Hill Estate Vineyards & Winery
10300 Chalk Hill Road
Healdsburg, Sonoma County
By Jim Clarke
Yves Sauboua is the sommelier for Chalk Hill Estates
– a winery, rather than a restaurant or hotel. He is, in fact,
the first certified sommelier to work for a Sonoma winery, which allows
him to maintain an uncommon relationship with the wines he serves. Instead
of learning the vagaries of a list of hundreds or thousands of bottles,
he has developed an intimate feeling for the wines of one producer.
He is the winery’s ambassador to the world, traveling extensively
to promote Chalk Hill’s range of wines.
For such an unusual position, his background is rather classical. He
grew up in Margaux; his father was a village baker. With the chateaus
of Bordeaux as a backdrop and an appreciation for gastronomy in the
air he developed his strong talent for the art of taste. After finishing
his studies there he took his first sommelier post at Bernard Loiseau’s
three-star Michelin restaurant La Côte d’Or, in Burgundy,
Bordeaux’s rival in the world of French wine. He eventually moved
to London, where, after stints at the St. James Court Hotel and the
Les Ambassadeurs Club, he emerged into the sommelier spotlight at Chef
Joel Antunès’ Les Saveurs.
London is also where he made a name for himself as a wine educator.
In 1994 he responded to a lack of professional wine training around
Britain by forming the Sommeliers Club, which became a focal point for
the improvement of wine service around the country. Yves was also developing
a stronger and stronger interest in and appreciation for American wines,
so when Antunès invited him to set up the wine program for The
Dining Room at the Ritz Carlton Buckhead in Atlanta, Yves readily agreed.
Now at Chalk Hill, he is the point man for presenting their wines
around the world. He often presides over dinners, doing much of what
a sommelier traditionally does: presenting wines to match with the evening’s
meal so that both food and wine express themselves most effectively.
Somewhere he also found the time to be co-editor (with Catherine Fallis)
of the Chalk Hill Winery Sommelier Guide to Restaurants in America.
With great charm and enthusiasm he fosters a wine culture far removed
from the stuffiness and snobbery that once seemed endemic to the title