $15.00

BEST OF CLASS (Petite Sirah) & Double Gold
2015 Powicana Farm Petite Sirah, Single Vineyard, No Sulfites Added, Vinted and Bottled, Redwood Valley – $32.00

BEST OF CLASS (Pinot Gris/Pinot Grigio) & Double Gold
2016 Navarro Vineyards Pinot Grigio, Anderson Valley – $16.00

BEST OF CLASS (Pinot Noir 2014) & Double Gold
2014 Handley Cellars Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley – $32.00

BEST OF CLASS (Riesling) & Double Gold
2016 Handley Cellars Riesling, Anderson Valley – $22.00

BEST OF CLASS (Sauvignon Blanc) & Double Gold
2016 Bliss Family Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc, Estate Grown, Produced and Bottled, Mendocino – $11.99

BEST OF CLASS (Zinfandel 2014) & Double Gold
2014 Carol Shelton Wines Wild Thing Zinfandel, Old Vine, Mendocino County – $19.00

BEST OF CLASS (Zinfandel 2015 and 2016) & Double Gold
2015 Jaxon Keys Winery Zinfandel, Mae’s Block, Mendocino – $32.00
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DOUBLE GOLD

2014 Barra of Mendocino Petite Sirah, Estate Grown/Made with organic grapes, Barrel Aged, Mendocino County – $22.00

2016 Bonterra Organic Vineyards Viognier, Mendocino – $14.99

2015 Bonterra Organic Vineyards Zinfandel, Mendocino – $16.99

2015 Carol Shelton Wines Wild Thing Zinfandel, Old Vine, Mendocino County – $19.00

2013 Cesar Toxqui Cellars Petite Sirah, Mendocino County – $26.00

2014 Domaine Anderson Pinot Noir, Estate, Anderson Valley – $39.00

2016 Enotria Moscato, Mendocino County – $11.00

2015 Ferrari-Carano Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley – $38.00

2015 Ferrari-Carano Pinot Noir, Sky High Ranch, Mendocino Ridge – $52.00

2013 Graziano Petite Sirah, Mendocino County – $19.00

2016 Greenwood Ridge Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc, Anderson Valley – $20.00

2016 Handley Cellars Pinot Gris, Anderson Valley – $20.00

2014 Handley Cellars Petite Sirah, Vittorio Vineyard, Redwood Valley – $25.00

2014 Handley Cellars Primitivo, Vittorio Vineyard, Redwood Valley – $25.00

2016 Handley Cellars Pinot Noir Rosé, Estate, Anderson Valley – $25.00

2016 Hawley Zinfandel, Old Vine, Mendocino County – $25.00

2015 Husch Zinfandel, Old Vine, Garzini Ranch, Mendocino  – $25.00

2015 Husch Chardonnay, Mendocino – $15.00

2016 Husch Vin Gris of Pinot Noir, Estate Bottled, Anderson Valley  – $18.00

2015 Jaxon Keys Winery Petite Sirah, Mendocino – $28.00

2015 Jaxon Keys Winery Grenache, Mendocino – $26.00

2014 Maggy Hawk Jolie Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley – $66.00

2014 McNab Petite Sirah, Mendocino County – $18.00

2015 Monte Volpe Nube Bianco, Italian White Blend, Potter Valley – $18.00

2014 Navarro Vineyards Mourvedre, Mendocino – $29.00

2014 Navarro Vineyards Syrah, Mendocino – $27.00

2016 Navarro Vineyards Muscat Blanc, Estate Bottled, Anderson Valley – $19.50

2016 Navarro Vineyards Riesling, Late Harvest, Anderson Valley – $49.00

2013 Parducci Small Lot Petite Sirah, Mendocino County – $13.99

2015 Pennyroyal Farm Chardonnay, Barrel Fermented, Hammer Olsen, Anderson Valley – $35.00

2014 Seebass Family Wines Grand Reserve Syrah, Estate Grown, Mendocino – $47.00

2014 Testa Vineyards Petite Sirah, Estate Wine, Mendocino County – $30.00

2013 Testa Vineyards Carignane, Estate, Mendocino County – $30.00
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GOLD

