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A Life in 5 Bottles

High On the Hog’s Stephen Satterfield’s Life-Changing Wines

The Netflix TV host and publisher shares his most memorable bottles

Janice Williams By March 4, 2022
photo illustration of Stephen Satterfield
Illustration by Pix and Kate Demyanovska/Shutterstock.

For Stephen Satterfield, eating and drinking are equally important experiences. In the same way that he will check out a food menu before deciding on a restaurant, he will hover over the wine list before making a reservation. To Satterfield, the two go hand-in-hand.

Though food has superseded wine when it comes to his career, the grape still holds weight in his heart. “As a lover of eating and drinking, wine is still my greatest love in life,” Satterfield says. 

That’s a fitting testament considering that it was the Whetstone Media founder’s interest in wine that set him on a path that would ultimately lead him to help reshape the human view of food and drink. Through a magazine and various podcasts like the famous “Point of Origin” and the newest series “Climate Cuisine,” Satterfield has sparked a conversation challenging what eaters and drinkers thought they knew about what they consume. And with each passing episode and magazine issue, cultural and historical perspectives around food and drink are being redefined.

Of course, when Satterfield was introduced to wine at 16 years old, he didn’t know it would be the light to strike his match. 

“I had a really good friend whose dad was a banker. I had a tremendous amount of respect from them, and they were huge gourmands. They loved eating, and I loved eating in high school too,” Satterfield explains. “I remember going over to their house for dinner one night, and at some point during the making of the meal, my friend’s dad disappeared to the basement for like 20 minutes. He came back with two or three bottles, and I couldn’t help but wonder what was he doing down there.” 

Satterfield adds, “I couldn’t believe that he spent as much time trying to figure out what they were going to drink as they spent on making the meal itself. I remember wanting to know what that analysis was all about.”

A few years later, that curiosity led Satterfield to Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Portland, Oregon, where he planned to study hospitality and restaurant management. It took one wine introduction class, and Satterfield switched gears to become a sommelier. 

“From day one in that class, I knew this was it for me. I really understood wine as a language that I was trying to learn, and I knew if I could learn this language, I could use it like how other people use language. They use it like a passport. They use it as a way of communicating with other people and cultures,” Satterfield says. 

After learning the language of wine, communicating food was a natural next step. 

“From day one in that class, I knew this was it for me. I really understood wine as a language that I was trying to learn, and I knew if I could learn this language, I could use it like how other people use language. They use it like a passport. They use it as a way of communicating with other people and cultures.”

Having spent a career working at farm-to-table hotspots like Nopa in San Francisco, Satterfield became deeply invested in knowing not only the place in which the food on the menu came from but the people who grew it. He started programs to bridge the gap between the farmers and restaurant staff, and his deep-rooted need to tell the stories of those people and their crops grew. In 2016, Whetstone Magazine was born. 

Satterfield’s dedication to using food as a means of better understanding society and history has only expanded. In 2021, he served as the host of the critically acclaimed Netflix series, “High on the Hog,” which explored American history through the lens of Black American food and the critical impact enslaved Africans made on what and how people in the U.S. eat today. Based on cookbook author Jessica B. Harris’ 2011 book, “High on the Hog: A Culinary Journey from Africa to America,” Satterfield’s series was recently greenlit for a second season

“I’ve been dealing in this subject matter for a very long time, covering hard stories, going to Africa, working in nonprofits there in viticulture, doing all kinds of stuff. But it was just so special and so improbable to have a show distributed on a platform as large as Netflix about Black food culture,” Satterfield says.

He adds, “There was a tenderness, an openness, a gratefulness that we were getting to make this work. I think we all understood how special the opportunity was, even though we didn’t know how it would be received.”

