From food to wine and 17 countries in between

“Behind the Byline” introduces you to those who write stories, take photos, design pages and edit the content we deliver in our print editions and on pressdemocrat.com. We are more than journalists. As you will see, we are also your neighbors with unique backgrounds and experiences that proudly call Sonoma County.

Today we introduce you to Sarah Doyle, one of our wine writers who focuses on in-depth coverage of the wine industry.

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Before wine, there was the Easy-Bake oven.

It was 1983, and thanks to the miracle of television commercials, I had firmly decided that the dazzling sunshine-yellow oven (once powered by a single bulb) would be the answer to my childhood dreams. It turned out that my youthful zest for cooking would spark not only a lifelong passion for food (and eventually wine and spirits), but also my career as a writer.

Born and raised in Santa Monica, I landed on the East Coast via Boston to study classical clarinet, which has been nothing more than 21-year uncertainty and copious student debt.

My love of food and cooking eventually led me to New York Culinary School, where I worked as a private chef and recipe developer while searching for my culinary niche.

At some point, I decided that a job in Martha Stewart’s test kitchen might be my calling. But at the cooking audition, I accidentally used a tin tray—instead of an oven dish—to bake my lightly browned, perfectly risen Parker House rolls.

Let’s just say shit hit the pan – I mean, fan. And I was quickly fired by the head chef.

It was good; I didn’t want to work there anyway. Plus, I had recently discovered a new passion for food writing, storytelling, and finding unique adjectives for words like “crispy” and “plump.”

But it wasn’t until I wrote a popular essay for Saveur magazine about the idiosyncrasy of carob Easter bunnies that I realized I had found my true calling as a writer.

Over the next decade I went on to write for 40 magazines and newspapers, first about food, then about spirits and travel, then about the seductive mix of all three.

Along the way, I developed a full-fledged love affair with Scotch whiskey, which led to my first articles for The New York Times, The Boston Globe, Robb Report, and Forbes. It also inspired a move to the Scottish island of Islay in the Inner Hebrides and a certificate from Bruichladdich’s Malt Whiskey Academy (but that’s another story).

If I had to define the first moment when wine really blew me away, it would be my first visit to Tablas Creek Winery in Paso Robles. I had just moved to the Central Coast to be near my family when a friend invited me to drop by the winery for a tasting.

I had always loved wine; dishes accompanied by wine. But I hadn’t experienced its mystery, complexity and intricacy until I tasted the Rhone varietal wines at Tablas Creek.

To begin with, what is picpoul blanc? Rousanne? Marsane? Mourvèdre? And why did the latter wrap me around his finger with his distinct foundations of game meat?

During a tour of the property, our guide explained that Tablas Creek is the result of a partnership between the Perrin family of Château de Beaucastel, a famous estate in the southern Rhône region of France, and the Haas family of Vineyard Brands, an American wine import company. whose founder, Robert Haas, helped make Beaucastel one of the leading international wine estates.

We toured the greenhouse and learned the magic of grafting budwood onto a rootstock, the two fitting together like pieces of a puzzle. And as the thick limestone soil crunched under our feet, we learned about dry farming, the definition of limestone, and the tenacity of a vine with limited access to water.

My visit to Tablas Creek winery was a turning point. The lure of wine resonated deeply with my passion for food and cooking, and the more I learned, the more I wanted to know.

Within weeks, I landed a job at the Tablas Creek tasting room, which would eventually lead to a 15-year career in the wine industry, both on the Central Coast and in Sonoma County. .

This included three harvesting internships, advanced studies in oenology and viticulture, and various positions ranging from public relations and marketing to education, sales and, more recently, communications.

I also obtained the Wine & Spirits Education Trust Level 3 Advanced Award in Wine.

Like many people during the pandemic, I’ve spent time thinking about my purpose and what excites me most. So yes, I became a member carrying the Great Resignation card.

I realized that my deepest joy comes from writing about the intricacies of this incomparable wine region – the people, the land, the changing climate, current trends, our revered history and how all of these things affect wine in our glass.

As a writer, I have an innate curiosity, enjoy asking questions, and work hard to convey the passion of others through my words.

In March, I joined The Press Democrat as a wine journalist, responsible for providing in-depth articles on the wine industry.

I am thrilled and honored to report on wine from one of the most important wine regions in the world.

It’s our lifeblood here in Sonoma County. And I love to showcase all aspects of this ever-changing industry.

This month I celebrate 10 years as a Sonoma County resident, and I have never felt so lucky to call this community my own.

I recognize that every day is a new opportunity to expand my knowledge of our local wine industry, and I fully embrace wine education as a lifelong endeavor. But I couldn’t be more excited to share this journey with you.

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