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Monday, December 30, 2013

12/30 - Return to Terroir - A Taste of Sancerre

Slow Living Radio bids farewell to 2013, reflecting on our many marvelous guests and topics. We were able to taste, sip and experience so many wonderful things, thanks to their generosity and passion and we thank them all for what they have brought to Slow Living Radio. 

Earlier this year, we had the thrill of meeting a very young, passionate and successful winemaker from Sancerre, France, Sébastien Riffault. He and his importer Rafael Knapp of Return To Terroir, focused on organic and bio dynamic small production wineries entertained us with a story, so inspirational, we thought this a fitting day to air the show. 

Nestled into couches at the vibrant and eclectic Terroir Natural Wine Merchant, in San Francisco, whose mission is to connect guests with the best wine made using only the most natural, organic, and bio dynamic methods, we bring you a taste of Sancerre, and more French tales! We also hear from the bar's French owner, Luc Ertoran, with his own fascinating story.

Sébastien Riffault
Natural Winemaker in Sancerre

Aged 25, he is working on a 2-hectare vineyard near Sury-en-Vaux in the Sancerre Appellation area. The hills near Sury en Vaux overview both Sancerre (the town) and the Loire. Sebastien Riffault vinifies his wines at his father's winery (Etienne Riffault), a recently-built facility just outside the village, and the 2-hectare vineyard plots were initially part of the 10 hectares of the family estate.

Sébastien started taking over pieces of the family vineyards from his father, Etienne in 2004. The first thing he did was convert them to organic viticulture, a move Etienne was not expecting. But, pleased with the results, he let Sébastien transform the entire estate to an organic and then biodynamic property.

Sébastien is a student of the Sancerre region and can tell you the detailed history of its winemaking technique and tradition as well as the name of every plant that grows in his cover crops. His own viticulture and winemaking philosophies are heavily influenced by these traditions.

Now a reference around the world for natural winemaking, Sébastien quickly evolved into a mature winemaker with a worldwide following. His work has taken him to Japan, Noma in Copenhagen and the RAW Wine Fair in London.

TERROIR Akmeniné comes from a three hectare plot of silex, clay and limestone soil. It has south and southeast exposure on a hill with a slope of 20%. Yields are 35 hl/ha.

FARMING Certified Biodynamic and a member of the Renaissance des Appellations. Sébastien plows all of the vineyards with a horse and harvests all grapes by hand. His goal is for his Sauvignon Blanc to reach full ripeness which often means harvesting late into October.

Raphael Knapp
Return to Terroir

Since founding Return to Terroir in 2009, Raphael Knapp has turned over many stones in France and, as of 2012, Italy, in a quest to create a diverse, high caliber portfolio with producers who believe winemaking should occur in the vineyard.

Every year, Knapp makes several trips to France to meet with our current producers and seek out undiscovered talent. Through contacts made over time and thorough research, Knapp selects vignerons who not only share his vision but also make soulful, exceptional wines. Not least, our producers must be people he enjoys cracking a bottle with, be it one of their own or something he has brought to dinner.

Return to Terroir’s producers are largely young vignerons who are trying to make a go at it on their own or have been handed the reigns the by their parents. Some learned how to make wine by watching their ancestors and others in school but all will tell you that it is the terroir that has taught them the most.

In line with this belief, chemical herbicides and pesticides are not used at all by most of wineries. Nearly half of our portfolio is made up of certified Demeter (biodynamic) and Ecocertified (organic) producers. The others are either working toward certification or practicing a strict form of sustainability. We realize that sustainability also includes our producer’s ability to economically survive from year to year and sometimes difficult choices need to be made. We trust our winemakers to make the best decisions.
Though the company has slowly expanded in the last four years, many of our wineries have been with us since the beginning and we extend the same level of support to our new producers. It is a symbiotic relationship with our producers, and our customers, who have made our growth and vision possible. There is no compromising and Return to Terroir is proud to represent every one of the wineries in our portfolio. 

About Raphael Knapp

Raphael with Slow Living's Steve Andrews
Born in 1978 to an Italian mother and French-Austrian father, Raphael Knapp grew up in Paris. His family, from his uncle in Parma, to his grandfather in the Latin Quarter, drank wine regularly, with each bottle having its own story. Knapp had an open ear and eager palate so by the time he entered Edhec, one of France’s top business schools, wine had become a passion.
To wet his feet, he interned with Nicolas, a French wine retail chain, in 1999. Upon moving to San Francisco, he worked for a wine brokerage company until joining a partnership that led to International Vineyards in 2003.
Every time he went back to France on sourcing trips, Knapp kept finding more up and coming producers who were ‘returning to terroir’ in their winemaking philosophy. Convinced that this was the path for him, he went out on his own and created Return to Terroir in 2009.

Monday, December 16, 2013

12/16 - "Salute" - Italian-style for the Holidays

What better way to celebrate the holiday season, Christmas and ringing in the New Year than doing it "Italian-style".  Tonight's guests, Dario DeConti and Jeff Prather will help us do just that with a taste of Christmas in Italy, some great Italian wine choices for Christmas and entertaining, and some forecasts of what's in store for the New Year.  Dario, Italian Pizzaola and Winemaker, and owner of Napa's Ca' Momi Enotica and Winery, and Jeff Prather, creator of the stunning Italian wine list for Ca' Momi, are our guests and will delight you with their tales and entertaining style!  Sit back, raise your glass of Italian vino and join us!

