Category Archives: Competition

Summing Up the North Coast Wine Challenge For 2020

It finally happened, after an initial postponement in April, so now rounding back to the big (socially distanced) competition in July, you can read some results about The Press Democrat North Coast Wine Challenge (NCWC) in my follow up article published by Spirited Magazine in September, and then scroll down for a full list of winners!

WINNING WINES: RESULTS FROM THE NORTH COAST WINE CHALLENGE 2020

2020-PD-FullPage-WineWinners-3

Photo by Kent Porter for The Press Democrat.

The Wine Competition Virtual Discussion – Watch it HERE!

Lucky for you our virtual meetup was recorded and can be shared after the fact! In preparation for the Central Coast Wine Competition on October 12-14, listen in this illuminating discussion with Tim McDonald, Jeff Kralik, Sarah Tracey and myself, via the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance!

Cool ass AVA map of Paso Robles!

SIFF Wine Awards: Live on Facebook, Friday April 17th!

Hey everybody, as the state, and eventually nation, slowly closed their doors to group endeavors, we were finishing up judging at the fabulous 3rd Annual Sonoma International Film Festival Wine Competition.

With the film festival on hold until July 30-August 2, we are going to give  a sneak preview of the wine award winners for your drinking pleasure!  Follow me at Christopher Sawyer Sommelier to watch my LIVE Facebook unveiling of the winners for 2020 on Friday, April 17th at NOON.

Then mark your calendars for SIFF this summer to celebrate!

See you all then! Chris

Positive vibes from the Super Bowl and Miami Food & Wine Culture

Although it’s hard to believe: When Super Bowl LIV at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami came to an end, everyone came out a winner. In the case of the Kansas City Chiefs, their dramatic 31-20 victory over the San Francisco 49ers marked the team’s first Super Bowl win in 50 years. And, despite the disappointing loss to wine country locals, the game also capped off an amazing season for the 49ers: a young, talented team which made the miraculous transformation from a 4-12 record in 2018 to a 13-3 mark this past year, coupled with two convincing wins in the playoffs, which earned them the opportunity to compete for the coveted Vince Lombardi trophy on the 100-year anniversary of the NFL.

Beyond the players, the other big winners were the 49er Faithful, as well fans from the Chief’s Kingdom, and the over 6,000 members of the media attending the game on February 2, who also had special opportunities to explore the fabulous food and wine culture that has blossomed in the greater Miami area since the Niners won their last Super Bowl at Hard Rock Stadium in 1995.

I am happy to say, I have been following the delicious wave of new culinary delights since I began judging the American Fine Wine Competition, which takes place every January at the Chaplin Center for Hospitality, on the campus of Florida International University in North Miami. To make this year more special, I got a taste of what 49er and Chiefs fans could expect with my fellow wine pals Charlie Arturola, Jacqueline Coleman, Peg San Felippo, Roberto Columbia, Wendy Rosano, Stu Nudelman, Henry Escobar and other judges attending the AFWC’s 13th Annual One Thousand Bottles: Sipping Through America, a special gathering held at the Chaplin Center on the FIU campus exactly two weeks before the kick-off of Super Bowl LIV.

In a nutshell: this fabulous event gives consumers, sommeliers, retailers, wine pros, and members of the media a rare opportunity to taste the top wines we judged earlier in the day, while sampling exquisite delicacies prepared by South Florida’s best restaurants and food purveyors, as well as newly released wines being poured by special guests from West Coast wineries. As an extra touch of class, proceeds from the get-together are donated to charity. And since 2007, AFWC has raised more than $1,000,000 for these local charities, including the Miami Dolphinsadmirable collaboration with the Tackle Cancer organization.

Standout bites at this year’s event included: a stunning array of fresh seafood delights from Krudo; a lobster sandwich on top of a purple Peruvian potato from The Blue at the Boca Resort; juicy, tender and smoky morsels from Nature’s Cut Organic & Grass Feed Beef, which raised in Uruguay and imported to Miami; and a very Pinot-friendly mushroom crudité from star Chef Stefano LaCava, who prepared the fantastic judges dinner the night before.

