"It was in the late ’80s, which was right when chardonnay was really exploding. Only a decade earlier, the 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay had won the Judgment of Paris in France. I’d moved from New York to work in my aunt and uncle’s nouveau restaurant in San Francisco, Eddie Jacks. I was clearing tables and was just discovering food and wine.
I was with a couple of my uncles and my aunt and we’d just had a crazy busy weekend night – probably a Friday. It was midnight, or the next morning, and to wind down and decompress, they opened some wine. It was normal to have glasses of wine or beer; it wasn't normal to open a bottle. We’d just got in a new shipment of Californian wines and they chose a Sonoma-Cutrer Les Pierres Chardonnay.
It was probably the first time I’d tried a more sophisticated wine as opposed to the stuff that Mom and Pop were getting from the store back east. I could taste the artistry and craftsmanship that went into making it. I really noticed all the wonderful flavors that I hadn’t experienced before – buttery, minerally, citrus flavors – and the complexity of the wine. And this was the first time that I kind of discovered, 'Oh, there’s not just red and white, there's pinot noir and pinot grigio and cabernet sauvignon.'
What did we eat? I think the staff meal that night was [leftover] salmon – probably just grilled.
I drink the Sonoma-Cutrer all the time. It’s kind of like once you are turned on to it, you never leave it. I’ve had excellent wines better than this – and other excellent chardonnays as well – but the Cutrer sticks in my memory.
With a lot of wine and food memories, the environment or the occasion is just as important as the wine, which solidifies it. I was leaving my parents’ house and the comfort of my hometown and stepping out on my own. I had just graduated from college, where I’d studied architecture, and I found out that my true passion was film and got the courage to pursue it – as opposed to going for a viable career that your parents and peers tell you to do.
Food and wine are a very important part of my life – so much so that I was inspired to make a food movie. It’s about a father and son, and they heal their past and their wounds through wine and cooking. The characters drink in almost every other scene. If they’re sad and reflecting alone, they have a glass of wine; if they’re pursuing a romance, they drink wine. If there’s a feast and everyone’s together, there’s food and wine. Just like in real life.
What I’m trying to get across – in addition to wanting to capture restaurant culture – is how important food and wine are to people in their connections, to people living well and people living together."
As told to Diana Goodman
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