A16: James Beard Outstanding Wine Program Winner
By: Pamela Busch
A big congratulations goes out to Shelley Lindgren and A16 Restaurant which was nominated by the James Beard Award Foundation for Outstanding Wine Program for the 5th year in a row making six it nominations for the restaurant in total.
Now into its second decade, A16 went into unchartered territory when it opened up with a southern Italian oriented wine list in 2004. While the incredible food may have been the initial draw, the wine selection has kept many coming back night after night and year after year to taste the likes of Paolo Bea, Gulfi and Vestini Campagnano.
What sets A16 apart from many other restaurants is not just the quality and adventure of its list but the service. The servers are better versed in the wine list than in most places and they are backed up by sommeliers who defy the stereotype of the snobby wine steward. Lindgren, who spent many years working in fine dining establishments including seven at Fleur de Lys, feels you are only as good as the around you. “I learned in the past 23 years that restaurants are a team of people and we are not a one person show.”
This is quite humble for someone who is truly one of the most socially gifted and talented wine directors I’ve known. “I like to think of myself as a guest.” Lindgren’s verve for the wines she serves is contagious and many who have worked at A16 have caught the bug. “It is fun for us on the service and education side to find new wines and share them with our guests.”
With 40 wines by the glass and 500 selections in total, there is no way you can ever get bored. When A16 first opened, the selection was smaller, in part because the number of wines from the regions highlighted, – Campagnia, Puglia, Basilicata, Calabria, Sicily and Sardinia – was limited. The climate has changed though and now there are many more artisan producers from these regions.
However, a greater selection does not always mean better wines and narrowing down the field and choosing wines that really speak to a restaurant’s soul is an art. Then again, there has to be a good soul to begin with and what has helped A16 thrive for all of these years is that it has such a cool yet unpretentious vibe, which is promoted and reflected in its wine program. A nomination well deserved.
Visit a16sf.com for more information.
2355 Chestnut Street
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