Community Focus: Sarah Newell

Sarah Newell - Director of Marketing
Our Director of Marketing, Sarah Newell, recently sat down with team member Miles Cotton to discuss her deep appreciation for wine and role at SAMsARA Wine Co.

Good morning, Sarah. Thanks for joining me.

Good morning, Miles. Thanks for having me!

You have a super diverse professional background that has taken you through the worlds of restaurants, law, footwear, surfboards, and now wine. Was there a defining moment in your life that led you to believe you would end up in the world of wine, or has a career in the wine business come as a bit of a surprise?

Well, it doesn’t come as a surprise to me because I’ve always been attracted to working in fields that energize me, Fields that match, in high degree, with my values for connection, adventure, love, passion. Those are things that have attracted me in every field in which I’ve worked. And I’ve always been passionate about wine. For example, I still remember the wines by the glass from my first restaurant job in college!  One of my favorite memories from that job was receiving the staff training on each wine and thinking, “Wow, there’s a whole, subtle hidden world here.”

And throughout my career in other fields, I’ve always come back to food and wine and bringing people together through hosting dinners, picnics, etc. It is probably because growing up my family would always have family dinners and dinner parties with friends and food and wine was always a big feature of those meaningful gatherings. Food and wine were an integral part of bringing people together, and that something that really stuck with me.

When I was in my late 20s, I took a class at City College through the culinary academy taught by a guy named Antonio Gardella. He was a senior sales representative for Henry Wine Group, LOVED food and wine and the local, Santa Barbara County food scene. His passion for wine was really exciting. Interestingly, as a part of the course, we took a field trip to Jaffurs during harvest and I met Matt Brady for the first time.

I ended up joining the wine club on that visit and that was something that really cemented my passion for wine.  So, there were definitely a few seeds planted early on that pointed me towards the wine industry. Beyond that, everywhere I’ve traveled, I’ve tried to explore wine. I feel like it’s a good entry point into cultures and really to local agriculture and nature as well.

 

Tell me one of the most distinctive wines that stands out in your mind today. Or if you have an all-time favorite wine, that’s good too.

Yeah, I have like a few wines right now that are sticking out to me that I’ve had over the last few years. One, I somehow bumbled my way into a Rinaldi tasting and I was ushered over to these ancient Barolos and was able to taste a 1994 Rinaldi-Barolo and a 2003. I feel like there’s a certain sort of complexity and synergy in wine when you taste it. It’s almost hard to describe because everything is in balance and it’s just like pure pleasure. And I remember when I tasted that wine I thought, “Wow. This is something really special and I want to remember it forever.”

Also, a couple years ago, I started exploring Santa Barbara County chardonnays. And there are some local chardonnays that I thought really had just a very light touch of oak and had a nice acidity at a time trend was really still very much on the production more oaky wines.  That was the reason I really started to love Santa Barbara Chardonnays . . . the wines were not only great, but weren’t afraid to have their own identity that didn’t match the mainstream trend.

Shortly thereafter, someone shared with me this Grand Cru Criots-Bâtard-Montrachet from Caroline Morey, who’s a female winemaker, which was really cool to me in a very male dominated field. The wine was just a whole ‘nother level! Nothing stuck out. There were no rough edges. And everything, again, was in synergy. And it was such a pleasure to drink. It sounds silly, but it was like I was drinking art. It really stuck out to me in particular because I see wines from Santa Barbara County in a similar light.  I think a lot of the top producers here are very much on that track to making art of wine.  

 

On the topic of what you like to drink, let’s talk about: What is your favorite SAMsARA wine to drink today?

Well, my favorite SAMsARA wines to drink today are the 2010 Turner Vineyard Pinot Noir, which is just super outstanding and complex and layered. The fruit is still there but integrated. Lighter in body really and just a beautiful wine.

And then I’ve also really been liking our 2018 Bentrock Vineyard Chardonnay. I had some of that yesterday and it is fantastic. It has really nice texture to it and really crisp acidity.

 

What would you suggest pairing the Bentrock Chardonnay with?

I think because, to me it tastes like it has some minerality to it, I would definitely pair it with seafood and oysters. It would go really well with oysters and scallops pasta and just like a light butter cream sauce. It’s a great wine. Really, it goes with a hot day . . . you really don’t even need food. But, because you asked about a pairing, my official answer is the seafood pasta!

 

I’m going to throw you into the deep end here for our final question. Very, very thought-provoking and I expect your answer to be the same. If you were to throw a dinner party next week to be attended by greats from the food and wine world, who would you invite, what food would you serve, and what wine would you pair it with?

Wow, deep!  Let’s see . . .

One, I would like to invite Michael Pollan. I think he’s interesting because he’s right there on the intersection of what we consume and eat, and what it means politically and to our society. And I think he’s a great mind that doesn’t just stay in one lane. And I think he’s super interesting and I love his books.

I would invite Jacques Pépin because as a child I would watch him on public television, and his enthusiasm for food and French cooking and making it easy was really inspiring. And he just has this great energy and true love for food.

And, thirdly, I would invite Dominque Crenn. I think she’s super inspiring. She’s creative. She has grit. And she’s extraordinarily talented. I went to Bar Crenn in San Francisco and had an amazing time there. And she’s the only female chef to receive three Michelin stars in America.

So, I would invite those three people. And because they are so accomplished, I probably would take them to the farmer’s market and we would stroll around and see what was fresh, and probably would do something collaborative. I mean, they’re all so talented in their own right, but I would still cook for them. And I do have a dish that I like to call fall-in-love chicken. Not that I want these people to fall in love with me, but every person that I’ve ever cooked it for has fallen in love to some degree.

And it is a chicken dish that is made with preserved lemons, fresh artichokes – not canned. If you have to do canned, you can do canned. But artichoke hearts – herbs, Castelvetrano olives, and you can add fennel and new potatoes if you’d like, just depending on what’s available. And that is a really yummy dish. It’s kind of like Mediterranean, Moroccan flavors that I love. And then I think I would serve that with our Sta. Rita Hills or Zotovich Vineyard Chardonnay.

Very good. Are you willing to share that recipe with us?

Yes, I am. It is so good. I think that you would love it.  (Sarah’s Magic Chicken Recipe – Don’t for get to use preserved lemons)