Category Archives: Food

#EatDrinkRock 2014

Need I say more? It's the way we rolled at #FoodNetworkinConcert 2014.
Need I say more? It’s the way we rolled at #FoodNetworkinConcert 2014.

It was a magical idea that became reality. Of course, I’m talking about Food Network in Concert, the ground-breaking concept that was put in play at the legendary Ravinia Festival site near Chicago on September 20th. Put on by Food Network Magazine, this one-day event was filled with star chefs from Food Network TV and Chicagoland; talented musicians like John Maher, Philip Phillips, Zane Carney and Twin Forks; and magnificent wines from around the globe, including the special Artisan Series wines provided by Freixenet USA, Foley Family Wines and Charles Krug Winery.

Below are some of the fun pictures to drive the point home. For more information, visit www.FoodNetworkinConcert.com and follow the Twitter stream #EatDrinkRock!

Talented young artist Zane Carney lays his heart on the line while singing a hot jazz-inspired track from his fabulous new album Amalgam.
Talented young artist Zane Carney lays his heart on the line while singing a hot jazz-inspired track from his fabulous new album Amalgam.
Fantastic Chef Lounge moments with "The Sandwich King" Jeff Mauro (pictured), Anne Burrell, Geoffrey Zakarian, Anne Guarnaschelli and many others.
Fantastic Chef Lounge moments with “The Sandwich King” Jeff Mauro (pictured), Anne Burrell, Geoffrey Zakarian, Anne Guarnaschelli and many others.
Eva Bertran, VP of FreixenetUSA, comments on the delicious sparkling wines featured in the Bubbles from Around the Globe seminar held in Martin Hall at Ravinia.
Eva Bertran, VP of FreixenetUSA, comments on the delicious sparkling wines featured in the Bubbles from Around the Globe seminar held in Martin Hall at Ravinia.
Feeling "Gravity" while listening to music headliner John Maher play his hit song live in front of 10,000 happy attendees.
Feeling “Gravity” while listening to music headliner John Mayer play his hit song live in front of 10,000 happy attendees.
Crunchy sensations via Chef Allen's Urban Pickles.
Crunchy sensations via Chef Allen’s Urban Pickles.
The fantastic lineup of wines featured in the Charles Krug seminar I did with Riana Mondavi.
The fantastic lineup of wines featured in the Charles Krug seminar I did with Riana Mondavi.

 

FNIC 2014

First Annual Petaluma PRO-AM Homemade Wine Competition

First Annual Petaluma PRO-AM Homemade Wine Competition will be held this Tuesday afternoon, September 30, 2014 under the auspices of “Sommelier to the Stars” Christopher Sawyer.

That evening Chris and several other noted wine experts will share their opinions with you – after you have tasted and scored the same wines. Compare your opinions with the experts!  Rare opportunity to taste Gold Medal Winning wines from the recent professional International Wine Channel TV Wine Competition by Gloria Ferrer, Kokomo Wines, St. Anne’s Crossing and Muscardini Cellars.

The Petaluma Museum Association and the Petaluma Chapter of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows invite you to a World Class tasting of Homemade Wines at:
Petaluma Historical Library & Museum
Tuesday September 30th at 6 PM.
20 4th Street, Downtown Petaluma
Limited to 72 Ticket Sales Total
Tickets $20 at the Museum Door

BUY ONLINE TICKETS HERE!

Summertime Sparklers

No longer limited to pricey French Champagne, it’s easy to pair summertime meals with sparkling wine. Learn more about light, delicious styles that have blossomed in Spain, Italy and the U.S.

