Category Archives: Food

Taste Winners of North Coast Wine Challenge 2015!

On April 14th & 15th I helped judge the North Coast Wine Challenge in Santa Rosa.  The judging compares select California North Coast AVAs including Lake, Mendocino, Napa, Sonoma, and Marin and parts of Solano County.  As recently announced the 2015 winner is. . .

ROCHE 2013 Carneros Chardonnay French Oak Reserve!

Congratulations to all the winners, search the List and follow-up with a summary in this Press Democrat article.

tasting_mashead_ver3Now you have a chance to taste over 80 Gold Medal  winners at the North Coast Wine Challenge Tasting hosted by the Press Democrat on Sunday May 17, 1-4pm, at The Barlow in Sebastopol.  It will feature the highest scoring wines from the 2015 judging.

This year, the event will include Storytellers & Innovators. Guests will be able to hear from and meet pioneers of the past and today’s innovators to learn what’s new in winemaking in California’s North Coast.  There will also be a pre-event seminar, 11:30 – 12:30 pm:
A Conversation with Gold Medal Wine Makers and Award-Winning Chefs  

Get your tickets now!

Santa Barbara Vintners Festival this week, April 23-26

The Santa Barbara Vintners Spring Weekend and Festival is nearly here and tickets are almost sold out for the Friday night Vintage Party and Saturday morning wine seminar.

FRIDAY NIGHT VINTAGE PARTY

First join me at the Vintage Party, a traditional La Paulee style dinner hosted by the Santa Barbara Vintners and Mattei’s Tavern to welcome Spring Weekend visitors to Santa Barbara Wine Country on the evening before the Festival. In the La Paulee tradition, attendees will bring their favorite Vintage 2009 or older wine from Santa Barbara County or beyond to share.

THE SANTA BARBARA WINE SEMINAR

Next I will be moderating this engaging wine seminar on Saturday morning before the Festival at the Santa Ynez Valley Marriott. This year it will feature winemakers whose wine careers were influenced by their time working at Zaca Mesa. SBvint2

VinOlivo Weekend coming March 13-15!

Join me at the 10th Annual VinOlivo, when more than 60 wineries and 20 top restaurateurs come together in a weekend long affair.

vinolivo

The event includes a Williams-Sonoma* and AUTEUR Wines Winemaker Dinner, the signature Sonoma Valley Grand Tasting event and “Ticket to Sonoma Valley”, which grants special access to over 40 Sonoma Valley wineries. Pass holders receive special offers, ranging from complimentary tastings and discounted wine pricing, to barrel tastings and winery tours.

If you cannot attend then at least check out the Online Auction which continues until March 17th!

*To read more about the newly returned Williams-Sonoma store to it’s original location on Broadway read my article in Napa Sonoma Magazine.

Festive Wine Events Galore!

With the main snow season for 2015 still on hold, it’s time to look at the great wine tasting opportunities that are happening in Northern California.

San Francisco: Zinfandel Experience, January 29-31

Each year, fans of red wine from around the United States flock to San Francisco to participate in the annual event put on by the Zinfandel Advocates and Producers (a.k.a. ZAP), a non-profit organization devoted to preserving the history and pageantry of world class wines made with California’s “sweet-heart” grape. Highlights of this year’s three-day event include: Epicurian, a magnificent wine and food pairing event at the Golden Gate Club in the Presidio, on Thursday, January 29; Flights!, a thought-provoking tasting hosted by legendary winemaker Joel Peterson at the Four Seasons in San Francisco on Friday, January 30; and the annual Grand Tasting featuring over 500 wines being poured by the top California producers, a silent auction, and opportunities to learn about special wines from the important appellation where the cherished grape is grown at Sommelier & Winemakers Terroir Workshops on Saturday January 31, at the Presidio, Golden Gate Club & Film Centre. If you make it to the Grand Tasting, be sure to make time for my 2pm Workshop about Lake County & Mendocino AVA too! For ticket information to all these events, visit www.zinfandelexperience.com.

Anderson Valley, Mendocino: International Alsace Varietals Festival, February 7-8

If you like aromatic white wines with fragrant aromas and distinctive flavors, I would suggest you get in the car and head directly to Mendocino County for the 10th Annual Alsace festival in Anderson Valley, an event focused on rockstar wines made with Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc and Muscat grapes grown in the Alsace region of France, California, Oregon, Michigan, New York, and other special appellations around the globe.

