First join me at the Vintage Party, a traditional La Paulee style dinner hosted by the Santa Barbara Vintners and Mattei’s Tavern to welcome Spring Weekend visitors to Santa Barbara Wine Country on the evening before the Festival. In the La Paulee tradition, attendees will bring their favorite Vintage 2009 or older wine from Santa Barbara County or beyond to share.
THE SANTA BARBARA WINE SEMINAR
Next I will be moderating this engaging wine seminar on Saturday morning before the Festival at the Santa Ynez Valley Marriott. This year it will feature winemakers whose wine careers were influenced by their time working at Zaca Mesa.
Want me to join your group for a specialized Napa or Sonoma wine tasting extravaganza? Now you can book it with Pure Luxury Transportation, the exclusive transportation venue to enjoy an extravagant Wine Country adventure!
This adventure offers the opportunity to have me answer your questions about wine, grape varieties, winemaking techniques, and the historic winegrowing regions of Northern California’s Napa and Sonoma Wine Country. This memorable experience would features special guests along the way including winemakers and winery proprietors.
This month leads into a collection of treks that keep me moving throughout April! So many exciting events that I want to share some details. Perhaps a few of you will be joining me along the way. . .
Begining this week, on Thursday April 16th, I will be at the Mt. Veeder Spring Tasting, discussing the 25-year anniversary of the appellation at their media luncheon.
This is an exciting event so take advantage to participate in their public tasting, tickets are available at Mt Veeder Appellation.
Even sooner, I will be judging two prestigious wine competitions. The first is the Press Democrat North Coast Wine Challenge, April 14-15, at the Hilton Sonoma Wine Country Hotel at Fountaingrove in Santa Rosa. Winners of the event will be announced in the Press Democrat. On May 17, many of these award winning wines will be featured along with dishes made by some of Sonoma County’s top chefs at The Barlowe in Sebastopol.
Then, for the long haul south, I will be at the Sunset International Wine Competition judging between April 26-28. Besides being one of the top wine competitions in the nation, this year also marks the last time the competition will be held at the expansive Sunset Headquarters in Menlo Park. For that reason, the other judges and I will be sure to make the most out of this experience, before final sale of the property. Entries for this competition end on April 17th.
You can continue to follow these exploits by virtual means, on my Social Media outlets; Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. There will be fun pictures and daily updates.
Last note, don’t forget that Friday, April 24th is International Sauvignon Blanc Day! When posting use #SauvBlanc, #nzwine, etc, and don’t forget to spread the word! -CS
It’s time to taste through some of the finest new releases California has to offer at the 33rd Annual Santa Barbara Vintners Spring Weekend, April 23-26. For starters, guests will be able to visit 12 wineries involved in the Vintners Visa festivities going on from Thursday to Sunday. But for foodie lovers, the fabulous weekend kicks off with the Friday Night Vintage Party at Mattei’s Tavern in Los Olivos, where star sommelier Eric Railsback and I will help serve magnificent cellar selections from Dierberg and Star Lane Vineyards, Qupe Wine Cellars & Verdad Wine Cellars, Turiya Wines, Dascomb Cellars, Presqu’ile Winery, Imagine Wine, Rusack Vineyards, Melville Winery, and Martellotto Wines.
On Saturday morning, I’ll be leading a special seminar focused on the history of the Santa Ynez Valley, a legendary appellation established in 1983, through the eyes of gifted wnemakers who all worked at Zaca Mesa Winery during the early stages of their careers. Then, it’s time for the Grand Tasting at the River View Park in Buellton. This popular afternoon will feature offering from over 120 wineries paired up tasty bites from the best chefs in the county.
In a recent Press Democrat article it was announced that Pure Luxury, a local transportation service has developed it’s own on-demand car service called BlinkCar. This Smartphone App will allow customers to book rides instantaneously.
BlinkCar began in December but just in Petaluma. Service is now expanding to Santa Rosa and Sonoma, and in the spring to Napa Valley.
If you have not yet, peruse the Wine Tour options on their website and definitely give Jennifer & Gary Buffo your business: The soon to be developed Sommelier Tours will be featuring Yours Truly!
A very special guest accompanied me to the San Francisco Wine Competition Public Tasting over Valentines Weekend: The Nerdstalker himself, AKA Adolfo Foronda. He chronicled our adventures with audio winemaker interviews and photographs on his home page and various other social media.
The Nerdstalker: Be sure to continue following his exploits, to keep in tune with your inner nerd!
Take a little time to stop by Sonoma Portworks in Petaluma: Every weekend in February is their special Port & Cookies Tasting from noon to 5pm.
The tantalizing treats are provided by another local company, Bad Girls Bakery, so join in for the complimentary port tasting and pairing. I plan to drop by next weekend, February 21 or 22, so let me know if I might see you there!
