Category Archives: Film

The “Stars Under The Stars” Film Festival is back at St. Francis Winery!

For the 5th year in a row, St. Francis Winery in Sonoma Valley and yours truly will be hosting the amazing “Stars Under the Stars” Film St Francis 2Festival each Thursday night throughout the month of July.

This year’s sizzling lineup includes BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S (1961) on July 10; A FISH CALLED WANDA (1988) on July 17; THE PRINCESS BRIDE (1987) on July 24; and FARGO (1996) on July 31. I’ll be pairing each film with the magnificent wines from the St. Francis Artisan Collection.

These special boutique production wines will be sold by the glass and tangy delectables from Sonoma Valley’s favorite Taco Truck, Londera Emely, will be available onsite, too. As an extra bonus, the fantastic opening bands will kick the festivities off in style at 7 pm each night.

St Francis 1For more information:

Hope to be seeing you under the stars in July too!

American tradition Part 3: Barbeque and wine four ways for the Fourth

SawyerSomm Savory Suggestion: BBQ Pork Spareribs with Zinfandel

Let’s face it, all barbeque sauces are not created equal. Some are sweet and tangy, while others can be much more bold and spicy. To celebrate July 4th, a classic American tradition to follow is Patrick and Gina Neely’s recipe for Pork Ribs, which melds together the sweet and tangy flavors of brown sugar, molasses and apple cider vinegar with spicy notes of cayenne pepper and smoked paprika to create a tasty sensation with a lingering finish. Typically, these ribs are easy to serve with baked beans and coleslaw.

To match up with this wide range of flavors, I tend to lean towards serving a balanced Zinfandel with ripe fruity flavors, layers of spice, balance, and a restrained level of alcohol. Among the flavorful new releases to meet my criteria is the DeLoach Vineyards 2012 Zinfandel, Russian River Valley ($20).

Known as California’s “sweetheart grape,” Zinfandel has been grown in Sonoma County’s Russian River Valley since the early 1880s. While many of the older vineyards are “field blends” interplanted with Petite Sirah, Carignane, Mourvedre (Mataro) other red grape varieties, the new DeLoach wine is more focused on purity and the fresh fruit flavors from younger vines planted at the Becnel and Slusser vineyards in northern Russian River Valley and a smaller portion of more concentrated fruit from old vine Zinfandel planted closer to the Deloach Estate Vineyards western of Santa Rosa. As a result, the wine features lively aromas of ripe blue fruits, violets, cinnamon and clove; concentrated flavors of boysenberry, blueberry, black raspberry, dark plum, fresh cracked pepper, layers of savory spice; a sexy rustic texture; and a long, lingering finish without too much heat or alcohol.

As an extra July 4th tip, I would recommend pairing the BBQ Pork Spareribs and DeLoach Zinfandel with the movie Top Gun starring Tom Cruise, Kelly McGillis, Tim Robbins and Val Kilmer. Ironically, several scenes from the movie were filmed at the Kansas City Barbeque, a bar and restaurant located in the harbor district of San Diego, which opened to the public in 1983, the same year Russian River Valley became recognized as an American Viticultural Area. On its own merits, that patriotic fact of American wine history takes my breath away!

SawyerSomm Election Week Film & Wine Pairing: Bob Roberts

Think that the elections are over? Well, think again. In the hilarious satirical comedy Bob Roberts (1992), Tim Robbins plays an edgy folksinger running for senator in Pennsylvania. On the campaign trail, Roberts uses a mélange of entertaining music videos filled with snarky language and political lyrics to get his point across to potential voters.

Schramsberg-Vineyard-Blanc-de-Blancs-Beauty-1But there’s a dark side to Roberts as well, particularly his past connections to Wall Street and Broken Dove, a subversive group with potential links to a drug cartel and the Iran-Contra hearings. As the scandal starts to surface, the tension builds and Roberts is shot and wounded. So will Roberts be able to catch his arch-nemesis Senator Brickley Paiste (Gore Vidal)? It’s a question that remains to be answered at the end of the film.

In addition to Vidal and Robbins (who wrote and directed the film), the all-star cast in the film includes Alan Rickman, Susan Sarandon, James Spader, David Strathairn, Peter Gallagher, Fred Ward, John Cusack and a very young Jack Black. Fun and gritty to the end, Bob Roberts is an extremely entertaining film that will change the way you look at American politics.

In terms of beverages, like the main character, Bob Roberts is a film that calls for a wine with self-confidence and a hint attitude that demands respect. While watching the election results on television, Robert’s party can be seen drinking French Champagne. But if he was a true patriotic contender, they should have been drinking American bubbles.

An elegant example is the Schramsberg 2011 Blanc de Blancs Brut, North Coast ($37), a sophisticated sparkling wine with aromas of pineapple, lemon chiffon, warm brioche and tantalizing flavors of crisp apple, citrus, and roasted hazelnut.