2013 Alder Springs Vineyard Apex 39, Blended White, Estate Grown, Mendocino – $39.00

2013 Alder Springs Vineyard Kinesis, Blended Red, Estate Grown, Mendocino – $45.00

2014 Artevino Pinot Noir, Green Ranch, Anderson Valley – $40.00

2015 Artezin Zinfandel, Mendocino County – $18.00

2016 Blue Quail Dry Gewurztraminer, Potter Valley – $18.00

2015 Blue Quail Pinot Noir, Estate Grown, Potter Valley – $24.00

2016 Briceland Vineyards Arneis, Spirit Canyon Vineyard, Mendocino County – $21.00

2014 Campovida Grenache, Mendocino County – $42.00

2016 Carol Shelton Wines Wild Thing Rendezvous Rosé, Mendocino County – $15.00

2015 Graziano Sauvignon Blanc, Mendocino County  – $15.00

2013 Greenwood Ridge Vineyards Merlot, Estate Bottled, Mendocino Ridge – $29.00

2014 Greenwood Ridge Vineyards Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley – $35.00

2015 Handley Cellars Chardonnay, Estate, Anderson Valley – $25.00

2016 Handley Cellars Gewurztraminer, Estate, Anderson Valley – $22.00

2015 Handley Cellars Blanc de Blancs, Estate Vineyard, Anderson Valley – $52.00

2014 Handley Cellars Zinfandel, Redwood Valley – $25.00

2016 Handley Cellars Pinot Blanc, Mendocino County – $22.00

2014 Handley Cellars Pinot Noir, Yorkville Highlands – $37.00

2014 Handley Cellars Pinot Noir, RSM Vineyard, Anderson Valley – $52.00

2015 Husch Pinot Noir, Estate Bottled, Anderson Valley – $25.00

2016 Husch Gewurztraminer, Sustainably Farmed, Estate Bottled, Anderson Valley – $15.00

2013 Husch Pinot Noir, Estate Bottled, Knoll, Anderson Valley – $40.00

2014 Husch Pinot Noir, Reserve, Estate Bottled, Anderson Valley – $38.00

2016 Jaxon Keys Winery Rosé, Mendocino County – $20.00

NV Jaxon Keys Winery JaxZin, Mendocino – $28.00

2015 Jaxon Keys Winery Primitivo, Mendocino – $26.00

2015 Jaxon Keys Winery Zinfandel, Brandy Barrel Aged, Mendocino – $39.99

2016 Lazy Creek Vineyards Gewurztraminer, Anderson Valley – $22.00

2015 Lazy Creek Vineyards Pinot Noir, Five Barrel, Anderson Valley – $85.00

2015 Lazy Creek Vineyards Pinot Noir, Estate, Anderson Valley – $58.00

2014 Lula Cellars Pinot Noir, Peterson Vineyard, Mendocino County – $45.00

2014 Maggy Hawk Graceful Lady Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley – $66.00

2014 Maggy Hawk Stormin’ Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley – $66.00

NV McFadden Cuvee Brut, Methose Champenoise,  Potter Valley – $25.00

2014 McNab Pinotage, Napoli Vineyard, Mendocino County – $20.00

2015 Parducci Small Lot Chardonnay, Mendocino County – $13.99

2015 Parducci True Grit Reserve Chardonnay, Mendocino County – $17.99

2015 Powicana Farm Petite Sirah Port, Single Vineyard, No Sulfites Added, Vinted and Bottled, Redwood Valley – $31.00

2013 Meyer Family Cellars Syrah, Yorkville Highlands – $28.00

2016 Navarro Vineyards Muscat Blanc Cluster Select, Late Harvest, Anderson Valley – $69.00

2014 Navarro Vineyards Pinot Noir Methode a l’Ancienne, Unfiltered, Anderson Valley – $35.00

2016 Navarro Vineyards Gewurztraminer, Estate Bottled, Anderson Valley – $22.00

2014 Navarro Vineyards Zinfandel, Mendocino – $19.50

2016 Navarro Vineyards Chardonnay Table Wine, Mendocino – $16.00

2016 Navarro Vineyards Chardonnay, Mendocino – $19.00

2014 Navarro Vineyards Barbera, Mendocino – $27.00

2015 Navarro Vineyards Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley – $22.00

2016 Navarro Vineyards Riesling, Anderson Valley – $22.00

2015 Saint Gregory Pinot Meunier, Mendocino County – $20.00

2013 Saint Gregory Pinotage, Napoli Vineyard, Mendocino County – $20.00

2014 Saint Gregory Pinot Noir, Mendocino County – $20.00

NV Scharffenberger Brut, Methode Champenoise, Anderson Valley – $20.00

2015 Seebass Family Wines Grand Reserve Chardonnay, Estate Grown, Mendocino – $38.00

2015 Shooting Star Chardonnay, Mendocino County – $14.00

2016 Tahto Sauvignon Blanc, Bauer, Mendocino County – $16.00

2014 Tahto Carignane, Piffero, Mendocino County – $16.00

2014 The Withers Winery Pinot Noir, Charles Vineyard, Anderson Valley – $44.00

2014 WindRacer Chardonnay, Anderson Valley – $40.00

2013 Y. Rousseau Tannat “The Musketeer”, Alder Springs Vineyard, Mendocino County – $65.00

2015 Zina Hyde Cunningham Chardonnay, Reserve, Anderson Valley – $54.00
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SILVER