These and more tasty offerings provided by Cvltvra Restaurant, Ortanique, The Crepe Maker, Cooper’s Hawk, Nature’s Cut, Gatsby’s Joint, A Flair For Fudge and El Brazo Fuerte Bakery were also paired with delicious wines poured by our friends from DAOU Family Estates, Trujillo Wines, Hagafen Cellars, Kestrel Vintners, Staura Cellars, A. Torano Family Vineyards, Yount Ridge, Shadowbox Cellars and Bricoleur Vineyards during the event.

As the fun continued, I was able to savor more fine wines with Napa Valley vintners Chris and Shannon Hyde of Hyde Estate, Mike Henry from Acre Wine, FIU-grad Stephanie Honig of Honig Vineyards and Winery, as well as my other great pals Ali Nemo and Andy Du Vigneaud of Bee Hunter Wines of Anderson Valley. All this, while watching the 49ers punch their way to Super Bowl LIV with their convincing NFC Championship victory over the Green Bay Packers, which was broadcast on monitors in the Chaplin Center.

The following day, we judged the final rounds of the competition, which culminated with the sweepstakes round that matched the Best of Class wines in a head-to-head showdown in each category. Here are the big winners at the AFWC 2020:

  • Sparkling Wine: Mumm Napa NV Brut Prestige, Napa Valley
  • White Wine: Castello di Amarosa 2018 Gewurztraminer, Anderson Valley
  • Red Wine: Papapietro Perry 2016 Pinot Noir, Pommard Clone, Russian River Valley
  • Sweet Wine: Ferrante 2017 Vidal Blanc Ice Wine, Grand River Valley, OH

The full details on all the Double Gold, Gold and Silver medal winners will be listed on the American Fine Wine Competition website soon.  Coming soon, look for my story about two special restaurants I visited during my visit to Miami in mid-January!

Petaluma Gap’s Battle of the Sexes Takes to the Airwaves

This just in from the Petaluma Gap!  Continuing a tradition started at last year’s Sonoma County Barrel Auction, a men’s and a women’s winemaker teams from the Petaluma Gap American Viticultural Area (AVA) will compete to create the most coveted and unique lot of Petaluma Gap Pinot Noir that expresses the distinct terroir of Sonoma County’s newest AVA.

Dueling Winemakers
Erica Stancliff & Tom Gendall
go on KSRO’s Vintners Vibe, April 11

Representing the women are Erica Stancliff (Trombetta Family Wines), Kerith Overstreet (Bruliam Wines) and Ana Keller (Keller Estate) with a ten-case auction lot called “Aura,” named after the Goddess of the Wind. The men’s lot, called “Zephyros,” the name of the God of the West Wind, is a collaboration from Tom Gendall (Cline Family Cellars), Evan Pontoriero (Fogline Vineyards), Justin Seidenfeld (Rodney Strong) and Shane Finley (Thirty-Seven Wines).

The women’s team outperformed the men at last year’s auction with their lot selling for $14,000 while the men’s lot raised $9,000, but the men have declared themselves ready for a rematch. “I will let the wine speak for itself,” says Gendall confidently. “The wines were all stunning and the final blend really shone through as the best expression from all four sites. Beautiful, delicate aromatics with bright red fruits, great structure and mouth-watering acidity on a very long finish with well-integrated spice and savoriness. It really is a once-in-a-lifetime wine, and we are very excited to show it off.”

Hear what Erica Stancliff has to say about the women’s blend and the distinct vineyards it’s sourced from when she and Tom Gendall meet on KSRO’s Vintners Vibe talk show on Thursday, April 11 at 4:30 PM, 1350 AM | 103.5 FM radio. Six individual wineries are also offering up “Never Before, Never Again” Pinot Noir wines from the Petaluma Gap including Cline Family Cellars, Guarachi Family Wines, Fulcrum Wines, Keller Estate, Schermeister Winery and Sojourn Cellars. Interested trade buyers can taste all the wines at a preview event at Grand Cru Custom Crush on May 2.

The Fifth Annual Sonoma County Barrel Auction, presented by Sonoma County Vintners, will auction off to trade buyers more than eighty lots of “Never Before, Never Again” wines from diverse Sonoma County regions on May 3, 2019 at MacMurray Estate Vineyards.

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)!

CS6
EMW1
EMW2

 

 

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.