Forgive my negligence for not sharing this sooner: Congrats to all the winners & a hearty THANK YOU to The Bohemian, and all that voted for Christopher Sawyer as Best Sommelier in Sonoma County again this year!
Happy New Year! Here is a list of sparkling wines to consider as your celebrations continue throughout 2022, derived from my radio chat with Kim McCallister on KGO 810 AM a few weeks back. CHEERS! Christopher
KGO Exclusive: SawyerSomm’s Sophisticated Sparkling Wine Picks for the New Year, Valentine’s Day & beyond!
The classic style of sparkling wines crafted with Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes, using the traditional methode champenoise techniques in the cellar.
SawyerSomm Picks (local):
- Flaunt 2017 Brut, Russian River Valley $48
- J Vineyard 2014 Brut, Russian River Valley – $60
- Iron Horse 2017 Winters Cuvee, Green Valley of Russian River Valley – $70
- Roederer Estate 2004 L’Ermitage Brut LD, Anderson Valley – $120
SawyerSomm Picks (imports):
- Claypool Cellars NV Cuvee Select Brut, Cormoyeux (France) – $55
- Billecart-Salmon 2008 Vintage Brut, Champagne – $90
- AR Lenoble 2008 Grand Cru Brut, Champagne – $110
- Paul Bara 2008 Marie France Comtesse Brut – $150
- Veuve Clicquot 2008 La Grande Dame Brut, Champagne – $190
Pairings Tips: Raw oysters; chips with creamy dips; brie and young cheeses; gourmet soups and salads; fresh seafood, sushi; spicy pasta dishes; chicken, pork, and stews. Delicious way to create smiles and open up the palates at great gatherings.
BLANC DE BLANCS
In French, the fanciful term blanc de blancs literally means ‘white of whites’. In France’s famous region of Champagne and top winegrowing regions in Northern California, it refers to sophisticated sparkling wines that are made exclusively with high-quality Chardonnay grapes.
SawyerSomm Picks (local & imports):
- Idle Hour NV Blanc de Blancs, Clements Hills – $38
- Frank Family Vineyards 2015 Blanc de Blancs, Carneros – $55
- Michel Turgy NV Les Mesnil Reserve Brut Blanc de Blancs, Champagne, France – $60
- Ruinart NV Blanc de Blancs, Champagne, France – $90
Pairings Tips: Oyster with shallot-bases mignonette; rich, earthy cheeses; appetizers with tangy aioli; creamy soups or seasonal bisques; fresh Dungeness crab; pasta dishes with wild mushrooms; grilled fish; roasted chicken; pork stew; grilled meats.
As the flavorful counterpoint to blanc de blancs. The French term blanc de noirs means ‘white of blacks’, referring to elegant sparkling wines with translucent white or slightly pink hues made exclusively with the black-skinned grapes Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. These special grape varieties are also used to craft styles of Brut Roses.
SawyerSomm Picks (local & imports):
- Paula Kornell 2018 Blanc de Noirs, Napa Valley – $50
- Domaine Carneros 2018 Brut Rose, Cuvee de la Pompadour, Carneros – $45
- Patz & Hall 2015 Brut Rose, North Coast – $75
- Laurent-Perrier NV Cuvee Brut Rose, Champagne, France $75
MERLOT: Tracking its renaissance in Napa Valley
Over the past 50 years, it’s hard to imagine where the wine mecca of Napa Valley would be if not for Merlot’s early success, the noble red grape variety that burst on the scene in the late 1970s. Especially when one considers the series of phenomenal accomplishments that this amiable grape made as the leading wine purchased by American wine consumers, retailers, and sommeliers in the 1980s and 1990s.
In the beginning, Merlot was mainly used as a blending grape in the famous wine-growing region of Bordeaux in France before it arrived in the New World. But that started to change after classic Napa Valley brands like Louis M. Martini, Newton, Sterling, and Trefethen slowly worked with the grape after World War II, and Duckhorn Vineyards became the first winery to bottle the variety on its own in the late 1970s.
When the inaugural Duckhorn releases hit the market in 1978, the Merlot was priced at $10.50 and the Cabernet Sauvignon at $10.00. According to veteran winemaker Tom Rinaldi, who crafted the spirited Duckhorn wines for the first three decades, the price differ- ence reflected not only the great potential of Merlot in the marketplace but also the challenges that go along with finding the best sites to plant a grape that performs best in more moderate climate areas. . .
