The loudest buzz in California wine-country dining circles at this moment surrounds SingleThread Farms, the new restaurant in downtown Healdsburg with its own vegetable garden two miles away. And it's not just coming from the bees making honey on the restaurant's roof.
With no previous high-profile connections to Northern California, the husband-and-wife team of Kyle and Katina Connaughton took Sonoma County by storm when they opened SingleThread in December. Their history includes work with A-list chefs in Los Angeles, and with Michel Bras in France and Japan. Friends visiting from Colorado joined my wife and me for a midwinter dinner in what looks like the most important new upscale restaurant in wine country in years.
Like my colleague Tim Fish, whose report appears in Wine Spectator's May 31 issue, we found food at the highest level, serious without pretense, an apotheosis of farm-to-table with a strong Japanese undercurrent. I was equally impressed with the wine matches from sommelier Evan Hufford, whose experience includes stints at Wine Spectator Grand Award winner Saison and Best of Award of Excellence winner Michael Mina in San Francisco and Joël Robuchon in Las Vegas, another Grand Award recipient.
Although you might expect his choices to center on Sonoma County wines, or at least California, Hufford hit the mark with several from as far afield as South Africa and Austria. His oral presentations were focused and unaffected, belying the thought and work that must have gone into choosing them.
The South African wine, the polished, waxy and vaguely nutty Badenhorst Chenin Blanc Secateurs Swartland 2015, matched seamlessly with crab canapés on an impressive opening spread. A couple of years in the cellar had developed a satiny texture and a toasty edge to the floral and citrus flavors of the Austrian wine, Bernhard Ott Grüner Veltliner Stein Wagram 2013. It wrapped comfortably around a sunchoke with preserved lemon, Mangalitsa pork jowl and shaved pine nut.
Among the California wine highlights, I especially liked the way steelhead smoked "Ibushi-Gin" style made the rose petal and strawberry overtones of Roederer Estate L'Ermitage Brut Rosé Anderson Valley 2006 taste and feel more expansive. Baxter Chardonnay Oppenlander Mendocino 2014, taut and crisp on its own, blossomed with the nuttiness of sunchokes, the funkiness of leeks and brassicas and the floral notes of chamomile dashi in a black cod with maitake mushrooms, emphasizing pear and peach flavors nascent in the wine.
At 13 years of age, Peay Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast 2004 had developed lovely focus and danced lightly in support of its pure, ripe flavors. It gained extra depth with the Sonoma grains with tempura mustard blossom and herbs.
This kind of matching wizardry among the standard pairings contributed almost as much to the richness of the experience as did the Connoughtons' deft blend of Japanese, French and California wine-country cuisine. Although the wine list, well-described in the review, offers some tempting bottles, pairings like these don't come along every day.
SingleThread Farm, Restaurant and Inn
131 North St., Healdsburg, Calif.
Telephone: (707) 723-4646