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(originally posted March 31, 2010) The fine line we’ve straddled with respect to wine since we opened Barndiva has been one of world class vs. local class. You’re shaking your head ~ there doesn’t have to be a difference between the two, does there? Until three months ago I would have said, unequivocally, yes. Creating a list with world class wines, whether a Grand Cru Domaine Leroy Chambertin from France or a Grace Family Cabernet from just over the hill, wines that appeal to special occasions or unlimited budgets, and confidently integrating them with lovable mutts, great wines without a pedigree that can be had at affordable prices, takes more than chutzpah. Even more to the point, a high end list of the caliber we have now set out to build, needs to work ~ to feel right ~ with a menu like Barndiva’s that does everything it can to lift the total experience of dining without a commensurate smack of affectation. Call us greedy: what Ryan does for food we want to do with wine. We want it all.

Our first wine list five years ago was an amalgam of high hopes and wistful beginners luck. That double bind again: we wanted a list to be proud of, but one that our patrons could enjoy on a regular basis without breaking the bank. Our good friend Craig Strattman (who owns the farm to table Restaurant Patrona in Ukiah) introduced us to Walter Inman, then the talent behind the wine program at John Ash. Walter, a savvy and bitingly funny guy, took pity on our lack of local contacts and with his guidance we fashioned an opening list that first summer which had 36 wines and 18 sparkling by the glass, and a 3,000 bottle cellar. We were the new kids in town and the list was good enough to get us featured in some wonderful wine magazines from all over the world. Still. It would be years of listening to what patrons ~ both tourists and local ~ wanted before we began to understand the forces at play behind a truly great list.

From the outset the vintners who became regular patrons let us know they too were interested in great wine that wasn’t necessarily from around here; that a balance between foreign and local would be most welcome. This was good news, as we’d heard that a strong foreign presence on a wine list had sunk more than one new restaurant in town. It also got easier to source great local vintages with long waiting lists as we integrated fully into life here in Healdsburg.

We love where we are going with our programs. Please come in to give us try!

All text and photos, Jil Hales (unless otherwise noted)