Les Claypool, Primus frontman and Sonoma County winemaker. Traci Des Jardins, accomplished restauranteur and San Francisco’s chef extraordinaire. It’s only natural that these two lovable locals formed a culinary kinship. After all, the fancy juice of Claypool Cellars pairs perfectly with the fabulous French-infused flavors of Jardinière (300 Grove Street) In fact, it’s a match made in heaven.
And perhaps no one understands this better than Jardinière’s talented sommelier, Jai Wilson. He knows his wine as well as anyone on the planet, to be sure. But he’s also a music-lover and personal acquaintance of the bass-playing vintner himself. Jai can actually be credited with helping Les to give Claypool Cellars’ flagship line of Pinot its notorious name: Purple Pachyderm. His renowned expertise in the artful alchemy of pairing makes him the ultimate sipping sherpa, providing guidance through the lofty heights of one of the city’s most sensational meals.
The menu changes every day, so no two experiences are the same, exceptionality excepted. On this particular day, our dinner began with seared Maine diver scallops served atop a bed of Rugosa squash and Brussel sprouts with tender Chanterelle mushrooms and crisp smoked bacon. Traditionally, when people think of seafood, they think of a light-bodied white wine. If they only knew what they were missing! We went with Claypool’s 2008 Purple Pachyderm–a fruity yet well-balanced Russian River Pinot, that managed to enhance the subtle flavors of the gentle scallops without overwhelming the palate with acidity.
Next up was a pasta dish: chestnut tagliatelle dressed in a Magruder Ranch boar sugo with Tuscan butter kale and aged provolone–a perfect blend of texture and flavor. The velvety chewiness of the delicate egg noodle was offset by crunchy Brioche croutons, the sweetness of the chestnut counterpointed by the salty sugo and sharp cheese. Into this complex equilibrium enter the 2009 Hurst Vineyard–an oaky, full-bodied pinot that drinks more like a cab. The wood-laced tones of tannin brought the sweet and salty flavors of the dish into sharp relief. One sip of the wine begged for another bite of the pasta, and vice versa. A perfect circle of the senses.
To top it all off, the showstopper: Liberty Farms Duck Breast with parsnips, chestnuts and farro, lightly draped with a savory Au Poivre sauce. This might very well be my single favorite dish of all time. The satisfying chewiness of the meat crusted with the crisp fattiness of the supple skin is a mellifluous medley that meets its match in Claypool’s new Rhone-style Fancí Blend. Granache based, the blend also incorporates Syrah and Mourvedre grapes, all sourced from the same Lake County vineyard and woven together into a jammy juice, fruity and complex enough to sweeten the robust, peppery elements of an unforgettably fabulous fowl.
Jardinière is the ideal setting for a dinner to remember this holiday holiday season. It fills up fast, so book your reservations right now. And after a fanciful flight of Claypool wines, why not bring that beautiful buzz with you to the Great American Music Hall for a special Primus New Year’s run at the end of the month. After all, Shakespeare did say, “If music be the food of love, play on.” I’ll drink to that!
I almost forgot to mention: Claypool wine always goes great with the Oysters.