In an ever-shifting world, open conversation is crucial and, here in Northern California, the members of our food and beverage communities are playing a big role in sparking awareness and promoting change.
This summer, Healdsburg's J Vineyards & Winery, best known for its sparkling wines, has launched a new program highlighting three chefs in residency, all BIPOC cooks from different backgrounds, that they hope will facilitate dialogue about equity, representation, and culinary diversity, as well as encourage a fresh perspective on food and wine pairings through perhaps unexpected ingredients and flavor combinations.
Called Shifting the Lens, this series features special dinners and menu takeovers at J’s Bubble Room—that means guests will have the opportunity to enjoy a lot of bubbles along with terrific food and a meaningful program.
Chef 1: Jenny Dorsey (July 7-10 and July 14-17)
Dorsey is a Los Angeles–based Chinese American chef and food writer. And though you might recognize her from appearances on Chopped, Beat Bobby Flay, and Cutthroat Kitchen, she is also the founder of Studio ATAO, a nonprofit that works toward accessibility within the hospitality industry through social justice education.
Chef Dorsey's boundary-pushing culinary style will be shine through in J's Bubble Room via dishes such as a torched oyster with raw corn juice, tomato, and shiso leaf; and chicken with genmaicha broth and celtuce. Wine pairings include the J Strata Russian River Valley Chardonnay 2020 and J Edition No. 3 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2018; she applauds the versatility of the pinot specifically with her food.
“When I started cooking professionally 12 years ago after changing careers, I was consistently told that only the perspective and flavor preferences of a certain demographic of people mattered in the world of ‘fine’ food and wine," Dorsey says. "Today, things are changing, in large part due to the actions of consumers [who are] supporting the work of women and chefs of color. In a time when the sociocultural and political future of the U.S. is being rewritten, I hope [these meals] can serve as a reminder that progress always starts by strengthening the relationships each of us build, with ourselves, and with one another.”
Chef 2: Preeti Mistry (August 18-21 and August 25-28)
This two-time James Beard nominee and former owner of Oakland’s Juhu Beach Club and Navi Kitchen is now based in Sonoma County. They hope to challenge diners to break the stereotypical understanding of tasting rooms and fine dining with a fresh chance to experience their vibrant food: Menu items include green garbanzos with stone fruit, sprouted mung puri, and hibiscus pani; and a tomato tamarind rasam with pickled tomato, handvo madeline, and mustard butter.
"It has become increasingly important for businesses to support and elevate diverse communities, especially in historically homogenous industries like culinary and wine," says chef Preeti, who hopes that participants in this series “come away with the excitement of trying something new…something that’s groundbreaking and impactful besides just tasting food and wine. I want them to be open to the element of surprise. This program is one-of-a-kind, and I want them to change how they think about food and wine pairings, and give them more confidence about pairing food and wine at home.”
Chef 3: Shenarri “Greens” Freeman (September 29 through October 2 and October 6-9)
Chef Freeman, a holistic researcher and executive chef at NYC's Cadence, is well known for her vegan take on Southern cooking. While her J takeover menu is still being finalized, guests should expect an exciting opportunity to reconsider any preconceptions about vegan food and explore the possibilities of plant-based dishes with wine.
Each chef's residency will consist of a special pairing menu in the Bubble Room for two weekends; a curated cheese pairing in the Legacy Lounge for six weeks; and, on the first Saturday of each residency, an intimate culinary conversation and dinner.
In the remaining weekends July through October, the J culinary team—led by executive chef Aaron Meneghelli and estate chef Forest Kellogg—will create new menus for the Bubble Room inspired by each visiting chef and reflecting their unique exploration of their own shifting perspectives in light of the ongoing series.
The limited-release Shifted Lens Brut Rosé will also be incorporated in the tasting menus. Available exclusively at the winery, the brut rosé spent nearly five years en tirage before being disgorged and packaged in three unique gift boxes, each design inspired by the three visiting chefs. Attendees will also have the opportunity to meet with Nicole Hitchcock, lead winemaker for J Vineyards.
"J Vineyards & Winery was founded on the premise that representation, diverse perspectives, and personal histories are essential to creating a memorable experience," Hitchcock says. "As a female-founded and -led winery, inclusivity has continued to be a central part of our heritage, and we are committed to fulfilling our vital role in shaping racial and gender representation in the wine industry for generations to come.”// To learn more about Shifting the Lens and to make reservations for the chef's series, visit jwine.com.