Category Archives: People

In Memorium: the Reynolds-Fisher Power Duo

The year 2016 ended with the unexpected loss of two women, a mother and daughter, that shocked us all.  As a film lover I have to acknowledge this and want to refer you to an upcoming documentary on HBO this coming Saturday January 7th at 8pm.  Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds was filmed in 2015 and set for release this summer but the demand is now.  We all need one more fix of these amazing ladies!

Read this article by SF Chronicle television reviewer David Wiegand for more insight about the film:
Debbie Reynolds, Carrie Fisher and a mother-daughter bond

Remembering Greg Walter: 1958 – 2016

Photo thanks to Gerald Weisl.
Photo thanks to Gerald Weisl.

It is with sadness that the wine industry says goodbye to a good man: My friend Greg Walter passed away September 2 from cancer. He had such an impact on this challenging industry as owner of The Pinot Report, former editor of the Wine Spectator and writer for the Sonoma Sun.

 

If you wish to join friends at his memorial please RSVP at this site.

You can catch a glimpse of him in this video about Gloria Ferrer.
Cheers to Greg, he will be dearly missed by many people!

A special bottle for a stellar occasion!

The Rehoboam! (photo thanks to Karen Hess)
The Rehoboam! (photo thanks to Karen Hess)

I have been saving this!  It was given to me by a wine colleague and waiting for just the right moment.  That moment came this weekend at Flying Cloud Farm for my brother Ethan’s nuptials and celebration.  It was an amazing event with lots of wine (of course) and the ritual Nigerian style sharing of the Kola Nut in honor of my new sister-in-law Amaka’s family heritage.  So when the time to toast the newly betrothed couple came I whipped out the Rehoboam of delectable Gloria Ferrer Brut and proceeded to fill almost every glass at the reception!

Congratulations to Ethan & Amaka!
Here’s to many happy years together.  With wine.  XO from yer bro.

Just married: Amaka & Ethan!!!!
Just married: Amaka & Ethan! (photo thanks to Cody Kirkhart)

Jean Arnold Sessions new Exec Director of SVVGA

A hearty congratulations to my friend Jean and the Sonoma Valley Vintners & Growers Association for making their relationship formal!

My fun photo of Jean Arnold Sessions with Alexandra O'Gorman of Ramey Wines and Summer Kostik Jeffus of Deutsch Family Wine & Spirits at the Sonoma County Barrel Auction in April.
My fun photo of Jean Arnold Sessions (center) with Alexandra O’Gorman of Ramey Wines and Summer Kostik Jeffus of Deutsch Family Wine & Spirits at the Sonoma County Barrel Auction in April.

“It has been a long-held dream of mine to be a leading voice for our wine community. The vintners of Sonoma County have many stories to tell. These stories bring to life the challenges of working with such diversity of land, dedication to sustainable grape growing for the highest quality of winemaking, while working together to care and support our agriculture and our community. This is an exciting time to be part of the Sonoma County Vintners.” — Jean Arnold Sessions.

You can read details about their joint venture HERE!

Podcast featuring Sawyer Somm!

In the mix of organizing wine seminars, shipments and special guests for the Telluride Wine Festival, I also made time to record this podcast interview with Susan Viebock at Telluride Inside & Out.  Keep an eye on my social media for interesting wines, guests and activities this week at the festival!

For more about TWF and the Somm go to
Somm Of It All, Christopher Sawyer!

(Much gratitude to Adolfo & Daedalus for their technical assistance!)

Father’s Day Tribute to special people in the Wine Industry

Seeing as how Father’s Day represents the last day of spring and the initiation into summer this year, I thought it would be fun to run a smaller version of an article I wrote for Napa Sonoma Magazine that focused on power duos in the wine industry.  I was reminded about this cool set of articles when I was enjoying a magnificent dinner with Joel Peterson this past Saturday night commemorating the 40-year anniversary of Ravenswood Winery and when I attended the special rwood-fam Auction Napa Valley dinner at Grgich Hills Winery to celebrate the 40-year anniversary of the Paris Tasting and the fabulous wines Mike Grgich has made after he crafted the famous Chateau Montelena 1973 Chardonnay.  I can’t wait to spend another fun Father’s Day with my wife and our boy Rupert, who happens to turn 7 on Monday (a.k.a. Summer Solstice)!  In the meantime, Happy Father’s Day 2016 to all the great followers of SawyerSomm!

