Quince Restaurant—slated to open in its new Jackson Square location on Oct. 1—landed a big fish when it lured sommelier David Lynch from New York. Lynch was the wine director and GM at Mario Batali’s Babbo, as well as the Spotted Pig, but also wrote, with Joe Bastianich, Vino Italiano (Crown)—the best book about Italian wine in decades. Shortly after landing in SF, he sat down to talk about the big move.
How does the New York restaurant scene regard ours here?
San Francisco is perceived as somewhat precious, a little bit navel-gazing. We would joke that guests would come in and inevitably, if they were from San Francisco, they would announce that they were from San Francisco—often as if to trumpet their wine credentials. At one of my going-away
parties, my successor at Babbo said that when I come back, I can announce, “I’m from San Francisco.”
What do you think of the wine scene here?
It’s quite dynamic. As far as my area of expertise—Italian wines—I think there are already some people in the Italian vernacular that are very good. Shelley Lindgren at A16, for instance. Acquerello’s been holding it down for many years. But I do think there’s an opportunity to take the appreciation of Italian wines to the next level.
New Yorkers tend to look down on California wines. Do you think that attitude is justified?
A lot of Californians look down on California wine, too. I’ve been as snobby and dismissive about US wines as anyone, particularly the Cal-Italians. Yet I kind of feel my perceptions are at least five years out of date. One of the things I was shocked by is that all the real heavy-duty somms out here are all Burgundy hounds. They look down on American wines because it’s easy to do—that sort of garden-variety snobbery that doesn’t have any basis in reality. Most of the people now who are dogging American wines started out as American wine drinkers.
What good eating and drinking have you done since you arrived in SF?
La Taqueria has no peers in New York. I don’t want to be self-promotional, but I would say I had a sea urchin pasta at Quince that was ridiculous. I’m already seeing that Mike Tusk’s touch is really special, and I’m looking forward to pairing wines with that. Philz Coffee in the Mission—the sickest latte I’ve ever had. Finally, a couple of sips of good California Chardonnay. I was turned on to a little Lioco Sonoma Coast Chard. Its sensibilities and balance were European, but it was still Californian. It was a freaking good glass of wine. I thought: This is a good omen. This bodes well.