Sunset magazine

After teaching high school English for 10 years, Sara Schneider, currently Sunset magazine’s Wine Editor, did what she describes as a “crazy move.” She enrolled at San Francisco’s California Culinary Academy.

“Normally, I make a plan,” she said, sitting in her office filled with bottles of wine. “I didn’t know what I was going to do when I graduated.”

An externship at a small food and wine magazine, Bay Food, pointed the way. Twenty years ago, she joined Sunset as a copy editor, before becoming Food Editor, where she initiated the Western Wine Awards and the Sunset Wine Club. When it was decided the magazine needed a full-time wine editor, she jumped at the opportunity.

Interestingly, before attending the Culinary Academy, Sara had little knowledge of wine. “I grew up in a conservative, tea-totalling household,” she explained. “My interest grew as I began editing wine articles, which were initially all done by freelancers. Writer Karen McNeil [author of The Wine Bible] was one of our contributors, and we started tasting together. She was a mentor to me.”

We were curious about how she separates her personal preference for varietals from her professional duties. For example, she told us she prefers domestic over European wine and is not a Chardonnay fan, although she fancies alternative whites like Grenache Blanc, Pinot Blanc and Albariño.

“I’m asked to judge various competitions,” she said, “and Sunset’s competition brings in about 50 judges. You learn to taste the wine and determine objectively if it’s well made.”

When judging, Sara is sometimes asked to taste 90 wines in a day. “We really have to pace ourselves,” she said. “We taste over a couple of hours, starting with the heavy reds in the morning. We often use roast beef to help wipe out the tannins. When tasting whites, we use celery and neutral bread.”

Sara explained that there is the option of spitting out the wine when tasting. “There’s more of a challenge when doing wine and food pairings. You’re more obligated to swallow.”

To Sara, wine is “endlessly interesting.” “To me, it is intellectual, emotional and sensual. I don’t know anything else that hits those notes.”

Editor’s note: This is our final conversation with Sunset editors, which earlier this year included visits with Food Editor Margo True and Garden Editor Kathy Brenzel. The magazine will be leaving Menlo Park and moving to its new location at Jack London Square in Oakland the first week in December.

Photo by Irene Searles (c) 2015

{ Be the first to comment }

Sunset leaves Menlo Park for new headquarters in Oakland’s Jack London Square

Sunset will move its headquarters to Jack London Square in Oakland this December, Evelyn Webster, Executive Vice President, Time Inc. announced today. Sunset will relocate to Oakland from the Menlo Park campus that it has occupied since 1951. Where the publishing company would land has been a topic of much discussion since last December when the magazine’s owner, […]

Click to read more →

New Sunset editor Kitty Morgan returns West to build on the magazine’s legacy

For new Sunset editor Kitty Morgan, it’s a return to the West that she still thinks of as home after almost two decades in the Midwest/East. It’s also a return to where her journalism career began, which makes it all seem just a tad “weird.” “In the 80s, I was an assistant travel editor, based […]

Click to read more →

Get discount to Sunset Celebration Weekend

Haven’t purchased advance tickets to this weekend’s Sunset Celebration? You can get $1 off the general or senior admission price by parking at Oracle (formerly Sun Microsystems), 1601 Willow Road,  east of Hwy 101, and taking the shuttle to event or by bicycling there. The bicycle corral is located on the corner of Middlefield and […]

Click to read more →

Faces of Menlo: Sunset’s Elaine Johnson

It was a big treat for InMenlo to check in this week with Sunset associate food editor Elaine Johnson at the magazine’s offices in Menlo Park. She showed off  Sunset’s test kitchen (left) and took the visitor on a tour of the herb garden. Not many suburban towns have a magazine with the national – […]

Click to read more →