Category Archives: Travels

10th Annual American Fine Wine Invitational Judging Results!

Announcing the judging results from my trip to Miami over MLK weekend for The American Fine Wine Invitational (AFWI)!  This year 850 wines from 230 wineries were included.

The event took place  January 15 & 16 at FIU’s Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management. The AFWI is the most exclusive, top tier, all-American Wine Invitational in the world, and it takes place in our back yard. Over the course of two full days, 24 judges tasted and awarded medals to the invited wines. Here are the top winners:

BEST OF SHOW

Best of Show Red –
’13 Baldacci Family, Cabernet Sauvignon “Ruppert”, Napa $125

Best of Show White
’15 Chehalem Vineyards, Gruner Veltliner, Ribbon Ridge, OR $24

Best of Show Sparkling
NV Mumm Napa, “Santana” Brut, Napa (also Best Of in 2015) $50

Best of Show Dessert Wine
’11 John Anthony Vyds Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc, Napa $65


All of the wines entered into the judging will be available for tasting at the highly anticipated 10th annual AFWI Charity Wine Gala being hosted this year at the DCOTA, and taking place on April 29th. The Gala includes a “Sparkling” reception, The Wine Walk, a magnificent wine-centric dinner, during which, the award winning wines will be poured by the AFWI “Wine Angels”, and The Winemaker of the Year Awards. There will be a live auction, a silent auction and a “Premium” wine auction, as well as live entertainment and the opportunity to dine with your favorite Dolphin player all while raising money to support The Dolphins Cancer Challenge.

More information available at www.americanfinewinecompetition.org

TASTE Restaurant & Wine Bar Bubbles Tasting: Jan 25th!

Fancy a little get away to the foothills for some amazing food paired with spectacular sparkling wines?  This would be the place to go!

Taste Restaurant in Plymouth, CA (Amador County) will have 20 different bubblies from around the world to be paired with a delectable selection of appetizers on Wednesday January 25th, 5:30-8:30pm.  This walk around educational event is fifty dollars per person.  Attendees will have the opportunity to purchase their favorites at a special discounted rate.  Reserve your flute here!

Delicious treats include
Prawn and Sausage Skewers
Truffled Popcorn
Goat Cheese and Bacon Tartlette
Oysters on the Half Shell
Caviar, Crème Fraiche and Potato
Beef skewers with peanut and red thai curry
Rice Noodle Salad
Roasted Squash Risotto Cups
Taste Sliders
Smoked Gouda Mac and Cheese
Romesco and Prosciutto Deviled Eggs
Fish Cakes and Siracha Aioli
Meyer lemon tartlette
Chocolate Bites
Coconut Shortbread

Brunello di Montalcino: A Blast from the Past!

It is always a pleasure for me to review previous stories I have contributed to Industry Magazines over the years.  Indeed, I learn a lot when writing them, but also have distinctive memories of the trips or tastings involved.  Here is an article from a decade ago!  Published in The Tasting Panel Magazine, which I still am working with after all this time.  Enjoy this read!

Brunello di Montalcino: Fine Tuning History Inside The Bottle

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Guest DJ Sawyer Somm at Vinyl Sunday, Sept 18th!

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The rumblings are true.  I will be revisiting my college days by spinning vinyl at Winery Sixteen 600 (589 1st St West in Sonoma) for Vinyl Sunday.  Together we will be celebrating Grenachista in honor of International Grenache Day this Friday.  Get your tickets while they are still available: pre-sale saves you 5 clams.

To review your Grenache knowledge, watch this video produced for that purpose a few years back.  Enjoy & hope to see you there!

Wine Bloggers Conference: August 11-14

I am getting excited for my first time at the Wine Bloggers Conference, this year in Lodi, CA from August 11-14.  Hopefully much of it will be indoors as the Central Valley can get pretty toasty in the summer!

Wine Bloggers ConferenceIf you happen to attending as well, then make time on Friday evening for a Charles Communications event with me spinning vinyl on the Klinker Brick patio!  RSVP to Greer Shull at rsvp(at)charlescomm.com or 415-701-WINE to save your space.

San Francisco International Wine Competition 2016: Exciting Results!