To celebrate the recent Zinfandel Experience 2015 and the San Francisco Chronicle Public Tasting happening at Fort Mason on Valentine’s Day, below are my notes from some of the delicious Gold Medal winners in the under $30 category I judged at the #SFCWineComp in early January. Don’t forget to also visit my Pinterest: The Zinfandel Experience album to enjoy some pictures from the fantastic ZAP events and check out the great article my friend Julie Santiago of Examiner.com, who wrote about the events in San Francisco: ZAP 2015 – An Epicurian Celebration of Zinfandel. For more information about the Zinfandel Advocates and Producers (a.k.a ZAP), visit www.zinfandel.org and www.zinfandelexperience.com. ______________________________________________________
For the Love of Zinfandel
Amador Cellars 2011 Zinfandel, Amador County ($28): Vibrant combination of ripe cherry, raspberry and blueberries accented with notes of wild herbs, mineral, fresh ground black pepper, cocoa, roasted walnuts, chewy tannins, and a lingering finish. Double Gold. www.amadorcellars.com / www.amadorwine.com. Mazzocco 2012 Reserve Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley ($28): Made by talented winemaker Antoine Favero, this wine features a classic “field blend” combination of 76% Zinfandel and 24% Petite Sirah. Enchanting aromas and deep flavors of black raspberry, boysenberry, fresh currants, peppermint, allspice and a burst of fresh acidity of the long, refreshing finish. Best of Class. www.wilsonartisanwines.com / www.wdcv.com.
Pezzi King 2012 Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley ($25): Another gem from the Dry Creek Valley appellation. This mixture of fruit from old and younger vines creates a playful profile with sweet core notes of brambly blackberry and raspberry, spicy flavors of clove, pepper and blood orange peel, and a rewarding combination of structure, acidity, and balanced tannins. Gold. Also worth noting that the winery’s more limited release counterpart, the Pezzi King 2012 Row 14 Reserve Zinfandel won for the Sweepstakes Red Wine for the competition. Overall, a great showing for the brand! www.pezziking.com / www.wdcv.com
McNab Family Reserve 2012 Zinfandel, Old Vines, B-Bar-X Ranch, Mendocino County ($26): At the main ZAP Tasting event in late January, I had the great opportunity to do a seminar with Rich Parducci, whose family has been making wine in Mendocino County for four generations. As a result, we were able to pour this limited release wine (239 cases made) for a wide range of members of the media, trade, and curious consumers who were able to enjoy the lavish flavors of wild berries, white pepper, and chocolate bark this wine has to offer. It’s a fantastic food pairing wine as well, especially with heavy red sauces. Kudos to the Parducci family for another great accomplishment! Gold. www.mcnabridge.com / www.mendowine.com.
Opolo Vineyards 2013 Mountain Zinfandel, Summit Creek, Paso Robles ($29): Medium to full-bodied wine with aromas of wild berries, violets, licorice, and hickory smoke. Bright fruit-driven flavors of ripe plum, raspberry, and hints of boysenberry jam, sweet potato, black pepper, and a long spicy finish. Unique and distinctive. Double Gold. www.opolo.com / www.pasowine.com.
Earthquake 2012 Zinfandel, Lodi ($26): From Michael David Winery in Lodi, the new release of the Earthquake Zinfandel features enticing aromas and concentrated flavors of dark cherry, raspberry, boysenberry, blueberry, wild herbs, cocoa, and a long, dry finish. The original fruit for the blend was made with berries from vines planted in 1906, the same year the famous San Francisco earthquake occurred. In addition to helping preserving these old vineyards and promoting sustainable farming practices in the region, the winery has also become an integral part of enhancing the true wine country experience for consumers who visit the Lodi appellation over. The commitment to quality shows in this wine. Gold. www.MichaelDavid.com / www.lodiwine.com.
Miro Cellars 2012 Zinfandel Reserve, Wolcott-Bevill Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley ($28): This fantastic single-vineyard designate is made by my fellow wine judge Miro Tcholakov, a Bulgarian native who made his first splash in the US while working at Dry Creek Vineyards. Today, his latest offering from his Miro Cellars label is loaded with deep aromas of ripe dark fruits and berries, roasted espresso beans, and savory spices. On the palate, the wine delights the senses with integrated flavors of blackberry, dark cherry cola, wild strawberry, vanillin, sarsaparilla and dark chocolate. Dazzling from start to finish. Double Gold. www.mirocellars.com / www.wdcv.com.
Pozzan Gold Series 2012 Zinfandel, Back Barn, Oakville ($25): This gracious wine made by Michael Pozzan Wines features sultry aromas of ripe berries, sandalwood, and smoked meats. In the glass, the wine continues to expand with deep flavors of dark plum, huckleberry, boysenberry jam, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, cracked black pepper, and finishes with a tingly sensation at the tip of the tongue that makes you want more. Made with pure Oakville fruit, this Zin is a fantastic bottle at only $25 per bottle. Gold. www.michaelpozzanwinery.com.
Not only will you get to taste a slew of amazing Zinfandel, but also the opportunity to learn about a collection of appellations through their Sommelier & Winemakers Terroir Workshops on Saturday January 31, at the Presidio, Golden Gate Club & Film Centre. Be sure to make time for my 2pm Workshop about Lake County & Mendocino AVA!
