Telluride Wine Fest: Somm Of It All, Christopher Sawyer

Telluride Wine Fest: Somm Of It All, Christopher Sawyer

Tickets to the 2016 Telluride Wine Festival here. Please scroll down towards the bottom of the story to watch a video interview with this year’s Telluride Wine Director and somm to the stars, Christopher Sawyer.

Christopher Sawyer

Christopher Sawyer

In vino, some split decisions about the veritas?

Used to be if you knew wines you knew about the turf issue.The grape world seemed to be divided between terroirists and wine-making scientists or technologists, those who believe climate and soil (“terroir” or land) are the chief factors in determining a wine’s quality and those who believe it’s the grapes and how they are treated in the winery that makes the difference.

You may have also been aware of practices by what was then an emerging group of biodynamic winemakers that included filling cow horns with dung and racking wines when the moon had waned.

We reported that information about 10 years ago. Are they still hot topics?

Or have they cooled off and been replaced by “a band of upstarts” (The New York Times) who last year began challenging America’s foremost oenophile, Robert M. Parker Jr., the man Atlantic Monthly once described as “the most influential critic in the world.” 

For three decades, it seems, Parker has favored exactly the style of wine these upstarts disparage, wines they see as “overblown” and “obvious.”

According to the New York Times, the debate is “all about the philosophical purpose of fine wine”: Should oenologists try to make beverages that are merely delicious? Or should the ideal be something more profound and intellectually stimulating? Are the best wines the equivalent of Hollywood blockbusters or of art-house films?

And who gets to decide?”

Well, you for one.

And soon.

At the 35th annual Telluride Wine Festival, Thursday, June 23 – Sunday, June 26, where internationally renowned sommelier Christopher Sawyer is 2016 Festival Wine Director.

Have difficulty with winespeak, words like “bouquet,” “chewy,” “corked,” “legs,” “malolactic,” “shoulder fill,” and “tears”?

Chris can explain.

And he will be everywhere you want to be.

Chris Sawyer is a sommelier, wine educator, journalist, consultant, critic, and public speaker, who travels the world following trends in wine and participating as a VIP judge in top wine competitions. He has been featured in a wide range of national media, including USA Today, MSN, NBC, CNN ABC, CBS, Redbook, The Hollywood Reporter, Maxim, National Geographic Traveler, and Esquire.

Already legendary in the industry for his encyclopedic wine knowledge and rich wine industry relationships around the globe, Christopher has been a personal sommelier for an array of luminaries and aficionados, from the Getty Family to the Gorbachevs, as well as for Oscar-winning director and chief creative officer of Pixar-Disney Animation Studios, John Lasseter.

Chris has also become renowned for his unusual and entertaining ability to pair wines with just about any pop cultural experience.

Less well known to the public, but famous among wine world insiders, are his wine and music pairings. A popular college radio DJ while at UC Davis, he partnered with DJ Shadow and others to create some of the most buzzed-about music sets for his listeners during those years. Now, Christopher has become legendary for secret midnight sessions held in the cellar of his 19th Century Sonoma County farmhouse, where star winemakers, celebrity chefs, restaurateurs, and lucky friends taste pairings from his extensive international wine collection, matched to selections from his incredible stash of rare and cutting- edge vinyl.

Christopher Sawyer is the recipient of many prestigious awards and industry honors. Most recently he was voted 2014, 2015 & 2016 Best Sommelier in Sonoma County by readers in The Bohemian’s “Best of the North Bay” issue.

To learn more listen to Christopher Sawyer’s podcast or watch his video interview.

Among the no-miss Telluride Wine Festival events featuring Christopher Sawyer:

Thursday, June 23

12:00-2:00 p.m. – Saveur Pass Luncheon and Sparkling Wines

Summary: Taste through an all-star line-up of the elegant and complex sparkling gems from France, Spain, Italy and California. Learn about these regions, the grapes that are used to make these sparkling wines, food pairings, and so much more!

Wine educator, Chris Sawyer

Wineries/Wines (12 bottles each):

Segura Viudas Brut Rose – 1 case (confirmed via Claudia, Freixenet USA)
Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Noirs – 1 case (confirmed via Claudia, Freixenet USA)
La Marcha Prosecco -1 case (Gallo)
Wine Company Rose – 1 case (Gallo)

Friday, June 24

Seminar: 11:00-12:00 p.m. – Que Syrah Shiraz

Summary: Acclaimed winemaker Ehren Jordan and “Sommelier to the Stars” Christopher Sawyer lead the way with this fascinating exploration of Syrahs. Participants will learn how cool climate and warm climate Syrahs from California, Washington State and Australia exhibit unique profiles and unexpected depth. There will be selections from Failla, Aril, Penfolds, and many more.

Moderator, Chris Sawyer /Panelists: Ehren Jordan. 50-60 guests

Wineries/Wines (6 bottles each):

Failla 2013 Syrah, Failla Estate Vineyard, Fort Ross-Seaview
Aril 2014 Syrah, Kick Ranch, Sonoma County
Qupe 2012 Syrah, Sawyer Lindquist Vineyard, Edna Valley
Peter Lehman Portrait Shiraz, Southeastern Australia

Lunch: 12:00-1:30 p.m. (Date, time and place TBD) – Mountain-to-Mountain: High Elevation Wines from Napa & Sonoma

Summary: Some Winemakers love to get high! Learn which ones, and about the rugged vineyards sites that produce some of the finest wines made with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and other special varietal grown high on the Mayacamas and Vaca Mountain Ranges in Napa and Sonoma. Then taste the finished wines that make the risks worth the rewards.