2013 Alder Springs Vineyard Syrah, Estate Grown, Mendocino – $45.00

2013 Alder Springs Vineyard Chardonnay, Estate Grown, Mendocino – $39.00

2016 Barra of Mendocino Pinot Noir Rosé, Mendocino – $18.00

2015 Barra of Mendocino Pinot Noir, Made with organically grown grapes, Estate, Mendocino County – $20.00

2014 Bells Echo Vineyard Syrah, Estate Grown, Mendocino – $30.00

2014 Bells Echo Vineyard Interlude Blended Red, Estate Grown, Mendocino – $32.00

2015 Bliss Family Vineyards Merlot, Estate Grown, Produced and Bottled, Mendocino – $11.99

2016 Bliss Family Vineyards Rosé, Estate Grown, Produced and Bottled, Mendocino – $11.99

2015 Bliss Family Vineyards Chardonnay, Estate Grown, Produced and Bottled, Mendocino – $11.99

2014 Bliss Family Vineyards Zinfandel, Estate Grown, Produced and Bottled, Mendocino – $11.99

2015 Bliss Family Vineyards Pinot Noir, Mendocino – $14.99

2016 Blue Quail Sauvignon Blanc, Estate Grown, Potter Valley – $16.00

2016 Blue Quail Fontaine Dry Rosé, Potter Valley – $16.00

2016 Blue Quail Pinot Gris, Potter Valley – $16.00

2016 Blue Quail Dry Riesling, Potter Valley – $18.00

2013 Bonterra Organic Vineyards The Butler, Blended Red, Mendocino – $58.00

2013 Bonterra Organic Vineyards The McNab, Blended Red, Mendocino – $58.00

2015 Briceland Vineyards Zinfandel, Unfined & unfiltered, Dark Horse Vineyard, Mendocino County – $25.00

2014 Briceland Vineyards Syrah, Unfined & unfiltered, Dark Horse Vineyard, Mendocino County – $28.00

2014 Brutocao Family Vineyards Torrent, Estate Grown, Produced and Bottled, Hopland Ranches, Mendocino – $32.00

2015 Brutocao Family Vineyards Chardonnay, Estate Grown, Produced and Bottled, Hopland Ranches, Mendocino – $18.00

2013 Brutocao Family Vineyards Primitivo, Estate Grown, Produced and Bottled, Contento Vineyard, Mendocino – $26.00

2015 Cakebread Cellars Pinot Noir, Estate, Two Creek Vineyards, Anderson Valley – $43.00

2016 Campovida Rosé di Grenache, Trail’s End Vineyard, Potter Valley – $34.00

2015 Domaine Anderson Chardonnay, Estate, Anderson Valley – $29.00

2013 Enotria Dolcetto, Mendocino County – $19.00

2016 Fletcher Louis Sangiovese Rosado Rosé, Redwood Valley – $18.00

2013 Floyd and Eddie Pinot Noir, Estate Vineyards, Mendocino – $21.00

2016 Floyd and Eddie Dry Rosé, Barrel Fermented, Mendocino – $17.50

2015 Frey Biodynamic Zinfandel, Mendocino – $20.00

2015 Frey Biodynamic Chardonnay, No Sulfites Added, Mendocino – $16.50

2015 Frey Organic Sauvignon Blanc, Mendocino County – $14.00

2015 Girasole Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Made with organically grown grapes, Estate, Mendocino County – $14.00

