Category Archives: Tasting

Washington State Wine Month: Let the celebration begin!

Go north my friends! Each August, members of the Washington State Wine Commission celebrate the countdown to harvest with Washington State Wine Month, an interactive set of wine events and promotions designed to showcase the unique characteristics of the wide range of flavorful offerings made with premium grapes grown throughout the state.

In keeping with the theme, SawyerSomm decided there was no better time than the present to do a series of wine education posts focused on lessons learned from my visits to Seattle, Woodinville, Walla Walla Valley and the greater Columbia Valley appellation over the past year.

To get you started, below is a quick summary of the winegrowing areas of Washington State. Stay tuned for The Sommelier Files reviews on some of their hip new white wines, red wines and dessert wines; reports on the progression of the up-and-coming appellations; introductions to the people behind the brands; food and lodging tips for your next trip to the state of Washington; and much more!

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(Left to Right) A view from the fountain at Hedges Winery; Map of the Red Mountain Appellation; Paired wine dinner with Januik & Novelty Hill; Vineyard expanse at Hedges Winery

Exploring the Pacific Northwest: Compelling info on Washington State Wines

Atop the Pacific Northwest, Washington State has a rich history of growing wine grapes dating back to 1825. Many of the original grapes were American native varieties or hybrids planted along the Puget Sound between Seattle and Olympia and the more isolated Walla Walla Valley in the southeast part of the state. Consequently, it wasn’t until the 1960s that the first wave of the modern-day winemaking pioneers began putting more emphasis on planting popular varieties like Riesling, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah.

The largest appellation is the Columbia Valley, which covers 11-million acres east of the Cascade Mountains. Within these borders are the sub-appellations of Yakima Valley, Walla Walla Valley, Horse Heaven Hills, Wahluke Slope, Red Mountain, Columbia Gorge, Rattlesnake Hills, Snipes Mountain, Lake Chelan, Naches Heights, and Ancient Lakes of Columbia Valley. Together, the region represents 99% of the premium vineyards planted in Washington.

A very special Syrah block in the Rocks AVA of Walla Walla Valley.

With dry, high desert conditions, the region averages less than ten inches of rainfall per year. So instead, the critical water supply for the vineyards is generated by the melting snow caps from the mountains. The combination of an icy winter and a high concentration of sandy and rocky soils also make the conditions ideal for naturally defending against phylloxera, a lethal vine louse, which commonly requires the use of special root stocks in California and Oregon. Therefore, a large percentage of the vines in Washington are own-rooted and many of the vineyards are farmed with state-of-the-art machine harvesters.

On the western side of the state near Seattle, the Puget Sound appellation is a much cooler and wetter area which specializes in more unique grape varieties like Madeleine Angevine, Siegerebbe and Muller Thurgau, as well as promising newer plantings of Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir.

With over 50,000 acres of vineyards planted, Washington now ranks second in the United States for premium wine production. It’s a huge step forward over the past two decades—especially when you consider that there were only 17,100 acres planted in 1997. As a result, the state now features over 900 wineries and 350 vineyards that are home to world-class grapes.

But make no mistake, Washington cannot be defined by a single grape or even a group of grapes. Therefore, while it’s true Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Riesling and Chardonnay account for over 75 percent of the vineyards and wine production in the state; there are currently more than 30 varieties planted and experimentation continues.

“Diversity is what it’s all about here in Washington State,” says winemaker Scott Moeller, who works with Pacific Northwest wine legend Mike Januik and his son Andrew at Novelty Hill-Januik and the winery’s cutting-edge tasting room and production facility in Woodinville, which is just 25-minutes northeast of Seattle.

…Stay tuned for more SawyerSomm details about what is hot in Washington State in 2017 and beyond!

Taste of Mt Veeder: August 5th at Hess in Napa

Join me for this rare opportunity to TASTE and ORDER Mount Veeder wines…many of which are not open to the public and are difficult to acquire (See the full list below).

18th Annual Mt. Veeder Appellation Tasting
Saturday, August 5, 2017
1:00 – 4:00 p.m.
The Hess Collection Winery
4411 Redwood Road, Napa

Walk Around Wine Tasting, Gourmet Food Pairings from Hess Executive Chef, Chad Hendrickson, Silent Auction, Prizes and Live, High-Energy Blues from The Hummingbirdz!

Single Vineyard night in Sonoma County June 30th

Join Russian River Valley Winegrowers for an amazing tasting experience of Russian River Valley single vineyard wines. More than 40 wineries will be pouring small-lot, single vineyard wines from the Russian River Valley, including Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Zinfandel, Syrah and Sauvignon Blanc. Guests will dine on delicious appetizers, including a grill station with sausages, hanger steak and sliders.

Friday, June 30, 2017
VIP Tasting: 5:30 – 6:30 PM
MAIN EVENT: 6:30 – 8:30 PM
Vintner’s Inn, 4350 Barnes Road, Santa Rosa
TICKETS!

North Coast Wine & Food Festival on June 10th

I participated as a judge back in April, now here is your opportunity to taste the best wines from the North Coast American Viticulture Areas (AVA).  These are wines that achieve both a Gold Medal status and 90+ points in The Press Democrat North Coast Wine Competition.  The North Coast AVA consists of wines made from grapes grown in Napa, Lake, Marin, Mendocino, Solano and Sonoma counties. The winning wines are selected by prestigious judges in a blind taste test.  Mark your calendar for June 10th and get your North Coast Wine & Food Festival tickets soon!