Moderator, Chris Sawyer/ Panelist,Vance Rose, Grieve Family Wines

Wineries/Wines (6 bottles each):

St. Supery, Dollarhide Ranch (Vaca)
O’Shaughnessy Estate, Howell Mountain (Howell Mountain-Vaca)
Grieve, Grieve Family Estate (Lovall Valley-Mayacamas)
Louis M. Martini, Monte Rosso (Moon Mountain, Mayacamas)
Kunde Estate, Nunn’s Canyon (Moon Mountain, Mayacamas
Laurel Glen Estate, Laurel Glen Vineyard (Sonoma Mountain)

Seminar: 2 – 3 p.m. / Members Club – Extraordinary Tuscan Experience with Cru Artisan Wines/Banfi Vintners

Summary: Tuscany is bringing the ultimate wine experience right here to Telluride! Join Lars Leicht from Banfi to taste through an amazing samplings of Vermentino and Bolgheri Rosso from the coast; a new single vineyard Chianti, and bringing it all together with the newly released 2011 Brunellos. Fantastico!

Moderator, Chris Sawyer / Panelist: Lars Leicht, Cru Artisan/Banfi Vintners

Wineries/Wines (6 bottles each):

La Pettegola Vermentino Toscano
Fonte alla Selva Chianti Classico
ASKA Bolgheri Rosso
Poggio alle Mura Rosso di Montalcino
Poggio alle Mura Brunello di Montalcino
Poggio alle Mura Brunello di Montalcino Riserva

Seminar: 3:30-4:30 p.m. – The Tales of Two Valleys: Interview and Tasting with Jeff Boyer of Ramey Wines

Summary: For more than two decades winemaker David Ramey has been crafting world-class Chardonnay and Syrah with premium grapes grown in Russian River Valley and the Sonoma Coast appellations in Sonoma County. His Cabernet Sauvignon selections are created with magnificent fruit from Napa Valley. With Jeff Boyer of Ramey Wines guiding participants through these two valleys of renown, it will become apparent why there is a serious cult following for these wines.

Chris Sawyer, Moderator/ Panel: Jeff Boyer, Wine Ambassador, Ramey Wines

Ramey 2013 Chardonnay, RRV
Ramey 2013 Chardonnay, Woolsey Road Vineyard, RRV
Ramey 2014 Pinot Noir, RRV
Ramey 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Ramey 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, Pedregal Vineyard, Napa Valley

Saturday, June 25

VIP Breakfast, 9:00-10:30 a.m., plus VIP Interview and Tasting with Christi Coors Finci and Winemaker Bill Namarrow of Goosecross Cellars, Napa Valley

Goosecross Riesling or SB
Goosecross Merlot
Goosecross Cabernet France
Goosecross Cabernet Sauvignon

Seminar: 11:00 am-12:00 p.m.- Living on the Edge of Reality: Exploring the Flavor Profiles of Coastal Pinot Noirs

Summary: Sophisticated Pinot Noirs made with fruit grown in the coastal regions of California take center stage with this unique tasting. If you love Pinot Noirs, this seminar will deepen your passion. Food pairing suggestions from chefs and sommeliers further enrich the Pinot Noir experience

Moderator: Chris Sawyer / Panel: Ana Keller, Keller Estate Winery / Site: Members Club

Wineries/Wines (6 bottles each):

Garnet, Rodgers Creek, Sonoma Coast
Three Sticks, The James, Sta Rita Hills
Arista, Ferrington Vineyard, Anderson Valley
Keller Estate, La Cruz Vineyard, Petaluma Gap< The Calling, Gold Label, Russian River Valley 12:00-1:30 p.m. (date, time and place TBD)- Lunch: Trending Now! Global Wines with Summer Cuisine

Summary: This is no ordinary picnic. Food seems to taste better outside, so this year you can dine with the winemakers and enjoy incredible culinary creations at one of the most exquisite residences in the environs of Telluride. This luncheon will be held outdoors** with stunning views for a gourmet experience like no other.

Seminar: Want a crisp, refreshing alternative to Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc? Need a dry Rosé to pair with gourmet salads, cheeses and seafood? What are the best red wines to pair with fresh veggies, bbq chicken, grilled meats, and rack of lamb? The landscape of fine wine and excellent food is ever changing. In this seminar, learn about the hot new styles of wine from around the globe with wine pros. Transportation will be provided from Telluride to the secret, out-of-town location.

**In case of rain, we have you covered.

Wine Educator, Chris Sawyer and/or local sommeliers / 30-40 guests max

Wineries/Wines (12 bottles each):

Ramon Bibao Albarino., Rias Baixas, Spain (Deutsch)
Jean Luc Columbo Rose, Provence, France (Palm Bay)
Domaine Laroche St. Martin Chablis (Wilson Daniels)
MacMurray Ranch Pinot Gris, Russian River Valley (Gallo)
Mas La Chevalier Red, Languedoc, France (Wilson Daniels)
Ruta 22 Malbec, Argentina (Deutsch)
Coyam by Emiliana Red Wine, (Banfi)

Status: Sold Out

VIP Caviar Patron Dinner, 7:00-10:00 p.m.

At private residence for 75 guests

Wine Educator: Chris Sawyer and guest sommeliers

Featured Wines: Selections for each course

Gosset Champagne Reserve Brut
Buglioni Spumante Spumante Rose

Pierre Sparr Cremant Brut and Rose

Sunday, June 26

Reserve Champagne Brunch, 12:00 –1:0 p.m.


Gloria Ferrer Royal Cuvee
Segura Viudas Gran Cuvee Reserve< Domaine Gosset, Buglioni, Pierre Sparr

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