J Vineyards partners with underrepresented chefs to bring important conversations about equity and inclusion to wine country

J Vineyards is a legendary California wine producer best known for their world-renowned sparkling wines and Pinot Noirs. The property was founded by a woman, Judy Jordan, and its head winemaker is also a woman, Nicole Hitchcock. These are not trivial or casual observations when you consider how few women are in positions of power in this multi-billion dollar global industry. So that’s all the more remarkable Lens shift was born: This first annual two-week residency series gives underrepresented chefs a space to share their considerable talents with Wine Country guests who are far more likely to expect duck hood than vegan gumbo with vineyard Pinot.

Hitchcock says the point of the series is to shine a light on chefs whose food we might not normally see in wine country and pair it with amazing wines. Preeti Mistry, a queer, non-binary, first-generation Indian chef and partner in envisioning the line from day one, exemplifies the classic pairing of Riesling with spicy foods. “It makes sense,” they said, “to pair a sparkling, high-acid wine with some sweetness with spicy foods, but it turns out other wines work just as well, maybe even better.” By all accounts, the pairings for this series were all collaborations between the chefs and the winemaking team.

I attended a dinner by the third and final chef of this inaugural series, Shenarri Freeman, and a prime example is the pairing of J Vineyards 2014 Vintage Brut with Freeman’s oyster mushroom with farro, barberry, vegan pine ricotta and pickled radish — the crisp, elegant, layered wine matched the intensity of the spices and complemented the complexity of the dish.

Mistry was the previous chef in the series. A chef beard contender beloved in the Bay Area for his interpretation of Indian street food, Mistry brings a broad lens to the idea of ​​what good food is and can be, as well as a mission to help educate consumers and introduce them to news. culinary experiences that are also cultural.

The series’ first chef, Jenni Dorsey, a Chinese-American chef and activist who also runs the nonprofit ATAO (All Together At Once), began the program by working backwards from her favorite J Vineyards wines to build her menu.

Freeman’s dinner, which was completely vegan, surprised and delighted with its variations on the theme of soul food, which, it turns out, doesn’t need meat to sing, and the wine pairings were just as creative and successful. Virginia-born Freeman is currently executive chef at Cadence in New York.

There’s still time to reserve a spot in J’s Bubble Room before Freeman’s residency ends on October 9.

Organizers say this series will continue in 2023 with a similar schedule, so stay tuned for details. In the meantime, it’s exciting to be a part of these meaningful conversations about equality and inclusion, especially in such traditionally white, male-dominated industries as wine and restaurants. Congratulations to J Vineyards and these visionary chefs for bringing this program to life.

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