Spain

Owned and operated by the Ferrer family in northern Spain, Freixenet boasts over 100 years of expertise in producing sparkling wine or cava as it’s called in Spanish. This commitment to quality has Freixenet-CordonNegro-Brut-210x210made Freixenet the #1 sparkling wine producer in the world. The benchmark wine from the family estate near Barcelona is the Freixenet Cordon Negro Brut ($14). Crisp, clean, and well balanced, the bubbles in the frosted black bottle are made with the rare grape varietals of Macabeo, Xarel-lo and Parellada to create an aromatic medium-bodied sparkler with bright fruity flavors of peach, apple, pear, fresh citrus, ginger and roasted almond. In the glass, it’s versatile and pairs well with most foods, especially small, spicy tapas plates. If you’re looking for a slightly sweeter taste, try the Freixenet Mia Moscato ($12). In Spanish, mia means “mine”. Crafted by Gloria Collell, the talented winemaker for the Ferrer family’s newer cava brand Segura Viudas, this young and sassy sparkler features a light golden hue, fragrant floral aroma, flavors of ripe tropical fruits, lime and a drizzle of raw honey. It’s perfect with fresh fruit or desserts made with custard, citrus, berries and light, flaky pastry crusts.

Italy

Known for its refreshing flavors, crisp acidity and tiny bubbles, Prosecco is made primarily with Glera, a native white grape widely grown on Italian hillsides and farmlands. Try the Voveti Prosecco ($19), a lovely wine with aromas of fresh citrus and spring flowers. Flavors expand with lively notes of ripe peach, apricot, tangerine and pear; serve with antipasti like prosciutto-wrapped melon, olives, toasted nuts and salumi or main dishes like Thai or Indian curry, shrimp kabobs and grilled chicken.

California

For those looking for a domestic alternative, try Gloria Ferrer NV Brut ($22) from Sonoma. Made with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes picked at the beginning of harvest, this sparkling gem features flavors GF-Sonoma-Brut1of Bartlett pears, Fuji apple, citrus, almonds, vanilla, and a pleasant roasty-toasty note on the finish. For pairings, enjoy it with Dungeness crab cakes, fresh oysters or sushi; aioli or other citrus-based sauces; and main courses with prawns, chicken, turkey or duck. Its counterpart is the Gloria Ferrer NV Blanc de Noirs ($22), a blend of 92 percent Pinot Noir and 8 percent Chardonnay featuring a nice balance of red cherry, raspberry, cranberry, hibiscus, earth and great acidity. With layers of power and depth, it’s an ideal complement to fresh grilled salmon, Ahi tuna, wild mushroom, risotto and richer cheeses.

FNIC 2014

Turning Water into Wine with Marc Mondavi

Like chefs, winemakers enjoy interesting hobbies away from work. Marc Mondavi’s started with a girl he dated in high school, whose father taught him how to find water underground with something called the divining rod.

Divining RodSimple and efficient, the divining rod is a set of sticks that cross due to the power of kinetic energy when water is sensed below the surface of the soil. Also called water divining, water witching or dowsing, the origins of the craft are as mysterious as the practice itself. Written records of divining can easily be traced back to 14th century Germany, but even earlier mentions have been found dating back to the 5th century B.C. But, when done correctly, it works!

Marc uses his skills to find underground water sources for other wineries and land developers in Napa Valley and other parts of Northern California. “My goal is to aim high, talk low,” he says.

In addition to overseeing the vineyards farmed for his family’s Charles Krug and CK Mondavi wine brands, Marc started his own brand a few years ago, appropriately named The Divining Rod.

The latest release is The Divining Rod 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley ($18). Made with 89% Cabernet Sauvignon and smaller amounts of Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Merlot, the wine features alluring aromas of ripe dark berries, earth, sandalwood, tobacco and spice. Flavors are generous with notes of blackberry, black cherry, plum, cola, wild sage, vanilla and cedar; silky texture; and a long, dry finish.

“Some call the divining rods voodoo science or hocus-pocus,” says Marc, who earned the nickname “Water Witch” from his friends. “I call them our way of making divine wines with character, quality and a true sense of earth and water below the surface that helps us produce healthy vines and grapes with unique qualities and flavors.”

dv bookClick the book on the left to read Marc Mondavi’s children’s book “The Witch, the Water & the Wine” and learn about Marc Mondavi growing up as a water witch in the Napa Valley!

