BASED LARGELY ON THE SUCCESS OF THE
SHOW, SBROCCO HAS BEEN VOTED ONE
OF THE 100 MOST INFLUENTIAL PEOPLE IN
THE AMERICAN WINE BUSINESS.
76 South Bay Accent
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Most remarkably, “Check Please! Bay Area” star Leslie
Sbrocco brings all this off on public television, a network on
which sobriety dominates much of the programming. But
exceptions sometimes make the rule. As proof, PBS’s “Check,
Please! Bay Area” is still thriving in its 12th season, and Sbrocco
has been its host the entire run. And that’s not about to
change, says Sbrocco with an infectious smile that her regular
viewers recognize as her signature expression. She has sipped
her way through multiple episodes over more than a decade.
Deftly probing to elicit honest responses to restaurant fare
from her guests each week, she exhibits a gracious demeanor
while projecting a reassuring authority. There’s no question
she is firmly at the helm and in control, and she does all that
without spilling a drop.
Anyone who might conjecture that her bubbly countenance
reveals a vacuous mind will reverse that opinion as soon as
Sbrocco starts to talk about her favorite subject: wine, and
related artisan spirits. Her depth of knowledge on the subject
never fails to impress.
Voted one of the 100 most influential people in the American
wine business, Sbrocco has authored two best-selling
books, “Wine for Women” and “The Simple & Savvy Wine
Guide,” both published by William Morrow. A third book is
in progress, with the working title, “100 Days, 100 Drinks,
Dishes & Destinations,” which she describes as a “culinary
adventure book series.” It promises to incorporate many of her
findings from her travels to wineries around the globe, including
Spain, Portugal and Chile. In addition, her wine columns
are published in a variety of national and regional magazines,
while her Facebook page keeps fans abreast of what she’s up to.
Despite her crowded schedule, Leslie made time for an
interview on her way from Petaluma, her home in Sonoma
County, as she was heading to the island of Maui with her
husband, Leonard, to relax and celebrate their anniversary.
(She is also mother of two children, age 22 and 14). How does
she define down time? “I’m on a beach with
a friendly drink in my hand, one with an
umbrella.” She took time to talk about her
background, her career and the direction it
seems to be heading—increasingly into social
media; she also offered a revealing historical
perspective of “the amazing grapes”
of the South Bay region, particularly the
Santa Cruz Mountains.
Sbrocco was born 53 years ago in Chicago,
where she grew up with a distinctly
Midwestern orientation. She describes
those attributes as “friendly and outgoing.
There’s always a party at my house.” When
her father, an airline pilot, suffered an unexpected
heart attack at 40, his physician prescribed
drinking a glass of red wine every
day as part of his recovery. “He was a very
revolutionary doctor, ahead of his time,”
says Sbrocco. From that day forward, wine
was included at the family dinner table.
The young Leslie became familiar with the
annual “Taste &
healthy fermented elixir made from grape, which coincidentally
would define her successful career many years later.
Moving to California more than 20 years ago, she dabbled
in acting, following that dream to the hotbed of the movie
industry, Los Angeles, where she got her first gig in front of a
camera. Or not quite. It was actually her hand that was filmed
with one finger pressing a hole into dough as part of a Pillsbury
Doughboy commercial. Not exactly a glamorous start.
Her big break occurred a few years after that. Having moved
to San Francisco, she was doing a segment on wines for a culinary
program on KQED. The local PBS affiliate was at that