Another great radio broadcast by my friend and host David Wilson of Grape Encounters Radio, where we discuss the fire situation in wine country. Listen to it here, for our enlivening discussion!
Recent events call for an updated schedule. There will be NO WINE WEDNESDAY on October 30th, due to the Sebastopol power outage, recent evacuations and ongoing Kincade Fire!
The new date is November 13th (details below), and will additionally support the Sonoma County Resilience Fund, which supports our community’s recovery by helping individuals impacted by the fires, healing the long-term effects of trauma, and creating housing solutions for our community.
So plan to trek on over to Gravenstein Grill in Sebastopol to experience any Wine Wednesday tasting in November! It is weekly in the Bartlett Bar from 5:30-7pm, and an excellent opportunity to enjoy a free wine tasting with a local wine producer, see schedule below:
November 6: Preston Farm & Winery
November 13th: Sommelier Chris Sawyer celebrates his 50th with the GG crew and four special vintners! Breaking Bread Wines, Kokomo Winery, Radio-Coteau, Bacigalupi Vineyards
Wear a costume, taste some wine and come give cheers to Sawyer Somm!!!
November 20: People’s Wine Revolution
Get your warm beverage, set at the desk and prepare to peruse the Sonoma County list of categories! I am hoping to retain my incumbency: I humbly request your vote as Best Sommelier.
If you need some reasons why to submit my name then maybe you need to have an Exclusive Sommelier Wine Tour, or private wine dinner with Fire & Vine, or just go to the Gravenstein Grill and sample from my wine list. Why not? Enjoy and happy voting!
Best Sommelier Christopher Sawyer
Best Restaurant & Wine List Gravenstein Grill
Here is my ENTIRE list of recommendations if you have the time!
Best Chef (Bob Simontacchi)
Best Outdoor Dining
Best Burger (featuring Sonoma Mountain Beef Company
& Willie Bird Turkeys)
Best Business Lunch
Best Wine & Food Experience
Best Romantic Dinner
Best Fried Chicken
Best Happy Hour
Mark your calendar for this First Annual Pinots & Plaid “Best of the Best” Pinot Noir Tasting, featuring 25 leading Pinot Noir producers from Northern California.
Wine lovers, foodies and luxury connoisseurs are invited to enjoy fine wines paired with high end cuisine in the historic, stunningly restored, Hibernia Bank Building, at 1 Jones Street, in San Francisco.
A VIP reception will offer one-on-one conversation with winemakers from 2p.m. to 3 p.m., followed by a General Admission reception from 3 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
The VIP Lounge Sponsored by San Francisco Magazine & Roederer Estate will feature Sparkling Wine & Caviar and will be open from 3:15 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. VIP ticket holders and sponsors will enjoy Roederer Estate Sparkling Wines paired with caviar from The Caviar Company in an intimate setting.
Well-known, premium brands including Anthill Farms Winery, Blue Farm, Bucher, CIRQ, Clarice Wine Co., Cobb Wines, Copain Wines, Coursey Graves, Dunstan, Dutton Goldfield, Freeman Vineyard & Winery, Gary Farrell, Hyde Estate, Kutch, Lando, Maggy Hawk, Peay Vineyards, Red Car, Reeve, Roederer Estate, Sangiacomo Vineyards, Sojourn Cellars, Stewart Cellars, Texture Wine, Three Sticks, Williams Selyem and Works & Days will showcase rare wines not typically available to the public.
Featuring rare and newly released wines from The Russian River Valley, Anderson Valley, Sonoma and Napa, the event is expected to draw an audience of approximately 500 guests from around the Bay Area. A portion of ticket sales will benefit two San Francisco charities: Meals on Wheels SF and Mission Graduates. Tickets are available on
Pinot & Plaid Tickets are $185 VIP and $115 General Admission
For those that have not yet explored this event, trek on over to Gravenstein Grill in Sebastopol to join a Wine Wednesday tasting! It is weekly in the Bartlett Bar from 5:30-7pm, an excellent opportunity to enjoy a free wine tasting with a local wine producer!
Here is the Autumn guest list, also note the special WW event happening on October 30th, details below!
