Category Archives: Sports

Positive vibes from the Super Bowl and Miami Food & Wine Culture

Although it’s hard to believe: When Super Bowl LIV at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami came to an end, everyone came out a winner. In the case of the Kansas City Chiefs, their dramatic 31-20 victory over the San Francisco 49ers marked the team’s first Super Bowl win in 50 years. And, despite the disappointing loss to wine country locals, the game also capped off an amazing season for the 49ers: a young, talented team which made the miraculous transformation from a 4-12 record in 2018 to a 13-3 mark this past year, coupled with two convincing wins in the playoffs, which earned them the opportunity to compete for the coveted Vince Lombardi trophy on the 100-year anniversary of the NFL.

Beyond the players, the other big winners were the 49er Faithful, as well fans from the Chief’s Kingdom, and the over 6,000 members of the media attending the game on February 2, who also had special opportunities to explore the fabulous food and wine culture that has blossomed in the greater Miami area since the Niners won their last Super Bowl at Hard Rock Stadium in 1995.

I am happy to say, I have been following the delicious wave of new culinary delights since I began judging the American Fine Wine Competition, which takes place every January at the Chaplin Center for Hospitality, on the campus of Florida International University in North Miami. To make this year more special, I got a taste of what 49er and Chiefs fans could expect with my fellow wine pals Charlie Arturola, Jacqueline Coleman, Peg San Felippo, Roberto Columbia, Wendy Rosano, Stu Nudelman, Henry Escobar and other judges attending the AFWC’s 13th Annual One Thousand Bottles: Sipping Through America, a special gathering held at the Chaplin Center on the FIU campus exactly two weeks before the kick-off of Super Bowl LIV.

In a nutshell: this fabulous event gives consumers, sommeliers, retailers, wine pros, and members of the media a rare opportunity to taste the top wines we judged earlier in the day, while sampling exquisite delicacies prepared by South Florida’s best restaurants and food purveyors, as well as newly released wines being poured by special guests from West Coast wineries. As an extra touch of class, proceeds from the get-together are donated to charity. And since 2007, AFWC has raised more than $1,000,000 for these local charities, including the Miami Dolphinsadmirable collaboration with the Tackle Cancer organization.

Standout bites at this year’s event included: a stunning array of fresh seafood delights from Krudo; a lobster sandwich on top of a purple Peruvian potato from The Blue at the Boca Resort; juicy, tender and smoky morsels from Nature’s Cut Organic & Grass Feed Beef, which raised in Uruguay and imported to Miami; and a very Pinot-friendly mushroom crudité from star Chef Stefano LaCava, who prepared the fantastic judges dinner the night before.

These and more tasty offerings provided by Cvltvra Restaurant, Ortanique, The Crepe Maker, Cooper’s Hawk, Nature’s Cut, Gatsby’s Joint, A Flair For Fudge and El Brazo Fuerte Bakery were also paired with delicious wines poured by our friends from DAOU Family Estates, Trujillo Wines, Hagafen Cellars, Kestrel Vintners, Staura Cellars, A. Torano Family Vineyards, Yount Ridge, Shadowbox Cellars and Bricoleur Vineyards during the event.

As the fun continued, I was able to savor more fine wines with Napa Valley vintners Chris and Shannon Hyde of Hyde Estate, Mike Henry from Acre Wine, FIU-grad Stephanie Honig of Honig Vineyards and Winery, as well as my other great pals Ali Nemo and Andy Du Vigneaud of Bee Hunter Wines of Anderson Valley. All this, while watching the 49ers punch their way to Super Bowl LIV with their convincing NFC Championship victory over the Green Bay Packers, which was broadcast on monitors in the Chaplin Center.

The following day, we judged the final rounds of the competition, which culminated with the sweepstakes round that matched the Best of Class wines in a head-to-head showdown in each category. Here are the big winners at the AFWC 2020:

  • Sparkling Wine: Mumm Napa NV Brut Prestige, Napa Valley
  • White Wine: Castello di Amarosa 2018 Gewurztraminer, Anderson Valley
  • Red Wine: Papapietro Perry 2016 Pinot Noir, Pommard Clone, Russian River Valley
  • Sweet Wine: Ferrante 2017 Vidal Blanc Ice Wine, Grand River Valley, OH

The full details on all the Double Gold, Gold and Silver medal winners will be listed on the American Fine Wine Competition website soon.  Coming soon, look for my story about two special restaurants I visited during my visit to Miami in mid-January!