2016 Girasole Vineyards Chardonnay, Made with organic grapes, Estate Grown, Mendocino County – $14.00

2016 Girasole Vineyards Sangiovese, Made with organically grown grapes, Estate Grown, Mendocino County – $14.00

2013 Graziano Zinfandel, Reserve, Mendocino County – $28.00

2016 Greenwood Ridge Vineyards Riesling, Mendocino Ridge – $20.00

2014 Greenwood Ridge Vineyards Pinot Noir, Estate Bottled, Mendocino Ridge – $33.00

2014 Greenwood Ridge Vineyards Zinfandel, Mendocino – $24.00

2014 Greenwood Ridge Vineyards Zinfandel, Reserve, Mendocino – $32.00

2014 Greenwood Ridge Vineyards Merlot, Estate, Mendocino Ridge – $29.00

2014 Handley Cellars Syrah, Kismet Vineyard, Redwood Valley – $25.00

2014 Handley Cellars Red Table Wine, Vittorio Vineyard, Redwood Valley – $25.00

2014 Handley Cellars Ranch House Red, Mendocino County – $25.00

2014 Handley Cellars Pinot Noir, Estate Vineyard, Anderson Valley – $47.00

2014 Handley Cellars Pinot Noir, Helluva Vineyard, Anderson Valley – $42.00

2016 Handley Cellars Sauvignon Blanc, Anderson Valley – $22.00

2010 Harmonique Delicacé Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley – $46.00

2010 Harmonique Elegancé Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley – $48.00

2016 Husch Renegade Sauvignon Blanc, Estate Grown, Produced and Bottled, Mendocino – $18.00

2016 Husch Chenin Blanc, Sustainably Farmed, Mendocino – $13.00

2015 Husch Special Reserve Chardonnay, Estate Bottled, Mendocino – $26.00

2014 Husch Cabernet Sauvignon, Mendocino – $25.00

2016 Husch Sauvignon Blanc, Sustainably Farmed, Mendocino – $15.00

2015 Jaxon Keys Winery Red Blend- GPS, Mendocino – $28.00

2016 Jaxon Keys Winery Farmhouse White, Mendocino – $14.99

2016 Jaxon Keys Winery Viognier, Mendocino – $24.00

2016 Jeriko Estate Sangiovese, Upper Russian River, Mendocino County – $32.00

2016 Lazy Creek Vineyards Rosé of Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley – $22.00

2014 Lula Cellars Pinot Noir, Costa Vineyard, Mendocino County – $45.00

2014 Lula Cellars Pinot Noir, Docker Hill Vineyard, Mendocino County – $50.00

2015 Maple Creek Estate Chardonnay, Maple Creek Vineyard, Yorkville Highlands – $40.00

2014 McNab Zinfandel, Cononiah Vineyards Family Reserve, Mendocino County – $26.00

2014 McNab Cabernet Sauvignon, Family Reserve – Largo, Mendocino County – $30.00

2012 Meyer Family Cellars Petite Sirah, Yorkville Highlands – $35.00

2013 Meyer Family Cellars High Ground Syrah, Reserve, Yorkville Highlands – $42.00

2015 Monte Volpe Vesuvius, Blended White, Potter Valley – $18.00

2013 Monte Volpe Peppolino, Italian Red Blend, Mendocino County – $28.00

2013 Monte Volpe Negroamaro, Mendocino County – $28.00

2013 Monte Volpe Sangiovese, Mendocino County – $19.00

