I gave up resolutions many years ago. I prefer new year’s aspirations. Less commitment, more fluid, always open to course correction. Aspirations are the stretchy pants of 2023.
Some things that made the list are: growing the winery, tackling that cookbook, music, magic, languages, that elusive “get into shape” one, and fixing all the objects in my box-of-broken-things (there is a lot in there).
The first half of January in Yountville wasn’t very dry. In addition to the imbibing of fun holiday bottles, it rained cats and dogs, which is welcome wet news for our drought-scorched California.
California needs a little un-dry January this year. I’ll take this damp January.
In this issue, I reveal some wine club perks, jazz things up a bit, introduce you to a very accomplished person in the Bay Area’s food and wine scene, and share a hearty winter stick-to-your-ribs dish.
All the fun is found below.
Vintner, Cook, Aspiring to All That Jazz
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Sometimes you just want to get away.
Gentleman Farmer Wine Club Collective members receive preferred rates off the published Airbnb rate for both our three-bedroom cabin on the West Shore in Lake Tahoe and our studio condo in Napa at the Silverado Country Club.
Wine club members get the equivalent of their wine discount. If you’re a member and would like to take us up on the offer, just reach out to Danielle, Jeff, or me.
If you’d like to become a member (lots of fun other perks: parades, lunches, witty banter), just click this link and choose which of the three membership levels works best for you. Our online registration makes it convenient to sign up.
Membership has its privileges.
I have been working with a jazz voice coach for over a year now. My guy’s name is Jay. My marching orders are to, “imitate, then innovate.” The current rotation in the practice room is All of Me and A Foggy Day.
To imitate, I’m listening to a lot of Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, and Frank Sinatra, three very different textures of sound. I’m working out their cadence, syncopation, swing, and styles.
It reminds me of winemaking: blending, finding your own style, working with what voice mother nature gave you that day, or grapes that vintage. It also goes the other direction; winemaking reminds me of jazz: the variations on the theme, working with Bordeaux or Burgundy varietals in our Napa climate and New World styles.
I’m still finding my own sound; that’s the innovate part.
I am in good hands with Jay. He trained at the same grammar school for the arts and high school for the arts as Whitney Houston.
Now, I wanna dance with somebody.
Shelley Lindgren is a talented San Francisco tastemaker you should know.
She has worked at iconic restaurants like Fleur de Lys in San Francisco where she earned her sommelier certificate (Fun fact: I called Fleur de Lys in 1994 to see if they had any special Bastille Day celebration. Answer, “No, we are royalists”).
I know Shelley through Jeff (Fun fact: she opened Left Bank in Larkspur in 1994 where they worked the front of the house together).
Shelley received her culinary certificate at the Tante Marie Cooking School in San Francisco (Fun fact: my longtime friend David Groff who has @mealticketsf is also a graduate… hope to share an interview with him sometime soon).
Her San Francisco restaurant is iconic: A16. She was a wine instructor for 12 years. In 2015 she received a James Beard Award for “Outstanding Wine Program” at A16.
The following could be bullet points as there is so much to say about her.
She is a member of Les Dames d’ Escoffier. She serves as a board member of the Guild of Sommeliers.
Her book A16 Food + Wine, won “Cookbook of the Year” and “First Book/The Julia Child Award” at the 2009 IACP Cookbook Awards. In 2012, she co-authored her second book, SPQR: Modern Italian Food & Wine. Her third book, The New Italian Wine, will be released Summer 2023.
She was recently knighted by the Consulate General of Italy in San Francisco receiving the Cavaliere dell’Ordine Della Stella Italia recognition.
Also recognized as a Culinary Institute of America ambassador, Shelley was named “Best New Sommelier” by Wine & Spirits magazine; “Best Wine Director” by San Francisco magazine; and received Gourmet magazine’s Wine Educator Award, and the Golden Goblet Award by the Association of Women Chefs and Restaurateurs.
Whew! She is one accomplished entrepreneur.
Joey Wołosz: What attracted you to a life of food and wine?
Shelley Lindgren: Hospitality has always been a way of life for me. I’m the fourth of five children growing up and I learned a lot about hard work and finding peace in chaos – as the choreography of restaurants requires. There is a lot of joy in preparing and creating a beautiful experience through wine, food, and conversation. I’ve always loved this business. I feel rich in doing what I love and like and try to keep an optimistic balance as we weather all these storms of late. I think this is why I was drawn to Italy. There is an innate importance on a simple, high quality life that crosses socioeconomic boundaries where quality is felt on the same nerve because it’s truly from the land and traditions that are shared.