Celebrating Sonoma County wines at Super Bowl City!

Smiles everyone smiles, welcome to ‪Super Bowl 50‬! Great fun stopping by the ‪Taste of Sonoma‬ Lounge in ‪Super Bowl City‬ in SF this weekend. Even better seeing enthusiastic football fans from across the nation lovin’ the wines from ‪Sonoma County‬!

Make sure to visit Ferry Building Wine Merchant & Wine Bar, Hogsland Oyster Co, Cowgirl Creamery Cheese Shop, Slanted Door, and the other amazing food and wine purveyors inside the Ferry Bldg this week too!
Make sure to visit Ferry Building Wine Merchant & Wine Bar, Hogsland Oyster Co, Cowgirl Creamery Cheese Shop, Slanted Door, and the other amazing food and wine purveyors inside the Ferry Bldg this week too!

Here are some photos to pique your curiousity:  Later this week, catch me at Market One restaurant on Feb 5 & 6 as a featured pre-game sommelier!

My kind of trophy! Festive SB50 photo taken by Carolyn Stark of Sonoma County Vintners.
My kind of trophy! Festive SB50 photo taken by Carolyn Stark of Sonoma County Vintners.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fabulous lineup of wines from Sonoma County producers Lambert Bridge Winery, Sehesio Family Vineyards and Parmeson Wines.
Fabulous lineup of wines from Sonoma County producers Lambert Bridge Winery, Sehesio Family Vineyards and Parmeson Wines.

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The Taste of Sonoma Lounge at Super Bowl City in San Francisco
The Taste of Sonoma Lounge at Super Bowl City in San Francisco

 

 

 

 

 

 

Selfie Delux with great friends from Sonoma County Vintners, Sonoma County Tourism, and a happy photo bomber in the background! — with Carolyn Stark, Capo Creek Winery, Ken Fischang, #designatedphotobomber and Marta Hayden at SB50 Super Bowl City.
Selfie Delux with great friends from Sonoma County Vintners, Sonoma County Tourism, and a happy photo bomber in the background! — with Carolyn Stark, Capo Creek Winery, Ken Fischang, #designatedphotobomber and Marta Hayden at SB50 Super Bowl City.

The Shining, Madison Bumgarner, and Napa Cab

Happy Halloween! Earlier this week I had a plan to launch a series of my annual Ghoulish Film and Wine pairings for Halloween. But alas, I ended up spending most of the past seven days tasting a series of admirable wines at the successful Pinot on the River event in Healdsburg, Three Sticks Wines featured at opening of The Adobe in Sonoma, and the memorable vintage Bertani Amarones presented at a luncheon at Perbacco in San Francisco. Besides the other big projects I was working on, the rest of my time was spent hanging on the edge of my seat while watching the magnificent #SFGiants make it through seven game series to win the #MLBWorldSeries2014.

MV5BODMxMjE3NTA4Ml5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNDc0NTIxMDE@._V1_SY317_CR1,0,214,317_AL_ For that reason, I decided to focus on one poignant Halloween movie and dedicate my wine pairing with the cinematic classic The Shining to Madison Bumgarner, our amazing pitcher who defied the odds and carried the team on his back to victory. Thanks to his historic performance in the World Series, #MadBum became baseball’s version of #RedRum with an orange tint that will haunt the #KCRoyals fans for many years to come. Congratulations to the #SF Giants for a marvelous season! #OrangeOctober #OrangeTogether…Enjoy!

The Shining (1980)

Based on the Steven King novel and directed by Stanley Kubrick, The Shining stars Jack Nicholson as Jack Torrance, a family man, struggling writer and off-season caretaker of a remote hotel during wintertime. Influenced by the loneliness of this desolate setting and the lively ghosts of people murdered on the property, Jack goes off the deep end and begins chasing his family and other unsuspecting prey in the confines of the haunted hotel. Supernatural and sinister, The Shining is a cerebral horror flick from start to finish.