2014 Navarro Vineyards Grenache, Mendocino – $27.00

2016 Navarro Vineyards Rosé of Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley – $22.00

2016 Navarro Vineyards Pinot Gris, Anderson Valley – $19.50

2016 Navarro Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc, Anderson Valley – $19.00

2014 Navarro Vineyards Pinot Noir, Deep End Blend, Anderson Valley – $55.00

2014 Navarro Vineyards Zinfandel, Old Vine, Mendocino – $27.00

2014 Parducci Small Lot Merlot, Mendocino County  – $13.99

2013 Parducci True Grit Reserve Red Blend, Mendocino County – $19.99

2014 Parducci Small Lot Pinot Noir, Mendocino County – $14.99

2015 Parducci True Grit Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Mendocino County – $19.99

2014 Pennyroyal Farm Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley – $39.00

2015 Pennyroyal Farm Sauvignon Blanc, Anderson Valley – $25.00

2015 Philo Ridge Vineyards Pinot Gris, Unoaked, Helluva Vineyard, Anderson Valley – $19.00

2012 Philo Ridge Vineyards Pinot Noir, Unfined & Unfiltered, Marguerite Vineyard, Anderson Valley – $50.00

2013 Row 5 Sauvignon Blanc, Estate Grown, Mendocino – $29.00

2015 Saint Gregory Pinot Blanc, Mendocino County – $15.00

2011 Seebass Family Wines Grand Reserve Chardonnay, Estate Grown, Mendocino – $41.95

2013 Seebass Family Wines Romantik, Estate Grown, Mendocino – $35.00

2016 Seebass Family Wines Rosé of Grenache “Fantasie”, Estate Grown, Mendocino – $35.00

2013 Steele Wines Zinfandel, Single Vineyard, Pacini Vineyard, Mendocino County – $18.00

2016 Tahto Rosé, Trail’s End, Mendocino County – $16.00

2014 Tahto Zinfandel, Piffero, Mendocino County – $20.00

2016 Terroir 95470 Rosé, Redwood Valley – $16.00

2016 Terroir 95470 Sauvignon Blanc, Redwood Valley – $16.00

2013 Terroir 95470 SangioRosso Blended Red, Redwood Valley – $16.00

2014 Testa Vineyards Black, Mendocino County – $25.00

2016 Testa Vineyards Rosé, Mendocino County – $18.00

2014 Waits-Mast Pinot Noir, Single Vineyard, Wentzel Vineyard, Anderson Valley – $47.00

2014 Waits-Mast Pinot Noir, Single Vineyard, Oppenlander Vineyard, Mendocino County – $45.00

2014 WindRacer Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley – $50.00

2014 Zina Hyde Cunningham Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley – $58.00

Catch the California State Fair: July 14-30

Earlier this year I participated in a judging of over two thousand wines for the California State Fair! Here is the entire California Commercial Wine Competition Results for you to peruse. You also might make those plans to hit the big event starting this Friday July 14th in Sacramento. If not there are other more local fair opportunities to hit all summer long!

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.