On Saturday, February 7th, the festivities kick-off with two special events at the County Fairgrounds in downtown Boonville (14400 Highway 128). The first is the Educational Session, a fantastic interactive event from 8:30 am to 12:30 pm, which allows guests to listen to and interact with winemakers from around the world as they discuss the topics of grape growing, winemaking and food pairing specific to Alsace varietals.

PrintThe special 10-year anniversary Session will include a discussion on the Appellation of Crus in Alsace, complimented by a tasting of the 8 Grand Crus produced by Domaines Schlumberger. On the sommeliers side, I will be leading a special Pinot Blanc tasting focusing on wines from three wineries using grapes grown in the same vineyard (Schrader Ranch); fellow sommelier Christie Dufault, Instructor of Wine and Beverage Studies at the CIA Greystone, will do a presentation on how to pair food with Gewürztraminer; and the morning will be rounded out with a Cooking Demonstration done by talented Chef Francois de Melogue.

In the afternoon, the Grand Tasting will offer chances to taste over 100 Alsace Varietal wines made by producers from around the world, including local producers like Balo Vineyards, Brooks Wines, Claiborne & Churchill, Cutruzzola Vineyards, Elke Vineyards, FEL Wines, Foris Vineyards, Handley Cellars, Lula Cellars, Navarro Vineyards, Phillips Hill Winery, Philo Ridge Vineyards, Robert Sinskey Vineyards, Saintsbury and Tatomer Wines, as well as special selections from the New Zealand Winegrowers and Wines of Alsace. To complement the wines, fresh oysters, Tarte Flambée and Pork Belly dishes will be served on the food tables at the event.

In the evening, the activities will conclude with the Winemakers Dinner at Scharffenberger Cellars in Philo (8501 Highway 128). The dinner will feature fabulous dishes made by Chef Janelle Weaver (Owner/Chef at The Bewildered Pig, Executive Chef at Peter Michael Winery, and former Executive Chef for Kuleto Estate), which emphasize the unique flavors of the wine s and how well they work with the bounty of the local area.

The Educational Session is $45 per person, and the Grand Tasting is $65 per person, but if you want to attend both a combined ticket is only $100. The Winemakers Dinner is $130 per person. To learn more and buy tickets visit International Alsace Varietals Festival.

Lodi: Wine & Chocolates Weekend, February 7-8

winechoc2014_0553With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, it’s time to start thinking about aphrodisiac wine and food pairings. For many, an easy choice is chocolate. This is what the Lodi Winegrape Commission had in mind when they started the popular Wine & Chocolate Weekend eighteen years ago. And this year’s event is bigger than ever!

Taste handcrafted sweet and savory chocolate bites with rich, spicy and complex wines at over 50 wineries. At $55 in advance and $65 at the door, tickets include an event wine glass, a chocolate treat from sponsor BRIX Chocolates, wine tasting, and admission to all participating wineries. Designated drivers are free of charge. www.Lodiwine.com.

Other upcoming events:

SRJC Wine Classic: February 8th, 2-5pm

San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition Public Tasting: February 14th, 1:30-5pm

1st SRJC Wine Classic being held on February 8th

Santa Rosa Junior College will hold its first SRJC Wine Classic from 2–5 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 8, on campus at Bertolini Hall.

Join in on this opportunity to support your local community college students, as they organize and host a social gathering, featuring 25 Sonoma County wineries, pouring over 50 wines, live music, gourmet appetizer buffet, and a souvenir glass for each attendee. Read more about it at the North Bay Business Journal.

Tickets for the event are $55 per person for adults age 21 or over. All proceeds will go to fund SRJC Wine, Culinary Arts & Hospitality students and student scholarships. Purchase online at srjcwineclassic.com. For more information email srjcwineclassic@gmail.com.

Here Comes ZAP!

It is that time of year again, the Zinfandel Experience in San Francisco happens January 29-31!

ZAP-Postertop

Not only will you get to taste a slew of amazing Zinfandel, but also the opportunity to learn about a collection of appellations through their Sommelier & Winemakers Terroir Workshops on Saturday January 31, at the Presidio, Golden Gate Club & Film Centre.  Be sure to make time for my 2pm Workshop about Lake County & Mendocino AVA!

Purchase your tickets online!

