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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

03/20/2012 - Sonoma Magic at Carneros Bistro and Wine Bar

Sonoma is often overlooked by visitors scurrying to the Napa Valley, but this is a big mistake as we soon learn from our guests at Caneros Bistro and Wine Bar in the Lodge at Sonoma.  Hear all about the hidden gems from purveyors, growers, farmers, winemakers and restaurants.  Learn about the terroir from Sommelier Christopher Sawyer, and his two invited winemakers, Steven Urberg or Gloria Ferrer, and Michael Muscardini of Muscardini Cellars.

(From left, Michael Muscardini, Christopher Sawyer,
Steve Urberg and Chef Andrew Wilson)



Chef de Cuisine, Andrew Wilson, brings his signature style, highlighting seasonal ingredients with European techniques. Andrew came to Carneros with 20 years of restaurant-industry experience, cooking in internationally-acclaimed kitchens from South Carolina to San Francisco and has earned accolades in Esquire, The Wine Spectator, The New York Times, Food & Wine and Gourmet.

Spending summers as a child at his grandmother’s house in Greenwich, CT, Andrew’s passion for fresh vegetables and simply prepared food sprouted at an early age. No stranger to the Bay Area, Andrew graduated from the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco and worked in a handful of San Francisco kitchens early in his career. Cooking with a clay tandoor oven alongside internationally-recognized chef Alan McLennan at Cypress Club eventually led to a role as Chef de Cuisine at Cafe Kati–one of the first and original Asian Fusion restaurants in San Francisco. Departing California first to Chicago for the legendary Tru restaurant, Andrew then spent 10 years in South Carolina as Executive Sous Chef at McCrady’s, and Sous/Pastry Chef at FIG.

Andrew's menu celebrates Sonoma’s agricultural bounty using fresh ingredients from local farmers, foragers, fisherman, and artisans and an organic kitchen garden on property that supplies the restaurant. Simple, straight-forward bistro cooking allows the purity of ingredients to come through while fostering a strong sense of place. Hints of Andrew’s experience in Asian, European and Southern kitchens add subtlety to the bold, hearty food.

Chris with his famous wine flights

Christopher Sawyer travels the world following trends in wine and participating as a judge in international wine competitions, and has been featured in a wide array of national media, including USAToday, MSN, NBC, ABC, CNN, Redbook, Maxim, National Geographic Traveler and Esquire.

Sawyer was recently named the 2009 Best Sommelier in Sonoma County by The Wine Tasting Panel Magazine, and is the recipient of many prestigious awards and industry honors. In 2008, Sawyer was selected as “Sommelier Star” Host for the Sonoma Wine Country Weekend, the largest Wine Country event in Northern California. As the world's first and only Film Festival Sommelier, Sawyer conceived and curated the wine experience throughout the Sonoma Valley Film Festival, including creatively pairing wine and food with films throughout the festival and at celebrity tributes.

Steven Urberg
Gloria Ferrer

Steven Urberg’s finely tuned sense of focus, passion for detail, and strong science background are indispensable in crafting Gloria Ferrer sparkling and estate varietal wines. As a young man from Detroit, who came to California by way of U.C. Berkeley for graduate school in chemistry, Steven discovered that wine making provides a way in which to use his innate technical ability in creating wine as an art.

His journey into wine making began in 1995, when he decided to take a break from chemistry. He was offered a job at the Hess Collection, working in the cellar, and he never looked back. “The excitement of that first harvest at the Hess Collection inspired me to take a left turn from the path of chemistry research, return to graduate school at U.C. Davis, and pursue my new passion of wine making,” says Urberg.

Steven first arrived at Gloria Ferrer during the harvest of 1996, and he returned in 2001 as a full-time member of the Gloria Ferrer wine making team. He joined Bob Iantosca and Mike Crumly, who have grown grapes and made Gloria Ferrer wines together for almost a quarter of a century.

With his tremendous ability for hard work and focus, Steven Urberg integrates his scientific background with inspired artistry in crafting elegant and balanced Gloria Ferrer sparkling and estate varietal wines. “I enjoy the exercise in subtlety involved with making sparkling wines. The challenge lies in creating the delicate texture and mouthfeel, while maintaining balance with the fruit structure. The same challenge lies in Pinot Noir estate varietal wines, where blending to achieve the silky mouthfeel is as important as the balance of the fruit, spice, and earth characters that are so irresistible in Carneros Pinot Noir,” says Urberg. The diverse array of clones planted on the Gloria Ferrer estate vineyards, married with the Carneros terroir, result in a palate of flavors that is a dream come true to a scientist with an artistic bent.

Clearly, Steven has the discipline and talent required to create the Gloria Ferrer wines that are true expressions of the Carneros region — sparkling and estate varietal wines — vintage to vintage.

When not making wine, Steven enjoys cooking, entertaining, woodworking, and gardening.

Muscardini Cellars
Bottled with love, for the joy of living.

Let’s start in Italy, 1892, when my grandfather, Emilio Alchera, was born in the village of Calliano, just outside of the city of Asti in the Piemonte region. Emilio came to America in 1909 via Ellis Island in New York. After heading to the West Coast by train to meet his two brothers, Antonio and Louis, he settled in San Francisco.

Emilio began his living in California by helping to dig the Caldecott Tunnel, which connects the East Bay to Contra Costa County. After saving his money, he began to buy and run corner grocery stores where he sold fine bulk wines, and in his spare time made a red table wine for the family. His business would eventually become the St Helena Napa Valley Wine Company.

It has taken me some time to finally continue and expand upon my grandfather’s tradition in wine making, but after owning and managing a construction company, Creative Spaces, for 27 years, the time was right. With family and friends, and blessed by Monsignor O’Hara from St. Leo’s Church, I planted our first Sangiovese vines in May of 2000.

As the grapes grew, my son, Gian Carlo and I built our family home at Monte Terra.  After moving into our new home on May 12, 2001, I began to study wine making from two local winemakers, and took numerous related courses at UC Davis and Sonoma State University.

(The Muscardini and Alchera Brothers)
With our Sangiovese grapes ready to harvest in 2002, I took our first crop and my new wine making knowledge and jumped in with both feet (less shoes). Now, with a number of harvests from both Monte Terra and other growers ~ some of the best in Sonoma County ~ behind me, I had honed my skills and won numerous awards, including two Best of Class awards and two Best of Show for my organically grown Sangiovese.
With wine making in my blood, I asked the question, "Does the world need another winery?" And I thought, "Perhaps not, but the world does need to taste my wine."

September 2005 was our first custom crush at Wellington Vineyards in Sonoma Valley. We plan to make about 200-300 cases each of a 100% Syrah grape grown by our friends Unti Vineyards in Dry Creek Valley, a 100% Sangiovese grape grown by Merlo Vineyards in upper Dry Creek Valley, a Cabernet Sauvignon grown next door to our home, and a very special blend made in super Tuscan style – 65% Sangiovese, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Syrah. All four are barrel aging for 12 months in French and American oak.

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