The invitation from Tim “Blind Muscat” Patterson was a two-part, April Fool’s proposition. First, we’d get to help him bottle a batch of ros&#233, a mongrel mix of this year’s Malbec, Syrah, Cabernet Franc, and Zinfandel. Then, there’d be the festive unbottling of the selfsame wine. What better way to celebrate Subterranean Cellars’ acquisition of water and electricity? The expansion of the patio and the recent arrival of a BBQ rig were additional excuses for an all-day drink-and-eat-fest.

Though far from a wine expert, I knew I’d be there when I read the menu’s magic words: pulled pork.

The newly equipped premises of Subterranean Cellars, with a peek back to the just-assembled patio table.

A barrel of Mourvedre sits patiently in the laundry room.

On Sunday morning a crew of bottlers arrived early. Long before gospel hymns swelled from the church across the street, all the bottles were filled, corked, capped, and labeled.

Out on the driveway, three cases of wine receive corks the old-fashioned way.

With corks securely in place, the bottles then head to the kitchen’s high-tech steaming device for capping.

In the dining room, those with sharp eyes and steady hands affix the labels.

“Scheming Beagle” has its own cult following.

A few bottles are removed from the production line. Roughy keeps watch over them as they chill.

Through the day, we enjoyed barrel samples of the Malbec and Cabernet Franc, some Riesling, and Roger Campbell’s amazing Mourvedre-in-Progress. A taste each of the 2006 Port and the heady Zort (Zinfandel Port) pretty much put me over the top, so I sat in the kitchen alone with the potato salad until I felt myself again. Overstuffed and inebriated, the official photographer of the event managed to miss documenting much that was worth remembering: the fat, glistening shrimp hot off the grill; the gorgeous salad of watermelon radish and sunchokes; plates upon plates of deviled eggs; and the pulled pork in all its tender glory.

Blind Muscat leads us in a toast to sunshine and wine.

A well-laid buffet never requires guests to put down their drinks.

Guests were as well-mixed as the grape varietals. Color theorists traded cookie techniques with psychologists, Pilates instructors held forth on root vegetables, and investment experts shared pie with graying revolutionaries. Yes, we were in Berkeley.

Driving back across the bridge, I remembered why I settled here in the Bay Area. There are other places for enjoying food, from the hawker stalls of Singapore to the routiers of Provence. New York has its fine service, and New Orleans its exuberance. What ties me to Northern California, though, are how much people here like to cook, always experimenting with ingredients and techniques in their own kitchens, and how generous people are in welcoming new friends to their homes and tables.

Finding good food is easy. Finding food shared with an open heart is true treasure.

Rhone at Home: Garage Wines 1 April,2007Thy Tran

  • J

    Beautifully put, Thy. A toast to that! It’s a joy to be part of Tim and Nancy’s wine-making and food-fixing family. May the foolishness continue well past April.

  • Stephanie V.W. Lucianovic

    “so I sat in the kitchen alone with the potato salad until I felt myself again.”

    I loved this line — very P.G. Wodehouse! What a fun day.


Thy Tran

Thy Tran writes literary nonfiction about food, the rituals of the kitchen, and the many ways eating and cooking both connect and separate communities around the world. She co-authored the award-winning guide, Kitchen Companion, and her work has appeared in numerous other books, including Asia in the San Francisco Bay Area: A Cultural Travel Guide and Cooking at Home with the Culinary Institute of America. Her writing has been featured in The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Fine Cooking and Saveur. A recipient of a literary grant from the San Francisco Arts Commission, Thy is currently working on a collection of essays about how food changes in families across time and place.

Though trained as a professional chef, she works on cookbooks by day, then creates literary chapbooks by night. An old letterpress and two cabinets of wood and lead type occupy a corner of her writing studio, for she is as committed to the art and craft of bookmaking as she is to the power of words themselves. In addition to writing, editing, teaching and printing, Thy remains active in local food justice and global food sovereignty movements. Visit her website,, to learn more about her culinary adventures.

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