Pairing: Somerston 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon, Estate Grown, Napa Valley In keeping with the theme of isolation, the Somerston Cabernet Sauvignon is a powerful wine made with premium grapes grown at the Somerston Estate in the rugged Vaca Range east of St.Helena. At elevations of 1,000 to 2,400 feet above the valley floor, the vines are influenced on a daily basis by full sun and rocky volcanic soils.

In the glass, this full-bodied estate wine features brilliant aromas of ripe berries and spice. The flavors are concentrated with layers of dark berries, plum and cherry; firm tannins and structure; rich texture; and a magnificent finish with nuances of wild mountain herbs, smoke and cedar. Deep, dense and delicious, this is a fine alternative to “red rum.” And like the classic film: the wine is not only bold and powerful, but age worthy as well!

#NVFF2014 Bonus: Taste the top-notch wines from #SomerstonEstate and their second label #PriestRanchWines as part of #TheVintnersCircle at the #NapaValleyFilmFest, November 12-16. The Vintner Circle represents those wineries contributing some of the most elegant and distinctive elements that help make our Napa Valley Film Festival such a unique and special experience: Vintner Circle Dinners with Patrons and Filmmakers, large-format bottles for our Award-Winners and Tribute Honorees, VIP tasting opportunities, and more. www.napavalleyfilmfest.org.

 

SawyerSomm #MovieBuzz: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Movies are back! With the change of the season, the anticipation of upcoming holidays and the countdown to Napa Valley Film Festival in November, it’s time to rekindle my seasonal film and wine pairings that will help make your relaxing time more special!

mittyWith that being said, on my flight back from Portugal last week, I had a chance to watch The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Originally, I was a hesitant to delve in because I loved the original film starring Danny Kaye and Virginia Mayo (1947). But I’m happy to say that it didn’t take long for me to be charmed by this newer version starring Ben Stiller, Kristin Wiig, Adam Scott, Shirley MacLaine, and Sean Penn.

Based on a short story by James Thurber, the film follows the trials and tribulations of Walter Mitty, the man behind the photo images used in Life Magazine, who has a crush on Cheryl Melhoff (Wiig), a woman he barely knows. Amidst his romantic day-dream fantasies about Cheryl, Walter finds himself in a true race against time to find the missing negative #25 which leads him to Greenland, Iceland, and the Himalayan Mountains. Each scene is fun, quirky, and Walter becomes a stronger man along the way.

Wine Pairing: Zepaltas 2012 Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley

Unlike the original movie, an underlying theme in the new film is focused on skateboarding, a skill Walter mastered when he was Zepaltas bottleyounger. In real life, Wisconsin-native Ryan Zepaltas did a similar thing when was a teen. But after ranking at the top of the sport with Tony Hawk and other great skateboarders of his era, Ryan followed his passion for wine to Sonoma County in 1998, where he went on to work for LaCrema Winery and spent a harvest at Villa Maria in New Zealand. Since then, Ryan has become the assistant winemaker for Adam and Dianna Lee at #SiduriWinery, as well as starting his own brand #ZepaltasWines.

A great example of Ryan’s style is the Zepaltas 2012 Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley ($32), a sophisticated wine with lovely aromas of ripe red fruits, delicate rose petal, lavender, earth and spice. On the palate, the flavors explode with bright notes of raspberry, blueberry, strawberry, cherry cola, mineral, crushed allspice, and plenty of natural verve and enthusiasm all the way through the finish. And much like Walter, the wine gets stronger the more it’s exposed to new surroundings. In this case, fine stemware, more air via swirls, and the happy recipients enjoying this admirable gem from Russian River Valley while watching this clever and amusing film directed by Stiller.

Zepaltas Pinot label

#imdb #TheSecretLifeofWalterMitty #BenStiller #KristinWiig #SeanPenn #ZepaltasWines #SiduriWines #RussianRiverValley #RRV #PinotNoir #SonomaCounty #NVFF2014 #film #movies #DVD #wine.

Tasty New Releases: Germany, Austria and beyond

The German 1-0 win over Argentina on Sunday marked the first ever championship for a European team when the FIFA World Cup has been played in the New World.

But that’s soccer.

In the world of wine, Germany and the neighboring country of Austria have been making magnificent white wines with the noble grape Riesling for centuries.

This year’s new releases are no exception as proven at the recent German and Austrian Fall 2014 Tasting presented by Terry Theise Estate Selections and WineWise/The Vienna Wine Company at the Fort Mason Center in San Francisco.