Meaning “white from white,” this blanc de blancs is made with 100% Chardonnay grapes. For history buffs, the sparkling gem is modeled after the style of Schramsberg wine that President Richard Nixon took to the Chinese emperor in 1972. Politics and wine—all encapsulated in one bottle!


Celluloid delights and Pinot Noir dreams at the upcoming Mendocino Film Festival 2014

Lights! Camera! Action! This Thursday marks the beginning of the Mendocino Film Festival 2014, a dazzling cinematic mélange of independent films, local wines, and the flavorful cuisine Mendocino County has to offer, May 29 to June 1.

mendo film 650Last year, I was honored to play an important role at the festival by introducing the fantastic documentary SOMM at the special screenings in the charming towns of Mendocino and Philo. In addition to fielding great questions from the audience at each showing, I and fellow sommeliers Ian Coble and Sabato Sagaria (two of the co-stars featured in the film) had many opportunities to taste through a wide range of the world-class Pinot Noirs made with fruit from the premium vineyards in Anderson Valley throughout the festivities.

This weekend, film buffs attending the film festival will also have multiple chances to taste the great Pinot Noirs from the recent vintages. So as a preview, a couple weeks ago I tasted through many of the exciting new releases at the 17th Annual Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival, May 16-18. Below are five of my top picks that will be available at the Mendocino Film Festival 2014; local restaurants like the Booneville Hotel and Little River Inn; and fun winery tasting rooms along the way. In the meantime, for more information about the Mendocino Film Festival, visit And for contacts to wineries mentioned in this article, visit

Husch 2010 “Knoll” Pinot Noir, Estate Grown, Anderson Valley ($40)

Located on the hillside above the Husch tasting room, the first Pinot Noir vines in Anderson Valley were planted on “The Knoll” above the tasting room on the Husch property in 1971. Today, the grapes from these old vines are still putting out dense flavors as evident in the new release from the 2011 vintage, which is highlighted by notes of fresh red cherry, pomegranate, vanilla, earthtones, forest floor, layers of spice, and rich texture. Only 13.7% alcohol and a tremendous value at under $45 per bottle!

Knez 2012 Pinot Noir, Cerise Vineyard, Anderson Valley ($42)

Located above the quaint town of Boonville, the Cerise Vineyard features 13 blocks of Pinot Noir planted on four separate ridges. The new release from Knez is a blend of the specific Pinot clones and special selections, which include 2A (Wadenswil), Pommard, Martini, David Bruce and 667. Elegant and refined, the nose is filled with hints of fresh carnations, green tea and ripe plums. The flavors (which open up with each sip) are highlighted by plum, ripe red cherry, cocoa, redwood bark, and a hint of freshly sliced prosciutto.

Domaine Anderson 2012 Pinot Noir, Estate Grown, Anderson Valley ($45)

Made with clones 4, 114, 667 and 777; this is the debut Pinot Noir release from Domaine Anderson, which is located at the site which used to be home to Jim Ball Winery. Deep aromas of red and black fruit, leather, tobacco, clove, earth and black tea. Flavors of plum, red cherry, wild strawberry, rhubarb and a long, dry finish.

Drew 2012 Pinot Noir, Morning Dew Vineyard, Anderson Valley ($55)

Crafted by talented winemaker Jason Drew, this expressive Pinot Noir is a combination of 60% Rochioli clone and 40% of the La Tache special selection planted at a cool-climate hillside vineyard owned by Burt Williams, one of the original founders of the famed Williams-Selyem brand. From the first sip, the wine teases the senses with notes of fresh red fruits, rose petals and mineral. The flavor profile echos these sensations with bright flavors of raspberry, cranberry, pomegranate, wild mushrooms and baking spices; zippy acidity; and a long rewarding finish.

Goldeneye 2011 Pinot Noir, Gowan Creek Vineyard, Anderson Valley ($80)

Located near the small town of Philo, the Gowan Vineyard is highlighted by a moderate daytime temperature influenced by the warmer segment of the valley to the south and the cooler climate influence to the north known as the “deep end” of the valley. As a result, this new release features sexy aromas of ripe blue fruits, fresh violets, pennyroyal, leather, and cigar box. On the palate, concentrated flavors of ripe blueberry, boysenberry, black cherry and dark chocolate; vibrant acidity; rich texture; and an ample nuance of toast oak and spice on the finish. Dense. Elegant. Ethereal.

For more reviews of Pinot Noirs and other gems from Anderson Valley, stay tuned for my detailed report upcoming in June.

-Cheers, Christopher

Catch some more pics from my trip at the Sawyer Sommelier Pinterest page, Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Fesitval