ZAP-bottles

New Celluloid Sensations & Lively Winter Wines

If you need a break from Christmas shopping, group events, or simply want to slip away for an enjoyable winter evening with someone special, I’d suggest a staycation at your local movie theater.

Beyond the big box-office hits and holiday genre films, coming to a movie circuit near you are some of the brilliant new releases highlighted at the Napa Valley Film Festival in November. Below are some of my top picks and special seasonal wine pairings from vintners featured @NapaFilmFest, along with tasty delights offered by star chefs, galas, red carpet events, exclusive dinners, post-parties and interviews I did with www.FeastItForward.com!

For more information about all the films that played at this year’s festival, DVD releases, upcoming events, and much more, visit www.NVFF.org. And don’t forget to stay tuned for my classic Christmas movie pairings coming up next week!

 The Imitation Game

If you’ve never heard of computer pioneer Alan Turing, you’re not alone. While working for Britain’s top-secret Government Code and Cipher School during World War II, Turing created the world’s first legitimate computer that was able to break the famous Enigma encryption code used by the German army. Surrounded by a crew of other intellectuals, Turing used this powerful tool to save an estimated 2 to 3 million lives and helped stop the war two years early.

imitation1The film features a terrific cast with Benedict Cumberbatch in the lead, and Keira Knightley, Mathew Goode, Mark Strong, Charles Dance and Allen Leech (the chauffer in Downton Abbey) as his associates. And beyond exploring his accomplishments with science and computers, the film also looks into the darker side of Turing’s personal life, which was heavily influenced by a turbulent period as a teen and his post-war conviction for a now outdated criminal offense. As a result, he died at an early age and was not honored by the government for his services until 2013.

SawyerSomm Pairing: Although its impact isn’t nearly as great as Turing’s invention of the computer; a lesser known grape of great importance is Pinot Meunier, a fairly obscure red variety planted primarily in the Champagne region of France. Known for its deep flavors and ability to grow in wetter conditions, the varietal is often blended with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay to make some of the world’s finest Champagnes but rarely bottled separately.

In the United States, an exception to the rule is the Domaine Chandon 2012 Pinot Meunier, Carneros ($35), an elegant wine with lively aromas of red fruits, cinnamon, nutmeg, and earth. On the palate, the flavors expand with notes of dark plum, cherry, pomegranate, wild mushroom, black tea and clove. Great with fine cheeses, grilled winter vegetables, fresh salmon, pork chops, and roasted chicken. And like the film, it’s a secret worth investigating! www.domainechandon.com.

Supermensch

Wayne’s World meet your maker! In his directorial debut, Mike Myers’ magnificent documentary follows the life of Shep Gordon, a bon vivant who began his career in the entertainment industry after accidentally running into Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix while staying in a hotel in Los Angeles in 1968. He then went on to build the music careers of Alice Cooper, Anne Murray, Teddy Pendergrass and Blondie; afterwhich he produced movies, created celebrity chefs, and worked with the Dalai Lama.

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In Hebrew, a mensch is a person of integrity with a willingness to help others. The positive energy Gordon gives off to others can be seen throughout the film with dazzling archive footage, interviews, and guest appearances by Michael Douglas, Sylvester Stallone, Alice Cooper, Emeril Lagasse and many other personalities who think Gordon is the bomb. Hands down, an ultimate fantasy documentary for those who love rock n’ roll, cinema, and fine cuisine!

SawyerSomm Pick: As noted before the screening of the film, Shep drinks wine on a daily basis. And to match his character, you need a wine with flavors that run deep. A fantastic example is the Cornerstone 2011 Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley ($65), a magnificent wine made with premium fruit grown in the Howell Mountain and Rutherford appellations, and small amount of Merlot (12%) grown in Oakville. From the moment the cork is pulled, the aromas and lush flavors are bursting with notes of pretty blue fruits, blueberry, cassis, black raspberry, Himalayan blackberry jam, black olive and dried mountain herbs; soft tannins; velvety texture; and a long, elegant finish. Thus, instead of being big, powerful and brazen; this seductive wine is best described as soft, balanced, sultry, and sexy like Gordon.

With food, try this delectable new release with wild mushroom strudel, fresh gnocchi with black truffle, grilled sausage, slow-cooked ribs, lamb sliders, beef wellington with peppercorn sauce, hearty stews, and complex cheeses. www.cornerstonecellars.com.