For more information about the The Divining Rod wines, visit www.thediviningrod.com. These wines and other brands from Charles Krug portfolio will be featured in the Artisan Series at Food Network IN Concert.

FNIC 2014

 

Starting September’s California Wine Month with the glorious big bang explosion in Sonoma County

In all of our lives, there are those special turning points. Moments that you realize it’s time to move ahead and take advantage of the opportunities that are within your grasp. On a large scale, one of those momentous points happened last Sunday in Sonoma County when a mixture of 700 great personalities from the wine industry, star chefs, sommeliers and eager consumers, came together to raise $4 million dollars for charity at the Sonoma Harvest Wine Auction at Chateau St. Jean Winery in Kenwood.

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Selfie of the Week: Me and Winemaker Margo Van Staaveren of Chateau St. Jean at the#SWCW 2014 pre-auction festivities.

From the start of this year’s “Sonoma to Serengeti”-themed auction, Sonoma County vintners like Joe Anderson of Benovia Winery, Barbara Banke of Jackson Family Wines, the Gallo Family, the Zanin Family of Bennett Valley Cellars, the Hamel Family and the Klein Family of Rodney Strong Vineyards, played key roles by contributing and inspiring others to bid generously. But when the day’s total was still short of $4 Million after the last lot was sold, Anderson pledged an additional $50,000 and challenged others to dig a little deeper to hit the $4 Million mark. Vintners Matt Gallo and Tony LeBlanc of Silver Oak immediately accepted the challenge. The last $20,000 pledge came from Sonoma Valley Vintners and Growers Alliance Board Member Gary Buffo, and the goal was achieved. That’s vintner and community participation at its finest.

The annual event was the culmination of the action-packed Sonoma Wine Country Weekend (#SWCW), August 29-31. Under the focused leadership of SWCW Co-Executive Directors Honore Comfort (Sonoma County Vintners) and Maureen Cottingham (Sonoma Valley Vintners and Growers Alliance) and their Boards of Directors, gross proceeds are expected to be in excess of $5 Million for the entire Sonoma Wine Country Weekend once final tallies are calculated, which creates another new record for the event as earnings more than doubled over last year.

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Post-Taste of Sonoma cocktails at #Zigtown with @ZiggyTheWineGal and Sara Schneider of Sunset Magazine.
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Post -Taste of Sonoma fun at #Zigtown with fellow wine entertainer Leslie Sbracco (@lesliesbrocco) and Judy Davis of Davis Family Winery.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beyond the important money earned for the charities and great opportunities to taste magnificent food and wine pairings; another highlight of this year’s events was the participation of the SWCW Honorary Chairs: The Ferrer Family, of Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards, and the Klein Family, of Rodney Strong Vineyards, who were honored for their achievements in the wine industry and their contributions to the Sonoma County community as a whole.

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On Friday Night, Rocking out at Coppola Winery.

In hindsight, the road to success starts from the ground up. With winegrowers understanding that sustainable farming techniques and the maturity of vines really does make a difference. Talented winemakers honing their skills to work with grapes that are picked at the optimum point to preserve the natural acidity and not over-ripen the fruit. Young sommeliers finding tasty gems made with the pristine fruit from the diverse subregions of Sonoma County. And ultimately, the growing number of consumers and charitable contributors who have fallen in love with the fine wines, delicious cuisine, lovely landscape, unique outdoor adventures, and the true sense of place that Sonoma County offers on a yearly basis.

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#ClassicSonoma: Vintage bottle of the Laurel Glen 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon poured at Coppola at #SWCW on Friday Night.