With a nod to National Rosé Day on June 12th, read my varietal article from the April 2021 issue of Napa Valley Life! Here is a starter to lure you in, finish it up by following the READ MORE link to their site. . . Cheers! Christopher
“Pink sunshine” and “freshness in a glass” are catchy phrases Robert Sinskey winemaker Jeff Virnig uses to describe the winery’s latest release of the 2020 Vin Gris of Pinot Noir, a complex pink wine with bright, fruity flavors, crisp acidity, and long dry finish. With a brilliant pale salmon hue, this signature style has become the benchmark for where classy pink wines have come over the past thirty years and one of the many reasons wine lovers flock to Napa Valley in the springtime to get their hands on these energetic young wines before they sell out.
The road to rosé’s popularity in Napa Valley did not happen overnight.
When Virnig started making rosé in1991, his goal was to create a fun, quaffable, food-friendly wine that added instant excitement to gatherings any time it was served. But at the time, the impression pink wines were making on American consumers was swayed by the sugary imports like Mateus and Lancers, which flooded the marketplace in the late 1960s. When Sutter Home Family Vineyards winemaker Bob Trinchero released their White Zinfandel in 1975, people went crazy for it, but it was still snubbed by serious wine drinkers.
As a result, the first few vintages of the Robert Sinskey Vin Gris were sold to wine buyers and sommeliers in New York City, who catered to world travelers that were already familiar with the drier styles of rosé produced in France, Italy, Spain and German. As the years passed, this learning curve gave Virnig and other adventurous winemakers of Napa Valley time to develop special techniques now being used to create various expressions of rosé wines.
On April 13th of this year, my father-in-law, Gerald Haslam’s pen came to final rest. Over a fifty-year career, he wrote deeply authentic stories depicting California’s Central Valley, its diversity of people, places, and rural culture. He excelled at yarns from his South Valley Okie and oil patch upbringing. LISTEN HERE to “Down on the Farm” host Tom Willey and Tulare County agrarian advocate Trudy Wischemann celebrate the life and times, most certainly the words of a singular Valley author.
The idyllic Dollarhide Vineyard at St. Supéry Estate is a perfect view to lead into warmer weather, home to their stunning Sauvignon Blanc: It is one of many white wines discussed in this article written recently by Katie Sweeney, where she follows my lead on many recommendations. To share a selfie quote “Dry white wines stand out because they pair so well with such a wide range of fine culinary cuisine, as well as comfort foods.”
READ MORE at this link to 24 Dry White Wines to Try When You Don’t Want Just Another Pinot Grigio, published in The Editorialist. You will thank us this summer! Cheers, Chris
Clockwise: Goosecross crushing Sauvignon Blanc; Tasting at Cuvaison; Chenin Blanc from Lang & Reed; Greetings from Smith Devereux!
Back in November 2020, my Cabernet Sauvignon varietal article appeared in Napa Valley Life. Here is a starter to lure you in, finish it up by following the READ MORE link to their site. . . Cheers! Christopher
A Perfect Match
The Napa Valley has been cultivating grapes since the 1700s, but Cabernet Sauvignon was not introduced to the area until the late 1800s around the time when industry icon, Charles Krug opened the first commercial winery. A decade or so later, Beringer and Inglenook followed suit.
At the time, America was captivated with Bordeaux wines, and in 1889, Inglenook gained worldwide notoriety with their Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon grown in Rutherford, which won the Gold Medal at the prestigious Paris World Fair. This accolade ultimately drove attention to the Napa Valley and set the stage for the region’s potential to produce premier Bordeaux-style wines.
Celebrating its 120th anniversary in 2020, the Rutherford- based Beaulieu Vineyard has become a benchmark of Napa Valley style: An iconic winery responsible for the success of world-class wines made with Cabernet Sauvignon grapes planted before prohibition and after the modern boom of large- scale plantings, which began when Robert Mondavi opened his winery in Oakville in 1966 . . .
Perfect timing with many places reopened to outdoor dining, or continuing with take-out & delivery. Whatever suits your preference this Sonoma County Restaurant Week 2021, which starts February 19, keeps going until February 28th! You have plenty of time so get some good #SOCO eats and support a local biz!
While not on the list this year, just a few examples to help whet the palate (all from delicious menus at Gravenstein Grill)!
“Turning the Tables – Interviewing the Interviewers” is a Q&A series profiling Wine Writers from The Wine Industry Advisor. The objective of this project is to understand and develop working relationships with journalists: Those that help tell the stories, review wines and potentially provide media coverage.
On Jan 12, it was MY TURN to be the subject of their inquiry. Read the interview HERE! This is part of an ongoing series that will be featured monthly by Wine Industry Network. Cheers! Christopher