Category Archives: Wine

The Majesty of Zinfandel

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 ZAP3Medal 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.

For more information about the Zinfandel Advocates
and Producers (a.k.a ZAP), visit www.zinfandel.org
and www.zinfandelexperience.com.

#ZinEx #ZAP #Zinfandel @TheZinfandelOrg

Festive Wine Events Galore!

With the main snow season for 2015 still on hold, it’s time to look at the great wine tasting opportunities that are happening in Northern California.

San Francisco: Zinfandel Experience, January 29-31

Each year, fans of red wine from around the United States flock to San Francisco to participate in the annual event put on by the Zinfandel Advocates and Producers (a.k.a. ZAP), a non-profit organization devoted to preserving the history and pageantry of world class wines made with California’s “sweet-heart” grape. Highlights of this year’s three-day event include: Epicurian, a magnificent wine and food pairing event at the Golden Gate Club in the Presidio, on Thursday, January 29; Flights!, a thought-provoking tasting hosted by legendary winemaker Joel Peterson at the Four Seasons in San Francisco on Friday, January 30; and the annual Grand Tasting featuring over 500 wines being poured by the top California producers, a silent auction, and opportunities to learn about special wines from the important appellation where the cherished grape is grown at Sommelier & Winemakers Terroir Workshops on Saturday January 31, at the Presidio, Golden Gate Club & Film Centre. If you make it to the Grand Tasting, be sure to make time for my 2pm Workshop about Lake County & Mendocino AVA too! For ticket information to all these events, visit www.zinfandelexperience.com.

Anderson Valley, Mendocino: International Alsace Varietals Festival, February 7-8

If you like aromatic white wines with fragrant aromas and distinctive flavors, I would suggest you get in the car and head directly to Mendocino County for the 10th Annual Alsace festival in Anderson Valley, an event focused on rockstar wines made with Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc and Muscat grapes grown in the Alsace region of France, California, Oregon, Michigan, New York, and other special appellations around the globe.

On Saturday, February 7th, the festivities kick-off with two special events at the County Fairgrounds in downtown Boonville (14400 Highway 128). The first is the Educational Session, a fantastic interactive event from 8:30 am to 12:30 pm, which allows guests to listen to and interact with winemakers from around the world as they discuss the topics of grape growing, winemaking and food pairing specific to Alsace varietals.

PrintThe special 10-year anniversary Session will include a discussion on the Appellation of Crus in Alsace, complimented by a tasting of the 8 Grand Crus produced by Domaines Schlumberger. On the sommeliers side, I will be leading a special Pinot Blanc tasting focusing on wines from three wineries using grapes grown in the same vineyard (Schrader Ranch); fellow sommelier Christie Dufault, Instructor of Wine and Beverage Studies at the CIA Greystone, will do a presentation on how to pair food with Gewürztraminer; and the morning will be rounded out with a Cooking Demonstration done by talented Chef Francois de Melogue.

In the afternoon, the Grand Tasting will offer chances to taste over 100 Alsace Varietal wines made by producers from around the world, including local producers like Balo Vineyards, Brooks Wines, Claiborne & Churchill, Cutruzzola Vineyards, Elke Vineyards, FEL Wines, Foris Vineyards, Handley Cellars, Lula Cellars, Navarro Vineyards, Phillips Hill Winery, Philo Ridge Vineyards, Robert Sinskey Vineyards, Saintsbury and Tatomer Wines, as well as special selections from the New Zealand Winegrowers and Wines of Alsace. To complement the wines, fresh oysters, Tarte Flambée and Pork Belly dishes will be served on the food tables at the event.

In the evening, the activities will conclude with the Winemakers Dinner at Scharffenberger Cellars in Philo (8501 Highway 128). The dinner will feature fabulous dishes made by Chef Janelle Weaver (Owner/Chef at The Bewildered Pig, Executive Chef at Peter Michael Winery, and former Executive Chef for Kuleto Estate), which emphasize the unique flavors of the wine s and how well they work with the bounty of the local area.

The Educational Session is $45 per person, and the Grand Tasting is $65 per person, but if you want to attend both a combined ticket is only $100. The Winemakers Dinner is $130 per person. To learn more and buy tickets visit International Alsace Varietals Festival.