Black or White

Kevin Costner stars as Elliot Anderson, a successful attorney, who suddenly loses his wife and finds himself raising his grandaughter Eloise: She has been in his family’s custody since his daughter died blackwhite_during childbirth. To make matters worse, Eloise’s African-American paternal grandmother Rowena (Octavia Spenser) files papers to get custody of the child back to her son, who suddenly resurfaces after attempting to clean himself up from drug addiction. Packed with racial tension, class struggles and family values, this is a powerful movie that demonstrates the importance of making the right decision in hard situations.

SawyerSomm Pick: Granted this is a heavy movie, but it also makes it clear that the world would be a better place if the adult characters could find their way to chill out, relax, and see the values in each other. For that reason, at the Q & A following the Red Carpet Screening of the film at the Uptown in Napa, Costner said it was very important that he and director Mike Binder made sure the film was rated “PG” instead of “R” in order to open up the conversation to a wider audience.

In the sommelier circuit, “PG” often refers to Pinot Grigio, a light, perky and refreshing style of wine which matches nicely with the cultural scenes in the movie that revolve around the families playing on the lawn, the swimming pool, singing, and playing instruments. For a classy style with body and texture, I would suggest the Benessere 2013 Pinot Grigio, Napa Valley ($22). With fragrant aromas of spring flowers, peach and citrus, the freshness of the wine is expressive and alluring. In the glass, the flavors open up with notes of melon, guava and lime; vibrant acidity; and a long crisp finish. Not hard to get along with his wine, especially when served with fancy appetizers, hot soups, gourmet salads and shellfish during the winter months. www.benesserevineyards.com.

Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me

Directed by James Keach (Walk the Line), this touching documentary follows the life of musical legend Glen Campbell and the final tour he played while suffering from the Alzheimer’s disease.

Before becoming a country music icon, Campbell was known as a talented session guitarist, who played with Elvis, Frank Sinatra, the Beach Boys, the Monkees, and the talented team called the “Wrecking Crew.” After going solo, Campbell sold over 50 million albums, won five Grammy awards and was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. As a consummate entertainer, he starred with John Wayne in the cowboy classic True Grit and had his own variety show, The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour.

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Through the years, other well-known musicians like Bruce Springsteen, Willy Nelson, Keith Urban, Brad Paisley, The Edge and Brad Smith from the Red Hot Chili Peppers (all of whom appear in the film), were touched by his style of music. If life is about memories, then this is a movie that is hard to forget.

SawyerSomm Pick: When Campbell’s hit song “Rhinestone Cowboy” came out in 1975, red grapes like Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon were still in their infant stages in America. As a result, the typical red wines were made with Zinfandel. Today, a star-spangled selection that keeps these spirits alive is the Robert Biale 2013 Zinfandel, R.W. Moore Vineyard, Coombsville District ($50), a small appellation just a few miles south of where Campbell played his last show at the Uptown Theater in Napa. Originally planted in 1905, the aromas and flavors of the fruit are plush and elegant, with deep flavors of raspberry, wild strawberries, plums, dark chocolate, wild herbs, cardamom, clove, and a long, silk finish. Think mushroom risotto, duck breast, osso buco, and spicy lamb meatballs. Like Campbell, the vines do their best to weather the storm no matter what the circumstances ahead may bring. www.robertbialevineyards.com.

Escobar: Paradise Lost

In this historic thriller focused on the life of Columbian drug lord Pablo Escobar, Josh Hutcherson (Hunger Games) commands escobar2attention with his outstanding performance as Nick, a young Canadian man who moves to Columbia with his brother to start a surfing business. Soon after meeting a lovely young girl, he is introduced to Escobar (Benicio Del Toro), who hires him to help with odd jobs. But after Nick catches on to the cover up of drug trafficking and murder, the lives of he and his loved ones are in jeopardy.

SawyerSomm Pick: To match the intensity of the film, try the Hope & Grace 2011 Malbec, Oak Knoll, Napa Valley ($75). Deep and rich with an inky hue; the wine starts off soft and plush and finishes spicy with layers of ripe blackberry, dark chocolate, licorice, black pepper and baking spices. To stay with the South American theme, the wine is also great to pair with chicken mole, barbecued pork, roasted goat, tri-tip with a green sauce, and hard cheeses. www.hopeandgracewines.com.