Sommelier Chris Sawyer celebrates his 50th with the GG crew and four special vintners! Breaking Bread Wines, Kokomo Winery, Radio-Coteau, Talisman Wine
Wear a costume, taste some wine and come give cheers to Sawyer Somm!!!
Join me at this exclusive opportunity to taste more than 200 legendary wines and delicious foods—and find your own best of the best. Located at City View at METREON (135 4th St, San Francisco, CA 94103) from 6:30-8:30pm. Pair incredible wines with foods from 16 Bay Area chefs!
The Sonoma County Vintners Foundation are excited to announce $6.1 million was raised at the 2019 Sonoma County Wine Auction! Overall, more than $36 million has been raised to date to support charitable organizations focused on education, health and human services, the environment, and arts and culture in Sonoma County.
This charitable gathering was the culmination of a three-day affair that included an exclusive kickoff party on Thursday evening hosted with the Cline Family at Jacuzzi Family Vineyards and intimate Friday evening Vintner Dinners throughout Sonoma County and San Francisco.
Four hundred auction guests were welcomed to the grounds of La Crema Estate at Saralee’s Vineyard with sunny skies and exceptional Sonoma County wines. Local chefs, including James Beard award-winning Chef Honoree John Ash, prepared an array of decadent bites while guests mingled with non-profit beneficiary organizations.
The 40 auction lots included revered wine collections, luxurious travel excursions, meals prepared by world-class chefs, exclusive experiences with industry and community pillars such as Winemaker Honoree Merry Edwards, Chef Honoree John Ash, Steve Young and Ronnie Lott, as well as rare behind-the-scenes experiences with major sports teams and world-famous musicians Lady Antebellum and Brad Paisley.
“I’m truly inspired and grateful to our Honorary Chairs, our wine community and all the auction participants who have demonstrated phenomenal generosity and support for our Foundation,” said Michael Haney, Sonoma County Vintners Foundation Executive Director. “We are thrilled to help support the Boys & Girls Clubs of Sonoma – Marin as well as our many other Sonoma County nonprofit organizations with the funds raised.”
Taste world class Sonoma County Rhône style wines, including Syrahs, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Viognier, Marssanne, Roussane & more at the annual Rhône Rendezvous at Gravenstein Grill, hosted by myself, Sommelier Chris Sawyer! These small production wines are a passion of local winemakers who are bringing styles of one of the most interesting French wine regions home to the Bay Area. Come meet the winemakers themselves and find out more about these incredibly unique wines.
Get your TICKETS! Experience these wines!
ACORN Winery, Amapola Creek Winery, Benovia Winery, Cochon, CRUX Winery, Dane Cellars , Davis Family Vineyards, Donelan Family Wines, Enkidu Winery, Girl & The Fig, GlenLyon Winery, Jeff Cohn Cellars, Keller Estate, The Larsen Projekt, Lasseter Family Winery, Mengler Family Wines, Miner Family Winery, Muscardini Cellars, Odisea Wine Company, Onesta Wines , Scherrer Winery , Winery Sixteen 600, Trentadue Winery, Two Shepherds & more!
There will be live music, light hors d’oeuvres, and tastings with all wineries included with each ticket. This event is out on our Grove patio from 5:30pm-7:30pm. Don’t miss this once a year event!
If you don’t frequent The Somm Journal, you may have missed the truncated version of my article The Pink Tide: Sonoma County Rosé this June. Enjoy the read, try some of them out before the temperature cools down! ~CS
Although he is well-known in the winemaking circuit for his ability to craft world-class offerings of Pinot Noirs, cool-climate Syrahs and other red and white varietals during his stints at Paul Hobbs and Kosta Brown wineries in Sonoma County and the eponymous Shane label he started in 2006, Shane Finley is also a true believe in dry pink wines.
For Finley, it’s a journey that began in 2002, when he fell in love with crisp, clean and stylish pink wines while working a year-long internship at Domaine Pierre Gaillard in Cote-Rotie. As an homage to the region, he made the first few vintages for his Shane label with Syrah and Grenache before switching to focus on Pinot Noir.
As the years have passed, Finley has gotten pickier about the sites and Pinot clones he worked with for his pink program. He’s also shifted towards using more stainless-steel and neutral barrels to capture fresher flavors and minerality instead of overshadowing them with oak in the cellar.
