The Tasting Panel magazine

June 2015

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Page 66 of 136

Riding shotgun with Sarah Anderson on a recent outing in the San Francisco Bay Area, I got a firsthand look at what it takes to stay on top in one of the most competitive wine markets in the U.S., and Anderson has a knack for finding the right niche for her wines and then filling them. A California native from Los Angeles, now based in San Francisco, she is the Northern California District Wine Manager for Don Sebastiani & Sons new Foundation Wine Collection portfolio. Navigating her Mini Cooper around the city, she is more efficient than any GPS, especially when it comes to navigating the team at Young's Market Company through the recent reorganization of the company's portfolio. Anderson now devotes her full attention to the company's Foundation wines: Aquinas, B Side, Project Paso, Smoking Loon and Pepperwood Grove, two of the larger, established wines. With almost uncanny ease, Anderson scores a parking spot and heads off to meet with Jonathan Geffrard, General Manager and Wine Director at Houston's Hillside, a waterfront steakhouse that caters to a wine-savvy financial district clientele. Through experi- ence with previous placements, Anderson knows that Aquinas, a medium-weight, red-fruit driven California Cabernet Sauvignon, is a good fit for Geffrard's list. "St. Thomas Aquinas was a philoso- pher who questioned the assumptions of the world," Anderson explains. Geffrard, who is looking for another Cabernet that works with lighter dishes, knows that his clientele isn't going to question the value of a wine that he'll list for $48–50. Next, we head to the Sundance Kabuki Theater, a place where art imitates life. "B Side is sourced from the Eastern hillsides of Napa and it's like finding a hidden gem," says Anderson as she samples the wines for Nathan Ponce who buys wine, spirits and beer for the theater's beverage program. "We're crazy busy with 50 Shades of Grey right now," says Ponce, whose clientele enjoys his generous "at home pour." Anderson cinches the deal with an offer of staff training and we cross town to rendezvous with Bryan Leibhuber, a regional buyer for Whole Foods, who is stocking the B Side Cabernet Sauvignon and Pepperwood Grove. "Our sweet spot is $15 and customers are trading up to $25," said Leibhuber, whose top wine styles are aromatic whites and tasty red blends like B Side. With shelf space split 70/30 between imported and domestic labels, eye-level placement is a coup for Anderson. We head back downtown to Bluestem Brasserie, where the Don & Sons Sonoma Signature Series Pinot Noir is on the list and the wine director is thinking of adding B Side, which would make a good fit for the Road Trip Dinners the restaurant features weekly. Over a well-earned bite of roasted root vegetables and composed salad, Anderson says she thrives on the dynamic pace and new faces she encounters over the course of each day. "My goal is to make B Side a Top 40 hit." You can hear the music playing as she charts her course for the following day. —Deborah Parker Wong Whole Foods Regional Buyer Bryan Leibhuber, who runs the chain's most profitable wine department in Northern California, talks retail trends with Sarah Anderson. PHOTO: STEPHANIE SECREST Building a Foundation 66  /  the tasting panel  /  june 2015

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