The Somm Of It All: Chris Sawyer Returns To Telluride Wine Fest 2017

Tickets to the 2017 Telluride Wine Festival here. Please scroll down towards the bottom of the story to watch a video interview with the somm to the stars, Christopher Sawyer. Note: the interview was done in 2016. Near the end, Chris talks about two 2016 events – which are not being repeated this year. The rest of the video interview is relevant and compelling, a fun listen. 

This year’s Wine Fest is being billed as “Choose Your Own Adventure.” Translation: don’t pass if you don’t have a pass. For many programs, you can purchase tickets at the door. And there are a number of free events too.  Go here for a Telluride Wine Fest 2017 overview.

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 11 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Or have they cooled off and been replaced by “a band of upstarts” (The New York Times) who have, for awhile now, been challenging America’s foremost oenophile, Robert M. Parker Jr., the man Atlantic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?

That conversation continues in the Telluride Wine Fest overview.

But really, who should get to decide what constitutes a good wine and which particular wines should taste yummy to you?

Well, you for one.

And soon.

At the 36th annual Telluride Wine Festival, Thursday, June 22 – Sunday, June 25, when internationally renowned sommelier Christopher Sawyer returns to town.

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, Chris 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, back then Chris partnered with DJ Shadow and others to create some of the most buzzed-about music sets for his listeners during those years.

Chris 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, including Best Sommelier in Sonoma County for several years in a row, chosen 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

Picnic Seminar – “Precious Bites”: Bubbles, Still Wines and Culinary Delights ($125)

12:00 pm – 1:30 pm

Kick-off your al fresco lunch in style with tasty appetizers paired with an all-star lineup of sparkling wines from California, the Cava region in Spain, and the Prosecco region in Italy. Then, enjoy a mix of mouth-watering lunch courses paired with a selection of elegant styles of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from the West Coast of California. Along the way, learn about the unique climates of each region, the grapes inside each of the wines, unique food pairings, and more.

MODERATOR:  Chris Sawyer.

Friday

Seminar: “Perfectly Pinot” ($75)

10:30 am – 11:30 am
Seminar Tent, Mountain Village

If you are passionate about Pinot Noir, why NOT try it for breakfast? This morning seminar gives you a unique opportunity to taste a collection of these sophisticated, limited-release wines crafted from world-class grapes grown in the prestigious regions of Russian River Valley, Santa Rita Hills, Anderson Valley, Willamette Valley, and other coastal addresses on the West Coast. Featuring Bob Iantosca from Gloria Ferrer, Mike Sullivan from Benovia, and wines from Davis Bynum and The Calling.

MODERATOR: Chris Sawyer
SPECIAL GUESTS: Bob Iantosca-Executive Winemaker-Gloria Ferrer, Mike Sullivan-Winemaker-Benovia Winery

Picnic/Seminar – “The Terroir Exploration” ($125)

12:00 pm – 1:30 pm
Private home, Town of Telluride

Imagine pairing the flavors of wines made with pristine fruit from legendary wine-growing regions with fine cuisine crafted by some of the most talented chefs in the United States. Then, add in the fact that this stylish luncheon will be held at a private residence, one of the most gorgeous settings in America.

MODERATOR: Chris Sawyer
WINERIES: TBD

Seminar: “Rhone If You Want To” ($75)

2:30 pm – 3:30 pm
Seminar Tent-Mountain Village

The world is just better through rose-colored glasses – well, when they are holding red, white, and pink wines anyway. Just ask the growing number of talented American winemakers who are crafting world-class wines made with Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, Viognier, and the intriguing grape varieties brought over from the Rhone Valley of France. Learn about the characteristics of the special grapes used to make a wide range of flavorful red and white still wines, dry pink wines, and complex blends that are great to pair with a wide range of cuisine all year long.

MODERATOR: Chris Sawyer
SPECIAL GUESTS: Lise Ciolino-Winemaker-Montemaggiore, David Phillips-Winemaker-Michael David Wine.

Seminar: “Mixed Bag of Mixed Blacks:” Preserving Rare Old-Vine Wines ($75)

4:30 pm – 5:30 pm
Seminar Tent, Mountain Village

Before Pinot Noir, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon became the most popular red grapes to plant west of the Rockies, most of the full-bodied red wines were made with Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Carignane, and other legendary grape varietals referred to as “mixed blacks.” Join Wine Fest at a rare opportunity to taste and find out what proprietors of the Robert Biale Vineyard, Hamel Family Wines and other special producers from Napa Valley and Sonoma County are doing to preserve the old vines. Also experience and enjoy a series of limited-release wines.

MODERATOR: Chris Sawyer
SPECIAL GUESTS: Tres Goetting -Robert Biale Vineyards

Seminar: “Inventing an Icon”: The Art & Craft of Proprietary Red Blends ($75)

10:30 am – 11:30 am
Seminar Tent, Mountain Village

From elegant to powerful, the profiles of complex red wine blends made with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and other special grape varieties offer flavor profiles that set themselves apart from all the rest. Learn more about the art of crafting these “proprietary blends” while tasting through a magnificent array of these special full-bodied wines made with pristine fruit from world-class vineyards in Napa Valley and beyond.

MODERATOR: Chris Sawyer

Picnic/Seminar: “Trending Now!” Food & Wine for Summer & Fall 2017 ($125)

12:00 pm – 1:30 pm
Private Home – Town of Telluride

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, barbecued chicken, and grilled meats? Find out the answers to these and many more food and wine questions at this lunch paired with hot new wines from around the globe. Learn what’s trending now and choose your NEW favorite wine style for 2017.

MODERATOR: Chris Sawyer

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Susan Viebrock

Susan Viebrock

Susan is Telluride Inside… and Out’s founder and editor-in-chief, the visionary on the team, in charge of content, concept and development. For 19+ years, Susan has covered Telluride’s cultural economy, which includes non-profits and special events. Much of her writing features high-profile individuals in the arts, entertainment, business, and politics. She is a former Citibank executive specializing in strategic planning and new business development, and a certified Viniyoga instructor.

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