Superstar sommelier Matthew Kaner, who was raised in Santa Barbara, shows his kitchen chops in 'Sparklers.' | Credit: Courtesy

Cooking competition shows are a dime a dozen these days, but there aren’t many — or any? — that make wine a central part of the equation. Sparklers, a new series from the streaming service SOMM TV, does just that, challenging five wine professionals to develop dishes based on a limited range of ingredients in sparkling-wine-producing regions of Oregon, Italy, and France. Set over 13 half-hour episodes, the format and judging for each battle changes a bit, sometimes pitting the individuals against each other and other times creating team experiences, such as episode two, when one must go forage for ingredients while the other preps. 

The mostly Napa-based cast — Maryam Ahmed, formerly with the Culinary Institute of America; George Walker III, of Wade Cellars, and Meghan Zobeck, of Burgess Cellars — does feature two SoCal stars: Claire Coppi of Sushi Note in Los Angeles and Matthew Kaner, the renowned sommelier behind Bar Covell and Augustine who grew up in Santa Barbara. Unlike the contestants on other, more cutthroat cooking shows, where the banter borders on angst and anger, the Sparklers stars are extremely collegial and supportive of each other, while still striving to win each challenge. That pleasant tone makes learning about each region, character, and ingredient all the more enjoyable, easy to pair with your own glass of wine at home. 

See, which also features free podcasts, including my recent chat with the Somm franchise founder Jason Wise about the Ocean Fathoms underwater wine project off of the Santa Barbara coast. 

The cast of Sparklers, from left: George Walker III, Maryam Ahmed, Claire Coppi, Meghan Zobeck, and Matthew Kaner. | Credit: Courtesy

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