As a veteran wine writer, sommelier, public speaker, and a person who was born, raised and matured in Sonoma County, it was a joy to see this all happen. For that reason, I was also honored to do my part to help the cause: From educating fellow writers from outside the area who visited Paradise Ridge and enjoyed the Media Dinner on the lovely new Terrace Patio at Rodney Strong Winery on Thursday night; mingle and enlighten curious consumers who attended the marvelous luncheon at Lynmar Estate in Russian River and the elegant gala event at Francis Ford Coppola Winery; introduce the guests who attended the Taste of Sonoma event at MacMurray Estate Vineyards on Saturday to the virtues of using fine stemware by Stolzle, one of the main sponsors and contributors to this SWCW festivities; and fulfilling my annual role as the head sommelier at the auction by serving magnificent wines to the Irwin-Allred group from Tulsa, who purchased the Head Table at last year’s event, as well as my great friends from TricorBraun Wine Pak (the main sponsor of the 2014 auction), Duckhorn Vineyards, Jean Arnold Sessions and other special guests who attended the memorable event on Sunday afternoon.

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Small, intimate #SWCW Thursday night dinner on the stunning new Terrace at Rodney Strong Winery to celebrate the 25 year anniversary of the Klein Family ownership winery and vineyards.
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Pinot anyone? Fantastic #SWCW luncheon at Lymar Estate in Russian River Valley. @Lynmar Estate @SonomaWCW.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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At the exciting #SWCW Taste of Sonoma Bubble Lounge with tasty treats from Gloria Ferrer. #bubbles @GloriaFerrer @FreixenetUSA #eatdrinkrock.

Like the big bang theory, a small explosion can have a huge impact on the future of life as we know it. For that reason, last weekend was just a glimpse at the potential of the SWCW for many years to come; an explosive launch to the 10th Annual California Wine Month in September; and a powerful reminder of the open-ended invitation for more people to explore the wine, food, and sense of community that makes Sonoma County so special.

For more information visit: Sonoma Wine Country Weekend, We Are Sonoma County, Sonoma Valley Wine, Sonoma Wine.

And for upcoming events happening during California Wine Month, visit Discover California Wines.

 

The debut of the Artisan Series at Food Network in Concert

As some of you may know, I embarked on an exciting new journey earlier this year when I co-created the wine-savvy Artisan Series which will debut at the Food Network in Concert event in Highland Park, 20 minutes from Chicago, on September 20th. The show will be held at the legendary Ravinia Festival venue, the oldest outdoor music grounds in the United States. Headliners will include John Maher, Phillip Phillips, Twin Forks, Raul Midon, and many other hot acts.

FNIC 2014

Of course, it wouldn’t be a Food Network Magazine event without some celebrity chefs there, too. For starters, we’re talking about television and magazine stars like Mark Murphy, Anne Burrell, Sunny Anderson, Alex Guarnaschelli, Jose Garces, Jeff Mauro and Geoffrey Zakarian. On top of that add 70 of the top chefs in the Chicago area, and you have a serious day of #eatdrinkrock festivities in the making.

As the exclusive Artisan Series Sommelier at FNIC, my job will be to provide delectable and educational wine experiences for guests visiting the Chefs Lounge and VIP Lounge, as well as at the wine seminars led by Master Sommelier Alpana Singh and myself, and other special activities happening at the event. This will all be done with the stunning Artisan Series wines provided by Freixenet USA, Foley Family Wines and Charles Krug Winery.

Yesterday, the inaugural copy of the exciting Food Network in Concert newsletter was launched. In it you’ll find my notes on the delicious bubbles from the Freixenet portfolio paired with five summer songs by musicians featured at this year’s event: Songs & Bubbles of Summer as well as their special Summertime Sparklers.

Rest assured, I’ll be using the newsletter and other marvelous tools of social media to promote this stunning wine program, tasty bites and recipes, interviews with star chefs, fellow sommeliers, winemakers and musicians on the SawyerSomm site leading up to event.

In the meantime, don’t forget to check out “The Music Issue” inside the July-August copy of Food Network Magazine, which features fun pairings of chefs like Ina Garten, Michael Symon, Mauro and Zackarian, talking food with musicians Taylor Swift, Billy Corgan, Ja Rule and Sammy Hagar. In short, it’s a summer of fun, and a summer to #eatdrinkrock!

