MCU Distinguished Speaker Series Features Sommelier Robert Bath

On December 1, 2016, Master Sommelier Robert Bath presented “Farm (and Vineyard) to Table in Lake County” as part of the Distinguished Speaker Series at Marymount California University, Lakeside campus.

Mr. Bath, MS, CHE, is Professor of Wine and Beverage Studies at the Culinary Institute of America, Napa Valley, and member of the Court of Master Sommeliers. An engaging and lively speaker with a distinguished professional career in food and wine, Mr. Bath has been an ardent supporter of Lake County wines for many years. His experience with these wines goes back to an early meeting with Jed Steele in 1984 when Mr. Bath was a young sommelier and Mr. Steele was launching Kendall-Jackson Chardonnay.

The lecture, which can be viewed in its entirety, was sponsored by the Lake County Winegrape Commission.

Lake County: A Special Place

Why Lake County is so special is one of the themes that threads its way through this hour-long lecture. To help convey the uniqueness of the region, Mr. Bath explained how tectonic and volcanic activity over 75 million years led to the creation of California’s coastal mountain ranges. These mountains ultimately formed the Lake County region, endowing it diverse soils, landscapes, and terroir. He said that one reason he finds Lake County so exciting are the soils, which he called “distinctively unique and really, really interesting.”

Mr. Bath further explained how the Mayacama mountains and the Vaca mountains frame the region to the east and west, creating distinct areas that he likened to Bordeaux’s left and right banks. This led to a discussion of the seven AVAs within the Lake County region, offering diverse microclimates and showcasing the opportunity for greater expression in the wines: “When people become excited about a region, they tend to look for even more specific examples, more dramatic examples. These sub-appellations allow us to show that distinctive if not dramatic character within the larger Lake County appellation.” Of course, many other environmental factors contribute to the uniqueness of Lake County wines, and Mr. Bath highlighted elevation, dry climate, greater exposure to UV from sunlight, higher diurnal shifts, and the lake effect.

The county is known for its Sauvignon Blancs, a reputation Mr. Bath feels is well deserved. “With its purity of fruit and vibrancy of style, to me this is the best place in California for Sauvignon Blanc,” he said. He believes that the liveliness and a refreshing acidity in these should make them a star. He is also convinced that Cabernet Sauvignon has a bright future in the region with its unique combination of personality, quality, and value.

Pairing Food and Wine in the Region

Another theme of Mr. Bath’s presentation was the way in which food and wine can be successfully paired, and he spoke in particular to the “farm to table” possibilities in Lake County. More generally, Mr. Bath offered a primer on food and wine dynamics, including optimal ways to pair the two (think Sauvignon Blanc and chevre) and not so optimal ways (think Cabernet Sauvignon and oysters). His presentation introduced the components of food and wine tasting and suggested qualities to look for when combining foods and wines, such as sweetness and acidity.

The ability to bring together locally sourced ingredients with locally produced wines is one reason Mr. Bath is so excited about this area. “There is so much here that is possible,” he said. “When it comes to food and wine, I think it’s limitless in terms of what is going to happen here in Lake County… I’m a big fan.”

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