Lodi: Wine & Chocolates Weekend, February 7-8

winechoc2014_0553With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, it’s time to start thinking about aphrodisiac wine and food pairings. For many, an easy choice is chocolate. This is what the Lodi Winegrape Commission had in mind when they started the popular Wine & Chocolate Weekend eighteen years ago. And this year’s event is bigger than ever!

Taste handcrafted sweet and savory chocolate bites with rich, spicy and complex wines at over 50 wineries. At $55 in advance and $65 at the door, tickets include an event wine glass, a chocolate treat from sponsor BRIX Chocolates, wine tasting, and admission to all participating wineries. Designated drivers are free of charge. www.Lodiwine.com.

Other upcoming events:

SRJC Wine Classic: February 8th, 2-5pm

San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition Public Tasting: February 14th, 1:30-5pm

Winemaker & Viticulturalist Steve Matthiasson: A Rare Breed

When you open a bottle of the Matthiasson Napa Valley White Wine, the nose is immediately dazzled with fragrant aromas of fresh melon, peaches, citrus, and fresh picked spring flowers. In the matthiasson1glass, these distinctive aromas and fruity flavors are further enhanced by notes of mineral, chalk, roasted hazelnut, a lush texture, tangy acidity, and a long, vibrant finish. The end result is a graceful wine with qualities that set it apart from other proprietary white wines.

In addition to Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Tocai Friulano grapes, another special ingredient in the blend is Ribolla Gialla, a unique white grape from the Friuli region of Italy, which winemaker Steve Matthiasson was introduced to in 2002. Since then, Steve has gone on to promote the grape and carve his own niche with the delicious white and red wines he makes with fruit grown at his family’s estate vineyard in Napa and other special sites in Napa Valley and Sonoma County. For his commitment to quality, the San Francisco Chronicle named him “Winemaker of the Year” last year.

To learn more about Steve’s journey to becoming a viticulturalist and winemaker, read my interview with him that was published in the new issue of Vineyard and Winery Management.

1st SRJC Wine Classic being held on February 8th

Santa Rosa Junior College will hold its first SRJC Wine Classic from 2–5 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 8, on campus at Bertolini Hall.

Join in on this opportunity to support your local community college students, as they organize and host a social gathering, featuring 25 Sonoma County wineries, pouring over 50 wines, live music, gourmet appetizer buffet, and a souvenir glass for each attendee. Read more about it at the North Bay Business Journal.

Tickets for the event are $55 per person for adults age 21 or over. All proceeds will go to fund SRJC Wine, Culinary Arts & Hospitality students and student scholarships. Purchase online at srjcwineclassic.com. For more information email srjcwineclassic@gmail.com.

San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition 2015

Happy  New Year!  As per usual I find myself up in Cloverdale the first week in January judging at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, the largest in the United States, with over 6400 wines being judged.

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The gold medal winners of the high-end Pinot Gris wines to determine which one was the Best of Class: The winner will be featured in the Sweepstakes round on Friday morning.

Put Saturday February 14 on your calendar to attend their public tasting at Fort Mason in San Francisco: 2015 Sweepstakes Award Winners and Tickets available through www.winejudging.com.

Keep posted for updates via my Sawyer Sommelier Blog!

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Me with fellow judges Miro Tcholakov of Miro Cellars and Sean Brosnihan of Jordan Vineyards.

Here Comes ZAP!

It is that time of year again, the Zinfandel Experience in San Francisco happens January 29-31!

ZAP-Postertop

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!

Purchase your tickets online!

ZAP-bottles

Tues Dec 30th: Nick Cave film screening!

Needing your Cave fix?  PBS recently featured he and his Bad Seeds on an episode of Austin City Limits, which left me wishing for an opportunity to get more of his wild stylistic performance.

This Tuesday December 30th,  the film 20,000 Days on Earth will be shown 7pm at City Winery in Napa: An in depth exploration into the mechanisms of Nick Cave.

A film the Hollywood Reporter declares “richly cinematic…a stunner…[a] unique investigation into the mind of an artist”.  What a bargain night out at $10!  Buy your tickets through City Winery.