For tickets, visit www.foodnetwork.com/inconcert

Pairing sparkling wine with the ultimate Ice Cream Flag Cake

Cake 4th July photo 1The minute I first saw it, I knew it was only a matter of time until someone I knew would make it happen over #4thofJuly Weekend. Of course, I’m talking about making the ultimate Ice Cream Flag Cake featured in the July/August issue of Food Network Magazine. Imagine a dazzling red, white and blue cake made with raspberry sorbet, vanilla ice cream, 28 drops of blue gel food coloring, unsweetened cocoa powder, confectioner’s sugar, and plenty of other goodies. It’s a recipe for a holiday cake that makes you want to cut it out and eat it.

So it wasn’t a surprise that my great friend Ilene Rapkin, President of I Openers in NYC, and her family completed the honorable task of making this magnificent culinary gem during their 4th of July Weekend activities in upstate New York.

So when Ilene sent me photos of the cake, she asked me what I would recommend for a wine pairing. My first instinct was to break open a bottle of the Gloria Ferrer NV Va de Vi Sparkling Wine, Sonoma County.

SawyerSomm notes: As a departure from the magnificently dry styles of elegant sparkling wines made at Gloria Ferrer Caves and Vineyards near Sonoma, California since 1982; the Va de Vi is young, perky style of bubbly with a hint of sweetness on the finish. Composed of 89% Pinot Noir, 8% Chardonnay and 3% Muscat, the wine features lively flavors of Bing cherries, fresh berries, Meyer lemon, vanilla and creamy texture. In essence, it’s a melting pot of deliciousness.

July 4th photo 2BIn addition to pairing extremely well with the ingredients used in the Ice Cream Flag Cake and more semi-sweet desserts; this sparkling gem can also easy be served as a fresh aperitif or as a compliment to spicy Indian or Thai cuisine.

Later this month, Va di Vi will be one of the featured sparkling wines paired with flavorful domestic interpretations of Spanish tapas at the 22nd Annual Catalan Festival at Gloria Ferrer Caves and Vineyards, July 19-20. For more information, visit www.GloriaFerrer.com

This fall, the Va de Vi and other sensational sparklers and still wines from Gloria Ferrer will also be featured at the Food Network in Concert at the Ravinia theater in Highland Park near Chicago on September 20th, including at the spicy “Hot, Hot, Hot” luncheon hosted by star chefs and wine seminars hosted by yours truly before the headliner John Maher takes the stage in the evening. In short, the Va de Vi is a fun and stimulating sparkling wine that’s definitely worth getting to know in 2014!

Cheers, Christopher

American Tradition Part 4: Barbeque and wine four ways for the Fourth

SawyerSomm Savory Suggestion: Lamb Sliders with Syrah

As an alternative to hamburgers, one of my favorite options is to make Lamb Sliders topped with melted Vermont white cheddar, spicy aioli, arugula and grilled peppers served on a sweet baguette. But if you don’t have enough time to gather all these ingredients, I love the tasty style that Chef Giada de Laurentiis, star of Food Network’s Giada at Home, made on the episode Backyard Campout.

As a rule, lamb works extremely well with Syrah. Granted, there are plenty of young, vibrant styles of wine out in the marketplace. But for a celebration holiday like July 4th, it’s a good excuse to break open one of the a more limited release, reserve-style bottles of Syrah modeled after the famous wines made in the northern Rhone Valley region of France. A magnificent domestic version is the Chalk Hill 2009 Syrah, Estate Grown, Chalk Hill ($60). Made with fruit grown on the cooler-climate western side of the Estate Vineyard east of Windsor, the wine features inviting aromas of dark fruit, black olives, smoked meats, layers of spice and cedar. The flavors are deep and rich, with notes of ripe blackberry, red currant, roasted fig, black pepper, sea salt, dark chocolate, and a long, rewarding finish. Rich, focused, and oh so rewarding!

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!