Though Satterfield’s work continues to explore food culture, wine is still fueling the magazine editor throughout his journey. Here are the five wines that have impacted Satterfield along the way.

bottle of Domaine Drouhin Laurène Oregon Pinot Noir

Domaine Drouhin Oregon Pinot Noir 2002

Oregon is significant to Satterfield as it was not only the state he called home for many years of his life, but it is also where he enjoyed his first winery experience in 2002, at Domaine Drouhin. “The accessibility thing for me was massive because I wasn’t thinking about wine as an agricultural product. I thought of wine as a thing for rich people. But at that moment, I realized we could drink wine like how we eat grapes. If you eat grapes, you’re in the game. That visit removed all of the pretenses,” Satterfield explains.

It also marked the moment Satterfield began to understand the terroir of the Willamette Valley and how the lay of the land relates to the complex dried red cherry, spice, wild herbs, and oak flavors that show up in the glass. “That profile and expression of Willamette Valley Pinot Noir are still, to this day, one of my absolute favorites in the whole world,” Satterfield says.

bottle of Soter Vineyards Mineral Springs Brut Rosé

Soter Vineyards Mineral Springs Ranch Brut Rosé 2005

Early on in Satterfield’s career, he developed a love of Champagne, and French bubbles are still number one in his heart. However, a taste of Soter Vineyards’ Brut Rosé in 2006 opened his eyes to the beauty of the sparkling wine made in his backyard. “This was the first sparkling wine I had from outside of Champagne that I would prefer to drink over Champagne,” Satterfield says. 

The strawberry aromas, melon, and almond flavors reeled Satterfield in, but it’s the sparkling wine’s energy and effervescence that hooked him. “The liveliness, the color, the packaging — just something about that wine was the beginning of an appreciation for sparkling wine that remains today,” Satterfield notes.

bottle of M'Hudi Pinotage

M’hudi Boutique Family Wines South Africa Pinotage

“By the time I turned 23, I was very burned out on the whiteness in the homogeneity of the community. I didn’t want to give up the wine thing, but I wanted to work more with Black people in the business of wine,” Satterfield explains. His solution: a move to South Africa, where he launched a nonprofit advocating for wine as a catalyst for economic development in the country. It was also a way to shed light on the “really messed up history of colonization in South Africa” and land ownership — or the lack thereof — of folks who had worked the vineyards for generations. The nonprofit was also Satterfield’s introduction to the Stellenbosch winery, M’hudi Boutique Family Wines, and South Africa’s Pinotage grape. 

“I really think about that wine for me as a point of intrigue into this whole other spectrum of Black winemakers in South Africa,” Satterfield says.

bottle of Jacques Puffenay Arbois Poulsard 2014

Jacques Puffeney Arbois Poulsard 2011

“The first time I had a Jacques Puffeney wine, it felt like the first time I actually drank wine,” Satterfield says. Poulsard is a French grape native to Jura that Satterfield became acquainted with during a trip to the region in 2011. “There’s much to love about this wine — the color, the transparency, the contrast of the lean texture, the minerality, but also the acid, the precision, the aromatics,” he says, adding that the wine is what sparked his interest in Jura wines. 

“Jura remains one of my favorite wine regions. I remember the first time I got to go, and it’s probably the happiest I’ve ever been. I remember buying cases of wine in Jura, and my face hurting, because I was smiling the whole time I was there,” Satterfield continues.

Current vintage: Jacques Puffeney Arbois Poulsard 2014 (~$200)

bottle of NV Vouette et Sorbee Fidele Extra Brut Blanc de Noirs

Vouette et Sorbée Fidèle Champagne Extra Brut NV

Champagne is Satterfield’s drink of choice, and his love of Vouette et Sorbée Fidèle dates back to his days as a sommelier in San Francisco. “This was introduced to me by a somm at Nopa in 2011,” he says, citing the wine’s aromas, fresh minerality, and piercing acidity as significant points of interest. The Champagne was the first he’d ever drank out of a Burgundy glass — Satterfield’s preferred method for experiencing bubbly. 

“Getting into the aromatic expression in this new vessel context was a life-changing moment. It was some of the best Champagne I’d ever had,” Satterfield adds.