JW: When did you first make a connection with wine and food?
SL: I started cooking at a young age and always loved eating healthy – fruits, grains, vegetables of the season. Living and growing up in Northern California, this is one of the gifts that I didn’t realize how special it was until I was older. I took having guests over very seriously and would make food for my family – it was really fun. It wasn’t always as delicious but, eventually, after 12 years in mostly French restaurants, I traveled to Italy and had my food and wine epiphany in Umbria. Local porcini mushrooms and truffles with the local, indigenous grape Sagrantino di Montefalco and suddenly it all started making sense of, “if it grows together, it goes together.”
JW: What is your process for writing and collaborating on cookbooks?
SL: Kate Leahy and I just finished our third book together. Kate worked in Napa at Terra then opened A16 as a line cook before going to get her Masters in Journalism. A16 Food + Wine was her first book and, of course, ours. It won the IACP Cookbook of the Year and she has gone on to write lots of books about both food and wine.
[Our upcoming book] Italian Wine: The History, Regions and Grapes of an Iconic Wine Country is at the printers to be released this summer 2023. By now, Kate and I have spent nearly 2 decades traveling to Italy for wine research. I remember being pregnant with Phineas (now 15) and driving through Napoli, Calabria, Puglia, knocking on winemaker friends’ doors to write down as much information as we could get. There is a section in the book about oral tradition because these wines were flying way below the radar in the US market compared to today. It’s been a great renaissance for southern Italy – now one of the most popular destinations in Italy. When we opened, it was considered dangerous.
JW: Cooking, hosting, and wine aside, what are your other creative outlets?
SL: Hiking and trying to learn Italian are high up on my 2023 list.
JW: What do you have a really good time doing?
SL: I love to see music and go to see performances at the ballet, symphony, and opera. I don’t go often but I have had a chance to meet and become friends, via A16 and the Italian community, with people like Angelo Greco, primo ballerino, and it is incredible what a great diverse city San Francisco is when there’s time to walk different neighborhoods.
JW: Friends and family excluded, who are two people you’d like to share a long and lingering meal with?
SL: Hmmm, there’s so many people to learn from. I would say Jane Goodall would be someone I would love to meet and have meal. I love animals and am anti-gun. The work she has done takes incredible strength, faith, and perseverance. We can all learn from incredible, selfless actions like this and try to make sense of so much senseless violence we see happening, from wars to need of gun reform. Her work puts life into perspective.
I would also be interested to meet Amanda Gorman, a young poet laureate who took the nation by storm with her powerful words. We need strong minds and caring people to lead our world into a place of community, ethics, and a bright future. She has a gift and it gives me hope my kids will have a great world ahead. Clean energy and artifical intelligence are big areas of interest as well. I’m pretty focused on food, wine, and hospitality. I think about these things often.
JW: What would you serve?
SL: I would serve marinated olives, fresh cheeses, a lot of antipasti salads, and graze mostly… then I would make mushroom risotto and have coconut cake with fresh fruit.
JW: What is your spirit animal?
SL: A deer. I spent a lot of time in the greenbelt areas of West Marin growing up and there were deer always around. I loved how elegant, gentle, and calm they were grazing and searching for grass. I always still feel that connection when I see them.
JW: What is your motto?
SL: I would say to remember to feel grateful every day and be happy, courageous to feel motivated, and work with positive intention. For us, in hospitality, no matter how busy or slow a day was, we reboot every day at the restaurants and, even though there’s lots to accomplish every day, it’s important to have a big picture outlook.
Cassoulet is French comfort food hailing from Southwestern France. It allows you, actually requires you, to take your time. This is something you can cook over a couple of days or even a few days.
It is a casserole of white beans slow-cooked with several kinds of meats. You can soak the beans on one day and assemble the dish over the next couple of days, maybe cooking the beans on the second day and baking the cassoulet on the third day.
This recipe is pretty straightforward. Feel free to add preserved goose, mutton, lamb, pork ribs, or salt pork. They would all be welcome in a vrai cassoulet. I enjoy this with a glass of our Chardonnay.
Note: Both Julia Child and Melissa Clark, cookbook author and contributor to New York Times add tomato paste or purée to cassoulet. Rebekah Peppler, cookbook author, contributor to New York Times, and resident of Paris says a true cassoulet does not have tomatoes. Take your pick, I’ll call it optional.