Category Archives: People

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,  /  Bedrock Wine Co. is not open for visits. (707) 343.1478,

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,

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,

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,  /

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!








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!

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!








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!



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!


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 Radio! Tune in to Talk910 for Somm Talk today. . .March 19th

JRNew.phpJoel Riddell talks Flavor! Napa Valley starting today at 1:15, you can listen via the Dining Around link or on the airwaves at Talk910.  Listen for his interviews with winemakers, chefs and, at 2pm, myself and Master Sommelier Gillian Balance!  Gillian is on the panel for High Elevation Wines Part 1 and The Rhone Zone wine classes:  Listen, learn and join one of our classes!

Cheers! Christopher

Exploring the beauties of aphrodisiac cuisine all year long

Feeling blue because Valentine’s week is over? Well no worries! For every day can have a romantic twist if you master the skills of working with aphrodisiac cuisine or simply surprise your loved one with meals that follow this romantic theme.

The root of the word “aphrodisiac” is from the Greek goddess Aphrodite, an expert in the fields of sensuality and love. In contemporary times, an aphrodisiac can provide an internal stimulus based on sensory experiences.

For starters, many of these specialty ingredients are things we eat (or want to eat) on a daily basis, including : oysters, garlic, sweet basil, fennel, hearts of palm, radish, carrot, blood orange, pineapple, sweet potato, artichoke, olive, pine nuts, wild mushrooms, truffle, coffee, cocoa, and chocolate.

the callingFor wine lovers, there is always the health-conscious aspect to consider. Wines made with pinot noir and other red grapes naturally contain resveratrol, an antioxidant that helps boost blood flow and improves circulation before and during physical intimacy:  So that’s a positive on many different angles!

Like other forms of classy cuisine, aphrodisiac-style dishes can be even more elegant, sophisticated and complex when the dishes are matched up with superb wines.

With these factors in mind, a few weeks ago my colleague Ziggy the Wine Gal gathered together a great group of food and wine pros to taste through flavorful dishes with distinctive attributes designed by gifted chef Daniel Kedan of Backyard restaurant in Forestville, CA. Other special guests who joined in this special tasting including myself were wine writer Virginie Boone, wine and spirits pro Tim McDonald, and chef and author Michele Anna Jordan.

bourbanIn addition to a specialty sangria and Redemption High Rye Bourbon served at the beginning and the end of this provocative culinary experience, the main courses were paired with the new releases of The Calling, a high-quality brand started by Emmy Award-winning sportscaster Jim Nancy and Peter Deutsch of Deutsch Family Wines.

Here are the pairings, notes and special ingredients used in this sexy dining experience:

Aphrodisiac Inspiration & Deutsch Family Wine

Passed Appetizers
Citrus & Ceviche
Bodega Bay Rock Cod, Winter Citrus, Beet Chips
Sips: Eppa Superfruita Organic Red Sangria
Notes: This lively and expressive fruit-driven sangria helped open up the palate with perky sensations of fresh berries and pomegranate, which complemented the tangy and slightly salty flavors of the fresh seafood and citrus. Taste-tempting, crisp, fruity, and refreshing!

First Course
Point Reyes Oysters with Blood Orange Granita, Lemon Cream Lobster Bisque with Butter Poached Lobster, Chives
Sips: The Calling 2013 Dutton Ranch Vineyards Chardonnay, Russian River Valley ($32)
Notes: This power duo of raw oysters and lobster bisque matched perfectly with the attractive aromas, bright acidity, creamy texture and engaging flavors of melon, citrus and roasted nuts this wine offers in each sip.

Second Course
Roasted Maitake Mushroom
Sour Cherry & Fennel Pan Perdue, Poached Cherries
Sips: The Calling 2013 Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley
Notes: When done right, the pairing of exotic mushrooms and Pinot Noir can be a match made in heaven. This course was no exception. Made with fruit from selected vineyards in the Russian River Valley, the combination of wild berries, ripe cherry, dried cranberries, earth, smooth tannins, and long engaging finish helped bring out the deep flavors in this magnificent combination of cherries and mushroom that shined in this dish.

Third Course
The Calling Cabernet Sauvignon
Cocoa & Cayenne Crusted Ribeye
Wild Arugula, Pickled Pearl Onions, King Trumpet Mushrooms
Sips: The Calling 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley ($37)
Notes: One of the trademarks of a fine cabernet Sauvignon from Alexander Valley is the combination of deep flavors and smooth tannins. On top of these classic characteristics, this new release was layered with notes of espresso beans, briary blackberry, ripe plum, blueberry, chocolate nibs, and roasted black walnuts. Our group felt this special profile worked wonders with the deep flavors and spicy tones that resonate in the Ribeye steak from the 5 Dot Ranch, the sautéed mushrooms, and even the slight bitterness of the arugula.

Fourth Course
“Cupid’s Arrow” Redemption High Rye Bourbon Profiteroles Candy Cap Ice Cream, Salted Caramel
Sips: “Cupid’s Arrow” Redemption High Rye Bourbon
Notes: Who says cocktails always have to be served at the beginning of the meal? Ziggy’s special cocktail helped reinvigorated the palate at the end of a long enjoyable luncheon. And the delectable combination of bourbon, fresh egg whites, simple syrup, ginger, citrus, and a touch of bitterness on the finish helped bring out the sweet and salty flavors in the dessert. Sexy and ohhhh so stimulating! For a recipe for this cocktail, visit

30 Wineries at the SRJC Wine Classic, Sunday Feb 21st

While I trek south to judge for the Toast of the Coast, you can enjoy this local event Sunday Feb 21st, from 2:00 pm to 5:00 pm at Lawrence A. Bertolini Student Center on the Santa Rosa campus. The SRJC Wine Classic is an afternoon celebrating Honorary Co-Chairs, Chef John Ash and Gaye LeBaron. Both are prolific contributors to the history of Sonoma County food and wine and long-time supporters of Santa Rosa Junior College.

The walk-around tasting reception with 30 Sonoma County wineries pouring over 50 wines, and featuring live music, gourmet appetizer buffet, and a souvenir glass for each attendee. All proceeds will fund SRJC Wine, Culinary Arts & Hospitality programs and student scholarships. Tickets are $75 per person for adults age 21 or over and can be purchased at