So there we were: Twenty wine judges tasting through the over 70 Best of Class gold medal winners at the Sweepstakes Round of Vineyard & Winery Management’s 24th Annual Grand Harvest Awards. It was so quiet in the room you could hear a pin drop and an occasional chime of two glasses making incidental contact. But when all the contenders were tasted, the Best of Show wine was the fabulous Miro Cellars 2012 Petite Sirah, Dry Creek Valley ($30).
In hindsight, I remember our panel tasting this wine and thinking how generous the fruit was, the layers of flavors and spice, and that long smooth finish. So once the winner was revealed, I wasn’t surprised that this magnificent Petite Sirah was made by Miro Tcholakov, one of the great winemakers of Sonoma County who tends to roll under the radar. After coming to California from his home country of Bulgaria, Miro worked at Dry Creek Vineyards and eventually became head winemaker at Trentadue Winery in Geyserville. On the side, Miro and his family started making Miro Cellars wines in 2001. Coincidentally, the debut release was…Petite Sirah, of course. For more info on Miro’s new releases, visit www.MiroCellars.com.
From a pool of nearly 1100 entries, the other awards included 82 Best of Class, 39 Double Gold, 161 Gold, and 450 Silver medals. Judges included winemakers, wine buyers, distributors, media personnel and other wine industry professionals who not only recognized the best wine submissions but possessed the level of knowledge and expertise needed to assess the wine’s terroir.
The following wines took best their categories:
Best White Wine: Hunt Country Vineyards, 2013 Seyval Blanc, Finger Lakes ($10.99)
SawyerSomm notes, as tasted with fellow judges Alisa Nemo of Handley Cellars and Thrace Bomberger of Walt Wines: Seyval Blanc is a French-American hydrid created by Frenchman Bertille Seyve around 1920. Made in stainless steel, this bright and expressive white wine has lively floral aromas of spring flowers, geranium and citrus. On the palate, a mixture of ripe melon, papaya, grapefruit, mineral, and a long graceful finish. Pairings: gourmet salads, grilled fish, chicken skewers with tangy citrus aioli. www.HuntWines.com.
Best Rose Wine: Truett Hurst Winery, 2013 Salmon Run Rosé, Dry Creek Valley ($18)
SawyerSomm notes, as tasted with fellow judges Alisa Nemo of Handley Cellars and Thrace Bomberger of Walt Wines: Not to be mistaken with Pink Zinfandel, this is a fantastic example of a classy dry Zinfandel rosé with fragrant aromas and lively flavors of wild strawberry, peach, plum, red cherry, anise and orange rind. Pairings: tangy cheeses, fresh berries, tostadas, Paella and spicy Indian cuisine. www.TruettHurst.com.
Best of Show and Best Red Wine: Miro Cellars, 2012 Petite Sirah, Dry Creek Valley ($30). www.MiroCellars.com.
Best Sparkling Wine: Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyard, 2006 Royal Cuvee, Carneros ($37). www.GloriaFerrer.com.
Best Late Harvest/Dessert Wine: Stephen & Walker Winery, 2012 Chardonnay Botrytis, Mendocino Ridge (Tbd). www.trustwine.com.
For more juicy information…
Established in 1990, Grand Harvest Awards seeks to uncover the distinctions of terroir by grouping wines for evaluation by appellation and variety. Wines are judged in the context of their viticultural regions in order to recognize the complexities and nuances of regional wines, and also to observe the influence of regional soil and climate characteristics on the taste and quality of individual wines.
“This unique wine competition showcases the diversity of terroir and we are pleased to be part of the research and promotion of allits regions in the U.S. and beyond,” said Robert Merletti, President and Publisher of Vineyard & Winery Management magazine.
And as the official GHA spokesperson, here’s my quote on the awards press release: “For decades we have been trying to interpret the styles of wines made in America. Now, thanks to the use of new technology and fruit from more mature vines, the unique flavor profiles are becoming more defined. For those reasons, it’s exciting to see that the diverse list of winners at the Grand Harvest Awards 2014 really demonstrate how terroir makes a difference in the flavor profiles of grapes planted in special regions across the nation.”
Official sponsors of the competition included Hilton Sonoma Wine Country, Penta Ultra-Purified Water, Graber Olives, Wine Country Shipping, Alsco, Costeaux French Bakery, Lagunitas Brewing Company and Sonoma Cider. And last but not least, great thanks to my good friend Debra Del Fiorentino, who did a great job as the Chief Judge at this year’s competition. See www.vwmmedia.com for more information.
Next Up: San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, January 6-9
Stay tuned for news from the upcoming San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition 2015, the largest competition of American wines in the world, January 6-9. To enter wines in the competition before the deadline on December 10th or for information about the special early bird’s ticket price to the SFCWC Public Tasting on Saturday, February 14 which ends on New Years Eve, visit www.winejudging.com.