Dario De Conti
Chief Executive Officer and Winemaker

Dario with partner, Valentina Guolo-Migotto

Dario De Conti was raised on his family’s farm in Veneto, Italy, where he funded his winemaking studies by making pizza at the local pizzeria. Dario eventually brought both these skills to Napa Valley, where he partnered with Valentina Guolo-Migotto and Stefano Migotto to create Ca’ Momi Winery in 2006, followed by Ca’ Momi Enoteca in 2010. As both winemaker and chef, he has a very hands-on approach as owner of Ca’ Momi Winery and Ca' Momi Enoteca: You will often find him at tasting events pouring Ca’ Momi wines, or in the kitchen prepping dough for his next pizza masterpiece. As the voice of Ca’ Momi, you’ll often find Dario on radio and television stations and in local and national publications.

Jeff Prather
Wine Ambassador, CaMomi Enotica

When Ca' Momi expanded their space at the Oxbow Public Market in January 2013 and opened their Enoteca Wine Bar and Cafe, Jeff was asked to take on the role of Wine Ambassador. In that role he developed the expanded wine list with owner Dario De Conti as well as launching the extensive draft beer program. In addition to overseeing the bar and beverage service for the restaurant, Jeff also pitches in at the winery, helping with the marketing efforts and staffing outside tasting events.

Jeff began his diverse wine and food career over a quarter century ago working as a retailer, distributor salesman, and most notably as Wine Director for Ray’s Boathouse in Seattle, and Cellar Master and Restaurant Director for the Culinary Intitute of America’s west coast Campus at Greystone in Napa Valley.  Jeff received four James Beard Award nominations for his work at Ray’s Boathouse. Jeff has also served as Wine Education Director for Shafer Vineyards, Flora Springs Winery, and Beaulieu Vineyards. He also worked as a Wine Buyer and Writer for Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant in San Francisco and Oxbow Wine Merchant in Napa.  He is a freelance writer published in several magazines and co-author of the book “Northwest Wines.”

Monday, December 9, 2013

12/09 - Thomas Keller's Bouchon - Behind the Scenes

Slow Living Radio congratulates Bouchon Bistro Yountville on its 15th anniversary and upcoming famed Perigord menu!  We welcome Chef de Cuisine Michael Sandoval, and Head Sommelier, Gina Schober, to give us a taste of the essence behind the magic and "finesse" of the Parisian-style bistro that draws a nightly crowd of cult local followers and eager visitors.

Bouchon Bistro ~ Yountville

Highly acclaimed chef Thomas Keller (of The French Laundry) is behind this beautiful Yountville restaurant. Enjoy excellent French bistro cuisine in a dining room offering wonderful Parisian ambiance.

Bouchon offers traditional French bistro fare with a menu that showcases the best products available each day. Bouchon also features a raw bar with select oysters on the half shell and many other Fruits de Mer. Seasonal offerings change throughout the year and are complemented by Vin de Carafe, a unique wine program that brings recognition to local wine producers.

The Bistro gives their chefs a place to enjoy and share their favorite dishes. The Bouchon team is united by a common love of food and a desire to let guests experience the ambiance and energy of the bistros they've enjoyed throughout France.

Michael Sandoval
Chef de Cuisine

Chef de Cuisine Michael Sandoval leads the kitchen at Chef Thomas Keller's award-winning bistro Bouchon in California's Napa Valley. Sandoval first joined the Thomas Keller Restaurant Group in 2003 as an opening Chef de Partie at Keller's second Bouchon restaurant located in the Venezia Tower of the Venetian Casino, Hotel & Resort.

After two years of demonstrating his tireless work ethic and humble demeanor, Sandoval was promoted to Sous Chef at Bouchon in Las Vegas. In 2009 Sandoval relocated to Yountville, CA to become Executive Sous Chef for Bouchon and was in turn promoted to Chef de Cuisine in 2011. Sandoval continues the tradition of excellence at Bouchon with its seasonally-changing, classic bistro menu and program of special dinners throughout the year celebrating the diverse regional cuisines of France.

Gina Schober
Head Sommelier

Gina Schober is the Head Sommelier at Bouchon in Yountville, California, where she now manages the wine and spirits program after having joined the Thomas Keller Restaurant Group in 2012 as the Assistant Sommelier at Bouchon.  

Overseeing the “Vin en Carafe” program, Gina showcases local vintners and winery owners producing single barrel, exclusive wines of distinctive varietals found in Napa Valley.  She plays an integral role in the restaurant’s French-traditional regional wine dinner series, as well as specialty Périgord, beer, and spirits dinners.  Gina also directs the wine education program for the staff, which is a continuous process due to the size and depth of Bouchon’s wine program.

Prior to joining The Thomas Keller Restaurant Group, Gina held several positions within Bacchus Management restaurant group, beginning in 2007 as Floor and Beverage Manager at Pizza Antica in Lafayette and San Jose, Calif.

Most recently Gina served as Head Sommelier at Café des Amis, which received the Award of Excellence from Wine Spectator under her leadership. Gina has achieved Introductory and Certified Sommelier Certifications from the Court of Master Sommeliers, as well as the Advanced Certificate from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust.

She graduated from the University of California – Davis with a Bachelor of Arts Degrees in Communications and Italian, after having studied abroad in Italy at L’Universitá di Trento.

Christmas Ideas from Thomas Keller and Bouchon
This year is the launch of Bouchon’s holiday gifts exclusively available at Finesse, The Store and online at  We particularly love Chef Keller’s Chocolate Tart Gift Set, as it contains the same recipe served at the Bistro, packaged perfectly with everything you need to enjoy and serve it at home this holiday season.  The specific product link can be found at