Tastings to come at Telluride Wine Festival 2017

As I prepare another amazing experience for wineries and guests at the upcoming Telluride Wine Festival on June 22-25, thought I would share some pictures from last summer, with more to come.

Also, a reminder for wineries, this Friday April 15th is the deadline for early-bird pricing to register for our Grand Tasting event.  REGISTER HERE or please send me an email if you have any questions. Cheers! Christopher

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5 Flavor! Napa Valley Events You Don’t Want To Miss

I am reposting this informative article from Legendary Napa Valley to better reach your inboxes!

Flavor! Napa Valley, the food and wine festival benefiting the Culinary Institute of America (CIA), celebrates both Napa Valley and CIA graduate chefs and winemakers with five days of exclusive experiences that bring out the best flavors of the legendary Napa Valley. Come join us during these five wonderful days of wine classes, chef demos, elegant dinners and more.

Be sure these five Flavor! Napa Valley events are on your schedule:

  1. First Taste – A Downtown Socialpresented by the Downtown Napa Association, Wednesday March 22, 6 – 8:30 p.m.; price is $95 per person. Celebrate under the stars at the brand new CIA at Copia in downtown Napa, with more than 15 of Napa’s best restaurants and more than 40 Napa Valley wineries. The evening will also include live entertainment and the opportunity to bid on Magnum editions of rare wines during a silent auction.
  2. From Vineyard to Bottle – Exploring Napa Valley with Iconic Winemaker Heidi Barrett at the CIA at Copia, Thursday March 232:30 – 4 p.m.; $95 per person. Moderated by wine, food and television star Leslie Hartley-Sbrocco of KQED’s “Check, Please!”, this exclusive seminar and tasting is focused on Heidi’s secrets behind how she captures the deep and complex flavors of the fruit in the wines.
  3. Napa Valley Icons Dinner, Tuesday March 23, 6 – 10 p.m.; $295 per person. Guests will celebrate the food and wine icons of the Napa Valley at the Silverado Resort and Spa while honoring legendary winemaker Heidi Barrett. Participating chefs include Host Chef Jeffrey Jake from Silverado Resort and Spa; Matthew Accarrino from SPQR; Stuart Brioza and Nicole Krasinski from State Bird Provisions and The Progress; Ken Frank from La Toque; Michael Schulson from Schulson Collective; and esteemed CIA graduate Waldy Malouf.
  4. Legendary Napa Valley, The Grand Tasting, VIP admission is Saturday March 25, 6 – 7 p.m. and tickets are $225 per person; general admission is at 7 p.m. and tickets are $175 per person.  The sixth annual Grand Tasting at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in St. Helena allows guests to taste their way through the Napa Valley with a selection of sweet and savory bites from more than 25 Napa Valley restaurants, paired with wine from more than 80 Napa Valley wineries.
  5. Bubbles and BrunchSunday March 26, 11 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.; $135 per person. Flavor! Napa Valley concludes with a brunch at one of Napa Valley’s most renowned sparkling wine houses, Domaine Chandon. Guests will enjoy dishes from Host Chef Brian Whitmer from VINeleven, winner of Bravo’s Top Chef All-Stars and Owner, Trail Blais Inc., Richard Blais, and nationally acclaimed Vegas restaurateur Rick Moonen, RM Seafood. Brunch will be accompanied by a selection of Domaine Chandon’s still and sparkling wines.

Irish Day Parade on March 18th in Murphys, CA!

We certainly wish we could take Twisted Oak Winery up on their invitation to the Irish Day Parade happening Saturday March 18th! My family and I stumbled upon it a few years back and were pleasantly surprised by a little parade with lots of venders, including many wineries to tempt the palate.  Totally worth the trek from where ever.

On the way there, up Ebbetts Pass (aka Hwy 4), you will breeze through the quaint town of Vallecito.  That is where you can turn off to visit the friendly folks at Twisted Oak Winery and find out more about their upcoming Twisted Folk Concert Series. The dates are set for  May 13th, June 24th, August 12th.

Let them know Chris sent you!

It’s Back! Telluride Wine Festival 2017

Word is out, Telluride Wine Festival will be June 22-25 this year, so time to get your travels plans a’ brewing! I will be there again and setting up some seriously awesome seminars. Details coming soon, but for now wineries can get signed up online with the Grand Tasting at:  2017 TWF Winery Registration

Wineries can also contact me directly about seminars,  wine@sawyersomm.com: I look forward to finding a space for you to participate!  Meanwhile, I will continue to share festival updates.  And for more information about the Telluride, CO area check out this resource:  telluride.com

Cheers! Christopher

Take a trek Behind The Cellar Door: March 4-5

Seriously!  This is an opportunity to go taste some of those foothill wines I keep telling you about.  In fact, I have 2 FREE DAY PASSES to this one, Behind the Cellar Door, for the first person to write a note to wine@sawyersomm.com with their mailing address.  What you get in return is a weekend of touring the lovely Amador County wineries, towns and landscape. The caveat?   I just ask you to report back here for all of SawyerSomm with your favorite wines from the tour.  Believe me, you will thank me for this!

For those that aren’t quick enough on the draw, you can still
purchase tickets HERE until Feb 28th.  Have fun everyone!