According to the producers I spoke with, the 2013 vintage is magnificent across the board.

“The first priority of the vintage was based on farming,” said Gunter Kunstler, winemaker/proprietor of Weingut Kunstler in the Rheingau region of Germany.

Gunter Kunstler of Weingut Kunstler celebrates a German goal in a World Cup game televised at the tasting in SF.
Gunter Kunstler of Weingut Kunstler celebrates a German goal in a World Cup game televised at the tasting in SF.

“It’s critical to be there at the right time when the fruit is ripe, the acid in balance and the skin is healthy. But when you master this process, it’s much easier to create balanced wines with layers of complexity.

Same was true for Caroline Diel, whose family owns Schlossgut Diel in Nahe. “In my opinion, 2013 was a relatively late year. But with god work in the vineyard and a little patience, the wines are fresh, beautiful and quite enjoyable when young.”

Two tasty interpretations of the 2013 vintage from Weingut Hexamer in the Nahe region.
Two tasty interpretations of the 2013 vintage from Weingut Hexamer in the Nahe region.

Wine scholar, author, philosopher and lovable bon vivant Terry Theise, who hosted the tasting, is fond of the vintage as well. “It’s a special vintage where the clusters had time on the vines to develop deep flavors of fresh fruit, acid, slate and other nuances that have resulted in classy wines that are both food friendly yet still have the ability to cellar for decades.

 

Here are some of my favorite picks from the event. Prices based on suggested retail.

Donnhoff 2013 Tronschiefer Riesling Trocken, Nahe, Germany ($30): Green apple, white plum, peach, grapefruit rind and mineral. Lively, fresh and stimulating to the senses.

Geil 2013 Geyersberg Riesling Trocken, Rheinhessen, Germany ($33): Very young, very vibrant with pretty floral aromas, flavors of pear, dried apricot and fleshy texture. Great wine to serve as an aperitif or with spicy Asian cuisine.

Kunstler 2013 Hochheimer Kirchenstuck Riesling Kabinett Trocken, Rheingau, Germany ($33): Fragrant aromas of spring flowers, fresh citrus and mineral. Medium body with lively flavors of lychee, mango, grilled pineapple, and a long finish.

Schlossgut Diel 2013 Riesling Kabinett, Nahe, Germany ($31): Young and fresh wine with notes of ripe golden delicious apple, fresh citrus, green tea, sage, mint and racy acidity.

From the Kamptal region of Austria: Peter Schleimer of Schloss Gobelsburg and Vincent Brundlmayer of Brundlmayer.
From the Kamptal region of Austria: Peter Schleimer of Schloss Gobelsburg and Vincent Brundlmayer of Brundlmayer.

Fantastic wine that makes you feel younger with each sip!

Brundlmayer 2013 Riesling ‘Kamptaler Terrassen’, Kamptal, Austria ($27): Impressive example of Riesling from the Kamptal region on the Danube River in Austria. Ripe pear, lime, hazelnut, sea salt and a nice toasty note on the finish.

 

US vs. Belgium: It’s time for a frothy perspective

As much as I talk about wines, I must say that today’s World Cup game matching the United States vs. Belgium makes it impossible for me to resist my love for fine Belgium brew. Of course this includes the fine beers made by the Trappist monks at Notre-Dame de Scourmont Abbey in Chimay and other top producers in country like Duvel, Affligem and Leffe, as well as talented brewers who are making their stylized versions here in the United States like Ommegang Brewery in Cooperston, N.Y. and New Belgium Brewing Company in Fort Collins, Colorado.

CHIMAYWith that being said, here’s a link to the tasty article I wrote for the San Francisco Chronicle Food & Wine section in May 2003:  “U.S. acquiring a taste for Belgian ales / Fruity, spicy, rich and brewed by monks“.

It’s also worth mentioning that I was quite honored to find out there is a reference to this article on the Wikipedia page for the Chimay Brewery. Pretty cool!

In short: No simple beers. No simple game. Long live fine Belgian beer, but today go Team USA!

Cheers, Christopher

P.S. For more information on the Chimay Brewery, their specialty beers and the fine cheese made by the Trappist monks, visit www.chimay.com.