If you’ve ever grown your own tomatoes (or herbs or anything), you’re convinced that no others ever tasted this good. That was the sense we got at our last Convivial Table dinner at Pauline’s Wine bar (behind the famed pizza restaurant on Valencia). A San Francisco Staple for more than 20!) years, Sidney Weinstein and her winemaker husband Randy Nathan recently added this wine bar as a “laboratory” and place to highlight their very own wines. Gracious and enthusiastic hosts, they joined our group of 16 and told of the beginnings of Pauline’s, their gardens, farms and vineyard – and how a mediocre batch of Zinfandel was turned into a most delicious port. Passionate gardeners, they have added animals like goats and chickens over the years, and what started as some experimental winemaking at home has grown into a sophisticated selection of mostly Rhone-style reds that are used and sold in the restaurant and beyond.
Guests were welcomed with platters of oven-fresh pesto pizza, followed by a bounty of greens that included mache and watercress, alongside shredded celeriac and grapefruit pieces. Next up were roasted garden asparagus and boiled eggs from the Pauline chicken coop, served with aioli.
An important part of this evening was a tasting of three of Randy Nathan’s wines: an ’09 “Cuvee” Rhone Blend, an ’08 Sangiovese and, coming directly from the barrel, his ’08 Mourvedre blend, to round out the dinner and contribute to the evening’s liveliness.
The complex and flavorful “Dirty Rice” dish featured ground lamb (and roasted peppers), again from their own production. To top it off, a Meyer lemon sorbet finished the meal with notes of lavender and those who stayed long enough were treated to a taste of his home-made port.
Their passion and dedication to quality palpable, Sidney and Randy have been true “Slow Fooders” for a long time, dividing their time between the gardens and restaurant. With the help of their phenomenal staff, they keep exploring and adding to an already well tested recipe: grow what you want to eat, serve what’s in season and enjoy what California has to offer. Pauline’s Pizza (and Wines) continues to impress and surprise and the convivial table we shared did no less.