This attention to detail shows in the new release of the Shane 2018 Ma Fille Rosé. Made with fruit from the Sonoma Coast, the wine dazzles the senses with enchanting aromas and lively flavors of ripe red fruits, watermelon, citrus, and a hint of saltiness leading to a long, zesty finish.
But rest assured, Finley is definitely not the only one committed to making high-quality roses these days. This is especially true in Sonoma County, where a plethora of boutique producers are now working with a diverse selection of red grape varieties to create new styles of dry pink wines that invigorate the senses and provide a growing number of consumers freshness, bright acidity, and balance in every sip.
This is a sweeping change in comparison to the days when import brands like Mateus and Lancers, White Zinfandel and ubiquitous wines with the title “blush” led most consumers to think all pink wines were sweet. But change can be a good thing—especially over the past decade. Or, as Finley puts it: “It really is incredible when you think about the shift from no one wanting it to everyone making it has happened in a ten-year period.”
Another Sonoma County winemaker helping nurture this “rosé everyday” movement is Rick Davis of Calstar Cellars, who makes his Pinot Meunier with grapes from the Balletto Vineyard in Russian River Valley that were originally used to make sparkling wine.
In comparison to the Pinot Noir grapes he works with for his red wine program, Davis says Pinot Meunier is well-suited for making rosé because the thicker skin and higher levels of tannins allow him to produce and preserve the natural color, flavors, acidity and structure with less skin contact. The end result is a fresh, clean and vibrant wine that always comes out between 13.8 to 14.3 percent alcohol.
As a consulting winemaker at Halleck Vineyards, Davis made the Sebastopol-based winery’s debut release of an adventurous, bone-dry style of White Zinfandel with fruit sourced from the De La Montoya Vineyard on the border of the Russian River and Dry Creek Valley appellations in 2018. Once picked, Davis let the skins soak with the juice overnight before pressing it the next morning. By aging 30 percent in neutral barrels, he was able to create more distinct flavors, texture and a lovely light magenta hue without compromising quality.
Another important factor that makes the rise of dry pink wines more than a trend is how well they pair with fresh cuisine. Winemaker Bill Nachbaur of Acorn Winery took these thoughts to mind when he and his wife Betsy began crafting their Italian-style rosato with Sangiovese grapes grown at their Alegria Vineyard near Healdsburg in 2005.
To match the more diverse styles of cuisine now being offered at restaurants, seasonal meals and social gatherings, the style of the Acorn Rosato has shifted to a more classic field blend that is more representative of the estate as a whole. The most recent example is the 2018 vintage, which contains with 41% Sangiovese, 30% Zinfandel, 15% Syrah, 11% Dolcetto, 10% Cabernet Franc and 3% others varietals from the old vines planted in the 1880s.
“Our ultimate goal is to make a classy pink wine that is distinct, delicious and substantial enough to set it apart from your typical porch pounders and other sweet pink wines that are made for sipping in hot tubs,” says Nachbaur.
After my ethereal Healdsburg unicorn adventure here is another chance to join in the festivities and raise some money with the L.A. crowd! Mags for Ag at the Petersen Automotive Museum, this Thursday August 1st!
8PM DINNER: Keynote Speaker, Multi-Course Feast, Magnums Poured Table-side
9PM SILENT AUCTION: More Wine, Silent Auction & Dessert Reception with Chefs
Mags for Ag is an intimate culinary experience promising up-close engagements with more than a dozen star winemakers pouring magnums table side and chefs cooking to support an important conversation in agriculture to grow thousands of new farmers each year. It kicks-off with winemaker reception followed by a keynote speaker, seated dinner and silent-auction filled with wine magnums and experiences to benefit charity.
TICKETS are $249 and include reception, dinner & silent auction +save 15% with the PROMOCODE -wineclub
Chefs and winemakers include Host Chef Sean Dent of Drago, Duskie Estes of Black Pig Meat Co., Joshua Whigham of Lapis and Anthony Sasso together with wine friends at Coursey Graves, Sangiacomo Family Vineyards, Small Vines, Lando Wines, Kreck Wines, Arcadian Winery, Davis Family Vineyards, Acorn Winery, Silver Oak Cellars, Rocca Family Vineyards and Phifer Pavitt.