Chris caught the wine bug wandering the major wine producing nations of Europe then later working room service at a high end hotel in London. Shortly upon his return to the States, he started his first wine job on Valentine's Day 1997 in the tasting room at the David Bruce Winery. Shortly thereafter, he started working for a large distributor and found himself, in early 2001, the Northern California Market Manager for Wilson Daniels. In 2008, he moved to Los Angeles and was recruited there to work as the Wine Director/Sommelier for Pizzeria Mozza where he created and oversaw an all Italian wine list championing obscure, little known varietals. He later spent close to 4 years as the southern California Italian wine buyer for K&L Wine Merchants in Hollywood where he wrote extensively for the newsletter and website.
In addition to his sales and marketing experience, Chris has taught for various wine schools and for private clients, worked on Sommelier teams at events such as the Masters of Food and Wine, the Pebble Beach Food and Wine, the World of Pinot and the California Culinary Institute, and has crafted and consulted on numerous restaurant wine programs. Chris has traveled exhaustively through the wine regions of France, Italy, Spain, Germany, Austria, Hungary and North America. He achieved the Certified Sommelier from the Court of Master Sommeliers in 2007, and was awarded, with honors, the IWP accreditation in 2015.
In January 2018, Wine Scholar Guild named Chris 2017 Italian Wine Scholar Instructor of the Year, recognizing his creative and effective classroom instruction for the Italian Wine Scholar study & certification program.
What is your favorite wine region to visit?
So tough to answer. I was memorized by the Kremstal and Wachau in Austria, and would love to return there. Burgundy for the wines of course. I love the Sonoma Coast, and get up there every chance I get. And I would live in the Basque Country of Spain if given the opportunity, as the wine and food culture there is one of the most unique I've ever experienced. But when it's all said and done, for the wines, the food, the people, the history and the natural beauty, I have to go with Piemonte in Italy.
What's your most memorable wine experience?
When I was 25 years old, drinking a random, terribly inexpensive bottle of Spanish red (straight out of the bottle by the way) on the steps of the cathedral in Toledo, Spain. The sun was setting, I was with a couple fellow backpackers including an Aussie girl I was madly in love with, and remember thinking to myself at that moment that life could just not get any better. That, or drinking '96 Leflaive Montrachet then '90 and '73 La Tache with lunch at the French Laundry circa 2004.
Why did you decide to become an instructor?
I was an American literature major at UC Santa Cruz and was convinced my life's work would be as a professor of the humanities. I started selling wine for a distributor to pay the bills and that became my career instead. To be able to teach people about wine is coming full circle and really is the best of both worlds.
What's your most memorable food and wine pairing?
Two dozen fresh shucked Kumamotos at Hog Island Oyster Co. one afternoon with a magnum of '88 Salon Champagne. Or, my first "wow" wine and food moment; a baked fig stuffed with Stilton cheese, dusted with candied walnuts and drizzled with saba served with David Bruce "Shell Creek Vineyard" Petite Syrah at a long forgotten restaurant called Theo's in Soquel, Ca.
What's the biggest challenge in your job?
What other passions beside wine do you have?
My wife and children, the ocean, the Sierra Nevada, Thai food, all kinds of music from Gregorian chants to electronica, and beer.
Name some recent wine discoveries that you find exciting.
One of the beautiful things about wine is no matter how long one is involved in it, there is always something to discover. Some "recent" discoveries for me would be the the breadth of the wines of the Jura, the Valle d'Aosta and Etna.
If you could teach anyone in the world, who would you want to teach?
The Raideretts! Just kidding. My two sons. And you know what? I will.
What do you think is the most unappreciated wine or region in the world?