As a side note: Make sure to follow me on FB, Instagram, and Twitter for all the cool seminars and events I’ll be leading at the Telluride Wine Festival beginning June 23! -CS

Joel Peterson and Morgan Twain Peterson
From the moment he started Ravenswood Winery in Sonoma County in 1976, Joel Peterson has spent the last four decades educating wine consumers, connoisseurs, retailers and sommeliers about the virtues ravenswood40of making flavorful wines with Zinfandel, California’s official “sweetheart grape.” So it makes sense that when Joel’s son Morgan Twain Peterson was born in 1983, wine was already part of his DNA.  Inspired by early visits to the vineyards and winery with his father; Morgan made his first barrel of wine with fruit he procured from local farmer Angelo Sangiacomo at the age of three in 1986. After making multiple vintages of the Vino Bambino Pinot Noir through 2001, Morgan further honed his skills by working as a wine buyer in New York while completing undergraduate studies at Vassar and graduate school at Columbia University.  During this period, he also got to work with star sommeliers at top restaurants, including Craft, Gramercy Tavern, Aureole and Mesa Grill, who also added some of the remaining bottles of the Vino Bambino to their wine lists.  Upon returning home from finishing winemaking internships in New Zealand and France, Morgan started Bedrock Wine Co in Sonoma Valley in 2007, a boutique wine brand focused on working with old vine Zinfandel, Syrah, and other unique grape varieties.  In hindsight, Joel says Morgan’s childhood traits still remain. “He’s very similar to the same kid he was when he was five years old. Back then he liked to explore and had a special sense of determination and a little stubbornness that have ultimately paid off in the complex flavors in the wines he makes.”

Open Daily. Ravenswood Winery 18701 Gehricke Road, Sonoma, (888) 669.4679, www.RavenswoodWinery.com  /  Bedrock Wine Co. is not open for visits. (707) 343.1478, www.BedrockWineCo.com.

Michelle Whetstone and Jamey Whetstone
The son of a southern Baptist preacher, Jamey Whetstone moved to Napa Valley in 1996 with the intent of mastering food and wine skills so he could use to start a restaurant in Charleston, North Carolina. But his plan changed when he began working with fine wines and wstonefamserving high profile people in the wine industry at Mustard’s in Yountville. One of his mentors was Larry Turley, who hired him away from Mustard’s to work at Turley Wine Cellars in 1998. While polishing his skills by working with gifted winemaker Ehren Jordan at the winery and a season spent at Domaine Dujac in Burgundy; he started his own Whetstone brand in 2002.  When he met his future wife Michelle, a Napa native, he left Turley in 2005 to launch a new phase of his career as a wine consultant. While Jamey made the delicious Chardonnays, Pinot Noirs and Syrahs for Whetstone and their second label called Manifesto, Michelle spent the next few years searched for a building to sell the wines retail. At the same time, both were doing parental duties to raise their four fabulous kids. In the end, what she found was the magnificent 19th Century, French-style Chateau on Atlas Peak Road designed by famous Napa Valley architect Hamden W. McIntyre, which far exceeded their greatest expectations. “For me, I just feel fortunate that I’ve been with very gracious people who have really given Michelle and I a toe-hold to establish a special winery here in the valley, but also inspired us to fantasize about retiring in our early 90s,” says Jamey, with a grin.

Open Daily. Whetstone Wine Cellars 1075 Atlas Peak Road, Napa, (707) 254.0600, www.WhetstoneWineCellars.com.

Mike Grgich and Violet Grgich
If music makes the world go around, then Miljenko “Mike” and Violet Grgich of Grgich Hills Estate have done their best to keep the spirit alive.
grgchfamAfter Violet was born in 1965, Mike spent the next decade crafting some of America’s most legendary wines, including the Robert Mondavi 1969 Cabernet Sauvignon, which won the top award at the San Diego Tasting, and the Chateau Montelena 1973 Chardonnay which won over the highly-touted French wines at the Paris Tasting in 1976.
“He was always humble about his accomplishments and I didn’t really have any idea that he was such a famous winemaker,” says Violet, in retrospect. “To me, he loved what he did and he tried to pass these traits on to me as well.”
It was also during this period that Violet developed an appreciation for music. Mike brought this family tradition with him when he emigrated from Croatia in 1958. As the years passed, she learned to play the piano, accordion, flute, and specialized in the harpsichord while attending college at University of California Davis and receiving her Master of Music degree at Indiana University.
“Music was always part of our house,” says Violet, who is now the Vice President of Operations and Sales at the winery. “Most Croatians will sing at the drop of a hat in harmony. So I’ve always loved music.”

