Category Archives: Competition

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.

Harvest Challenge: Submit Your Entries by Nov 14th!

harvchall2016Why 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

Glorious Bites Challenge elicits delicious food & photos!

gbites2Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards hosted the 2nd annual “Glorious Bites Challenge” this weekend, where three other judges and I selected Chera Little of Leander, Texas, as the 2016 winner, earning her bragging rights, a custom glass trophy and a check for $5000.  Her Miso-Maple Glazed Cod Wonton-Cho’s with Crispy Bok Choy Slaw has been deemed this year’s most glorious appetizer recipe in the country to pair with Gloria Ferrer’s sparkling Sonoma Brut. Little, who lost her husband just three months ago to brain cancer, said he encouraged her to enter the competition.  “My late husband was my biggest cheerleader.  He loved won tons, he loved cream cheese and he loved fish. This dish was inspired by him,” said Little.   “I am very excited and very humbled.  This has been an incredible experience. ”

Out of more than 1800 entries from 44 states, Little’s recipe rose to the forefront, bringing her to the semi-finals and ultimately to the winner’s circle at the final cook-off at Gloria Ferrer Winery on Saturday.   The judges unanimously enjoyed her recipe.

Joel Riddel, myself and Sara Deseran while Judging the Gloria Ferrer Glorious Bites.
Joel Riddel, myself and Sara Deseran while Judging the Gloria Ferrer Glorious Bites.

“I just loved the way the miso married so well with the Gloria Ferrer Sonoma Brut,” said award-winning radio show Host and Producer Joel Riddell.

“I definitely thought it was the most complex dish. There were so many layers of flavors.  Every bite stood out and different elements played nicely with the wine,” said Sommelier, Wine Educator and Journalist Christopher Sawyer.

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(Photos above: Three delicious entries and a bit of “ham” with colleagues Joel Riddell and Leslie Sbrocco.)

“I think we all agreed that this dish was really beautiful to look at and beautiful to taste.  It had it all the elements going on – bitter, salty, sweet—just a great dish,” according to Sara Deseran, Food Writer and Editor-at-Large for San Francisco magazine.

“Having tasted all the dishes previously at the semi-finals, I had no idea who would win today,” said Jennifer Luttrell, Keynote Glorious Bites Judge and Executive Chef for Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company.  “It was really tough to choose, but Chera’s dish had really bright layers of flavors and complexity and, most of all, it was delicious with the Sonoma Brut.”

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Won tons stuffed by Diane Williams of Auburn, CA with Beef, Blue Cheese and Bacon.

All finalists’ appetizers were judged on originality, taste and ability to pair with the Gloria Ferrer Sonoma Brut.  During the competition, the more than 200 guests in attendance were entertained by TV Host, Wine Expert and Author Leslie Sbrocco, known for her appearances on NBC’s The Today Show and as the host of Check Please! Bay Area and her newest show Taste This.  Attendees also voted on their favorite appetizer from among the four finalists.  Taking home the popular vote, or the “Pop Award,” was Diane Williams of Auburn, California, for her Triple “B” Won Tons with Beef, Blue Cheese and Bacon.

All recipes from the 2016 finalists are available for download from the Glorious Bites website: www.gloriousbites.com 

2016 North Coast Wine Challenge Results!

The fabulous panels for the 2016 North Coast Wine Challenge.
The fabulous panels for the 2016 North Coast Wine Challenge.

Spectacular finish to the North Coast Wine Challenge with some of the finest wine judges in America. Our team sent the top red & white wine winners to the final round and the 2012, 2013 & 2014 vintages were brilliant.

Enjoying the fabulous Judges Dinner at MacMurray Ranch in Russian River Valley.
Enjoying the fabulous Judges Dinner at MacMurray Ranch in Russian River Valley.
My fellow judges and two of my favorite people in the wine industry: Traci Dutton, Manager of Wine & Beverage Studies at the Rudd Center at the Culinary Institute of America Greystone, and Master Sommelier Fred Dame.
My fellow judges and two of my favorite people in the wine industry: Traci Dutton, Manager of Wine & Beverage Studies at the Rudd Center at the Culinary Institute of America Greystone, and Master Sommelier Fred Dame.

The big winners have been published in the Press Democrat in this article by Diane Peterson:

Find the entire winners’ list is HERE!
Cheers! Christopher

 

Pizza prizes and plentiful posts! Saturday, March 26th

Follow my social media this weekend for updates from Sebastiani’s pizza16bPizza My Way Contest™.   Participants entered their homemade pizza recipe and will be competing for the $10,000 Grand Prize!

The event is sold out, but I will be sharing posts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter of the best pizza and wine pairings done by me and my fellow judges Tony Gemignani of Tony’s Pizza Napoletana in SF, Tony’s of North Beach at the Graton Casino, and author of The Pizza Bible by Ten Speed Press; Sondra Bernstein, proprietor of girl & the fig restaurant in Sonoma; and Chef Carlo Cavali of Burgers & Vine in Sonoma.

Also look for my posts of recipes to try at home!
Christopher

Fun selfie of me and Pizza King Tony Gemignani taken at Flavor Napa Valley. This week, Tony and I will be judging the Pizza My Way event at Sebastiani Winery in Sonoma.
Fun selfie of me and Pizza King Tony Gemignani taken at Flavor Napa Valley. This week, Tony and I will be judging the Pizza My Way event at Sebastiani Winery in Sonoma.