Cargo Shorts of the Winemaker

There has been some real outrage regarding the cargo short; referred to as "a deadly plague" by some in the fashion community. Others treat the cargo short more fairly

I come to the defense of the cargo short, specifically in the work environment. As a working winemaker, I've stuffed all manner of items in various pockets throughout the harvest. On the crush pad, we win wine awards for wine making, not fashion.

The picture and list below is by no means exclusive or exhaustive. It was a picture taken one day with the things I was using that day. Refractometer, lighters, and a fine mesh strainer have been in my pockets too. And yes, women and men both wear cargo shorts on the crush pad.


1. Surgical tubing - Helpful for siphoning wine from one barrel to another barrel or keg
2. Spray bottle - Filled with grain alcohol, it's good for cleaning things (not drinking, well maybe)
3. Whisk - Wanna mix some yeast?
4. Infrared thermometer - point and shoot in C or F
5. Tape measure - tanks needs a tape measure to figure out the volume of wine in them
6. Cork screw - Duh!
7. Box cutter - Breaking down cardboard, cutting plastic, shrink wrap, yeah, you need a box cutter
8. Sample containers - juice and wine are always being sampled and these are the smallest the lab will take
9. Mini-flashlight - wanna look inside the bung hole? Of course you do.
10. Bungs - when you're finished with your flashlight, use these. One is for fermentation.
11. Wine Thief - When you wanna do a barrel sample, this is the tool for the job.
12. Tri-clover and gasket - ubiquitous around the winery
13. Leaky Barrel Fix it Kit includes wooden skewers, diagonal cutting pliers and a ball peen hammer
14. Bin/Barrel/Tank Label and Marking Equipment. One can never have enough Sharpies
15. Box Tape Roller - useful for boxes (not pictured, Duct Tape, because we used it all)
16. Finished Barrel Tagging - index cards, staple gun and Sharpie. Some winemakers use envelope labels.
17. Hand Held Density Meter - for daily brix and temperature testing
18. Fuel - There is a lot of wine made on Energy Bars and Cheap Beer (sorry craft beer enthusiasts)

Food and Wine Column, April 2012

I was fascinated and perplexed (as were a couple friends, Chef Tommy and John) about the article in the April 2012 edition of Food and Wine Magazine entitled, Oenotri’s Cal-Ital Recipes from Napa written by Daniel Duane. 

 “line cooks prepare every dish on the southern-Italian-inspired menu, all at once, 

I understand the need to maintain a high standard in the kitchen, but tasting every dish, every day doesn’t make economic sense when the profit margin in restaurants is so thin. Here are the economics of every dish, every day. If I omit desserts and sides from the Oenotri April 7 menu, I’m left with 17 dishes for the line cooks to prepare. The simple average price on the menu of the 17 dishes is $17.44. I’ll assume an average food cost of 35%, certainly not low, but Oenotri is in Napa and the ingredients are of top quality; which produces an average food cost per dish of $6.10; multiply this by 17 dishes and Oenotri spends $103.77 per day in food costs simply to test their line cooks. Oenotri is open seven days a week and I’ll assume they take a few days off of work for major holidays, resulting in the restaurant being open 350 days per year. Multiply the average food cost of $103.77, by the number of days open per year, 350, for a result of $36,321 spent per year testing the line staff. This is exclusive of any labor costs to produce every dish and the assumption that desserts, sides, and lunch items are not tested. 

“Every day, at exactly 4:15 p.m., chefs Curtis Di Fede and Tyler Rodde of Napa’s Oenotri restaurant begin a ritual they call, somewhat prosaically, “tasters.”” 

Oenotri closes for lunch at 2:30 and reopens for dinner at 5:30. I find it hard to believe that at “exactly 4:15pm” just before dinner starts at 5:30pm in a popular Napa Valley restaurant, the line is knocking out 17 dishes just before dinner service on a busy Friday or Saturday night just after a busy lunch service to satisfy the obvious passion, but bordering on obsession, of the owners. 

“the “tasters” give Di Fede and Rodde a chance to ensure that every dish is as delicious as they want it to be

Some of the most highly respected chefs in America don’t have their staff prepare every dish, every day. There is a degree of trust and training that most executive chefs’ place in their line. The real “taster” is on the line, under pressure, when the executive chef is working the pass in the middle of the second turn of service and the line is “in the weeds” just trying to keep up. That’s when a chef knows who they can rely upon to cook consistently and efficiently.

I respect and admire the chefs' attention to detail and I can understand a little literary hyberbole regarding high standards at Oenotri, but this story borders on myth.

Pigs & Pinot 2012, Healdsburg

One of the premier, if not THE premier event in Healdsburg, is Charlie Palmer's Pigs & Pinot. Local chefs and several guest chefs participate in the event each year. I was fortunate enough to attend this year and brought home some of the food in pictures.

Scopa's Bruschetta

Zin Restaurant and Jeff Mall's Ham

Diavola and Dino Bugica's Blood Sausage

Noms.In, A travel guide for foodies

Eating out around the country has its advantages. New York, Chicago, Boston, Seattle, and Portland are some of my favorite cities for food. But a town with only 10,000 people, Healdsburg, California has some of the best food in the country, on par with the big cities.

I was asked to write for Noms.In several months ago about the region that I live in, Sonoma County Wine Country. I believe Healdsburg is the locus of foodie activity for the region, not the actual town of Sonoma. Similar to Yountville being the epicurean center of the Napa Valley, rather than the town of Napa.

Here's to more Michelin Starred Restaurants in Healdsburg!

 Photo Courtesy of Chef Jeff Mall, Zin Restaurant, Healdsburg, California