Open Daily. Grgich Hills Estate 1829 St. Helena Highway, St. Helena, (707) 963.2784, www.Grgich.com.

Andy Katz and Jesse Katz
When you consider that they have visited over seventy countries together, it’s hard to dispute that professional photographer Andy Katz and his son, winemaker Jesse Katz, are great travel partners.
“He’s with me whenever I can grab him,” says Andy, who began his career as a photographer of wineries and vineyards when he worked with Robert Mondavi, Domaine Chandon, Iron Horse and Jordan wineries in the 1980s and 1990s.
The colorful photos from many of these adventures over the past katzduothree decades can be seen in glossy table books, museums and galleries, including Andy’s personal studio on Healdsburg Plaza.
On a personal level, one of the most notable journeys was the duo’s trip to France for “The Heart of Burgundy” project, a coffee table book Andy did with Robert Parker. During their stay at Domaine Leflaive, Jesse developed a deeper understanding of the unique qualities of the French landscape, vineyards, varietals, and finished wines. The impact of the trip carried on to college, where Jesse decided to change from studying business at University of California, Santa Barbara, in order to transfer to Fresno State University, where he received his degree in Viticulture and Enology.
After developing his winemaking skills in Argentina, Patagonia, Santa Barbara County and Screaming Eagle in Napa Valley; Jesse became one of the youngest head winemakers when he was hired at Lancaster Winery in Alexander Valley at the ripe age of 25 years old.
On the side, the Katz family makes two distinctive wines in Sonoma County. The first is a decadent Malbec called Devil Proof. The second is a complex single vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon called Aperture. “Like the tiny details in dad’s photos, we put our heart and soul into each wine we make,” says Jesse.

Open by appointment. Andy Katz Photography 322 Healdsburg Avenue, Healdsburg, (707) 280.5555, www.AndyKatzPhotography.com.  /  www.DevilProofVineyards.com.

Images from Bottle Rock 2016!

Wine, food and MUSIC!!!! That is what Bottle Rock Napa is all about, so starting the vibe with an epic stage shot of Red Hot Chili Peppers. Now let’s ease into a collection from the entire weekend!

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Inhaling the wonders of ‪DJBoom‬ (aka ‪Stevie Wonder‬) and his respect for the great musicians who passed in 2016. Check out a video of him on Facebook at Christopher Sawyer Sommelier!
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Celebrating "The Catch" (aka a magnificent Salmon dish) prepared by star Chef Michael Mina and guest sous chef, 49ers legend Dwight Clark!
Celebrating “The Catch” (aka a magnificent Salmon dish) prepared by star Chef Michael Mina and guest sous chef, 49ers legend Dwight Clark!

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Enjoy the first sip of what would become an epic performance by Florence and the Machine at the JaM Cellars Stage!
Enjoy the first sip of what would become an epic performance by Florence and the Machine at the JaM Cellars Stage!
Selfie with Superstar Chef Mei Lin.
Selfie with Superstar Chef Mei Lin.
Discussing the beauties of Bottle Rock Napa and great charitable works done by singer Michael Franti & Co!
Discussing the beauties of Bottle Rock Napa and great charitable works done by singer Michael Franti & Co!

 

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FLLLLLLEA! Flea and Red Hot Chili Peppers rock out with the colors out on closing night of Bottle Rock Napa Valley 2016!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

See you there next year!

Cheers,
Christopher

My Wine Seminars at the Telluride Wine Festival, June 23-25!

Telluride Wine Seminars are coming together and you are invited to partake in the mountain adventure! Join me and other educated panelists to learn more about:

  • The Saveur Pass Luncheon & Sparkling Wines
  • Mountain-to-Mountain: High Elevation Wines
  • Que Syrah Shiraz with winemaker Ehren Jordan of Failla and Aril Wines
  • Extraordinary Tuscan Experience with Banfi Wines
  • The Tales of Two Valleys: Interview and Tasting with Jeff Boyer of Ramey Wines
  • Napa Valley, Living on the Edge of Reality: Exploring the Flavor Profiles of Coastal Pinot Noirs
  • Taste Elite Wines at the Reserve Tasting & Grand Tasting
  • And more . . .

Go to Telluride Wine Festival for ticketing info!

To get your wines involved either in a seminar or the Grand Tasting, or any questions, send me an email:  wine@sawyersomm.com