The results are in! Check out the wines that won at SFIWC 2016 this year. Also, enjoy a few pics from my days judging at Hotel Nikko while you are at it. Cheers! Christopher

Pink Out! The start of a colorful flight of Rosé on Day 1;  (clockwise from left); Taking a break with my fellow judges, wine guru Jeffery Stivers and New Orleans-based wine and spirits radio personality Tim McNally; #StrengthInNumbers: Selfie Deluxe with my fellow judges sommelier Eduardo Dingler of Morimoto Napa; wine educator Ian Blackburn of LA-based WineCloudInc; sommelier Tonya Pitts of One Market SF, author, wine personality and star of Check Please Bay Area Leslie Sbracco, and author, sommelier and proprietor of A16 and RN74 in SF, Shelley Lindgren; The magnificent menu for the Judges Dinner at Hotel Nikko International, with dazzling wines provided by Gloria Ferrer and Jaimeson Ranch wineries.

Collage of Memories from an incredible Telluride Wine Festival 2016!

First of all a big THANK YOU to the wonderful folks at Gloria Ferrer, Wilson-Daniels, Deutch Family, Keller Estate, Banfi, Ramey, Failla, Aril, Goosecross, Grieve,  Arista, Garnet,  Palm Bay Imports, E&J Gallo, Rodney Strong, Southern Wines & Spirits, Republic National Distributing Co & Grand Vin, and especially my assistant Teale.  They all made this happen!


Warm welcome to the historic town of Telluride on Main Street with the famous Idarado Legacy Trail and Rocky Mountains in the background. (top/bottom) Exploring the complex flavor profiles of Coastal Pinot Noirs with tasty offerings from The Calling, Garnet Vineyards, Keller Estate, Arista Winery and Three Sticks Wines. Special thanks to Sonoma County Vintners & Petaluma Gap board member Ana Keller for being part of this sold-out seminar for 70 people with me!


For my pairing with the exclusive Caviar Dinner at a private residence in Mountain Village, an all-star lineup of fine European bubbles from Gosset Champagne, Pierre Sparr, and Buglioni. (Left)
-Alsatian Invasion: Fun Sunday morning photo shoot with a bottle of the Pierre Sparr Cremant d’Alsace Brut Rose and the spectacular Bridal Veil Falls in the background. (top right to bottom)
-My great friend Lars Leicht of Cru Artisan and Banfi Vintners speaking to a packed house at our fun seminar and tasting, The Extraordinary Tuscan Experience.
-Sonoma County Vintners in bubbly form! Fabulous bottles of the Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Noirs and the J Wine Company Cuvee 20 featured at an amazing Saveur Pass Luncheon & Sparkling Wines to kick off the festival with the towering Mount Wilson in the background.

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Post-Caviar Dinner photo I took of the star chefs I was honored to work with at the Telluride Wine Festival 2016 (from front): James Reaux of the Coast II Coast Restaurant Group; Angela Covington of Manchester Farms Quail; local star Angelee Aurillo; Bernard Guillas of Marine Restaurant in San Diego; and Master Baker Lionel Vatinet.


The brilliant Second Course at the Caviar Dinner created by talented Chef Bernard Guillas of Marine Restaurant in San Diego featuring fresh sashimi-grade Alaskan Halibut, Black River Caviar, and more flavorful accouterments! (top left)
-At the “King Georges” Gala to honor iconic French Chef George Perrier, founder of Le Bec-Fin Restaurant in Philadelphia in 1970, a Soufflé Glace Grand Marnier by Chef Jason Bayle. (left to right)
-#SawyerSelfieDeluxe with Chef Ann Cooper, founder of the Chef Ann Foundation, a magnificent charitable organization focused on making sure kids eat healthy at schools across the nation. Check out www.chefannfoundation.org to learn more information about this amazing project.
-Recreating one of Chef George Perrier’s most famous dishes during his forty-year stint at his famous restaurant in Philadelphia, the Gallette de Crabe “Le Bec-Fin” by Chef James Reaux.

Extraordinary Tuscan Experience at TWF – Friday, June 24

Take the shortcut to Tuscany, via Telluride Wine Festival!  Join me and Lars Leicht from Banfi to taste through an amazing samplings of tuscanyVermentino and Bolgheri Rosso from the coast; a new single vineyard Chianti, and bringing it all together with the newly released 2011 Brunellos. Fantastico!

Extraordinary Tuscan Experience
with Cru Artisan Wines/Banfi Vintners
June 24, 2016 – 2:00pm – 3:00pm

  • tuscan-rossoLa Pettegola Vermentino Toscano
  • Fonte alla Selva Chianti Classico
  • ASKA Bolgheri Rosso
  • Poggio alle Mura Rosso di Montalcino
  • Poggio alle Mura Brunello di Motalcino
  • Poggio alle Mura Brunello di Montalcino Riserva

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