Wine writer and sommelier Christopher Sawyer remembers his first bottle of fine wine quite vividly: “It was a bottle of Lynch-Bages that Winona Ryder and I took from her dad’s cellar,” he laughs with a rueful note. “We were watching Name of the Rose, one of my favorite movies. We just needed something to drink so we snagged something. I thought it tasted pretty good. Today, that bottle would be worth about $400.”
Perhaps Sawyer’s adolescent experimentation with the Bordeaux and movie stars that prepared him for his new gig as the “world’s first film festival sommelier” for the Sonoma Valley Film Festival this April.
“Yeah, I’d say that’s pretty flukey,” deadpans Sawyer, who will pair wines with the film program and generally lead the vino-drenched revelry.
When not acquiring honorifics (he’s known in some circles as “The Mayor of Wine Town”), Sawyer pens articles for local and national wine rags. He is also a sommelier at Carneros Bistro and Wine Bar at the Lodge in Sonoma and will occasionally pick and pour wines for private clients like philanthropist Gordon Getty and Pixar’s John Lassiter.
“My job is to take people on a trip every time they sit down at the table. To perhaps experience a wine region that they might know enough about – in most cases, it’s Sonoma County and its thirteen appellations. And to make sure they’re having a lot of fun,” says Sawyer.
As anyone who has visited Sawyer’s private Petaluma wine cellar (where he corks some of Sonoma County’s finest vintages and spins vintage punk vinyl LPs) can attest, the man is something of a one-man bacchanalia, always ready share and happy to please.
“It’s always an ongoing party and an experience waiting to happen,” says Sawyer, who was born and raised in Sonoma County. “I realized when I got to the drinking age that this is Little Europe, the land of promise, everything you could every want as far as a great area to live. As we’re seeing in some of these smaller appellations, there’s unlimited possibilities. Why should we stop exploring it?”
And other cork pops. For kicks, Sawyer says he would pair the Bohemian with “a Cotes du Rhone style of wine, something like the Cline ‘Cashmere’ that has a little syrah and mourvedre and other stylistic elements in there. Like the bohemian it has some depth – and it’s yummy.”