Now a cornerstone of wine-country dining, Sonoma’s SingleThread Farms began as a labor of love for owners Kyle and Katina Connaughton. The high-school sweethearts brought their longtime dream to life in 2016 when they opened the restaurant and inn in Healdsburg, Calif., a city they fell for during a road-trip lunch stop in the early 2000s and settled in a few years later.
SingleThread, a Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence winner for its wine list, combines its owners’ passions. Chef Kyle runs the kitchen while Katina, who studied horticulture and sustainable agriculture, oversees the foundation of the restaurant: a 5-acre farm adjacent to the Russian River, a few miles from the restaurant and inn. “I can’t do what I do without her; she can’t do what she does without me,” Kyle says.
He relies on the farm for 70 percent of the restaurant’s produce, plus honey, olive oil, eggs, flowers and more—and that’s been part of their dream since the beginning. “We wanted to be able to control our own agricultural practices,” he says. “They’re aligned with the restaurant in that we grow only for the restaurant, and we grow what we want and what we need, and we utilize those products in all kinds of different ways.”
Those practices include companion planting, harvesting everything by hand and abstaining from the use of any pesticides, all of which requires more labor than mainstream agriculture. “It’s really about a whole ecosystem of sustainable agriculture,” Kyle says. The products that Katina and her team spend weeks or months growing go straight from harvest to guests’ plates that evening—“it never even goes into a refrigerator”—so Kyle focuses on highlighting the natural integrity of the ingredients. “I want to show and honor all of her hard work by the way that we serve things.”
Due to the coronavirus crisis, the restaurant is currently only serving takeout while donating about 200 meals a day through Sonoma Family Meal. But typically, the farm’s products are showcased on SingleThread’s 11-course tasting menu, which melds elements of Californian and Japanese cuisines.
Kyle’s recipe for a no-fuss Father’s Day celebration features make-your-own hand rolls, an idea that draws on his longstanding ties to Japanese culture and cuisine. As a child, Kyle spent a lot of time traveling to the country and dining in its restaurants with his father, a businessman with ties to Japan. “That was what led me to want to be a chef,” Kyle says. “It was really through sushi restaurants in particular.” He attended culinary school in Japan and lived there on and off as an adult, including with Katina and their two daughters; prior to the pandemic, he continued to travel there often.
This summer sushi hand roll “party” is inspired by a Japanese tradition and meant for small groups, making it just right for a family meal. “We do this with the kids all the time,” Kyle says. “Basically you create a little smorgasbord of things ... and you put that all out on the table, and everyone can take turns making their own.” The Connaughtons tend to share the spread around their coffee table during movie nights; Kyle also suggests lingering over the meal outdoors in the summertime.
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You’ll prepare everything in advance, from the seasoned sushi rice and the vegetables to slicing up your choice of fish. It’s all about simplicity, so don’t overthink it. Kyle does offer one pointer for perfecting your rice by “fluffing” it with a wooden paddle or spoon as you mix in the seasoning. “If people mix too hard or they mush it, then it gets pasty. You want to try to fluff the grains so that they all get coated with the vinegar mixture, but also so they don’t turn into a paste.”
Once you lay out all the components, you’re free to immerse yourself in family time and play around with different combinations of ingredients in the rolls. “It makes for a lot of fun,” Kyle says. “It’s one of those really nice things where you can enjoy with a group of people, and you don’t have to feel like you have to be in the kitchen.”
To fit the laid-back nature of this feast and complement the range of flavors, Kyle’s wine pick is Reeve Prism Riesling 2019 from Mendocino County, “a perfect backyard Riesling” that he’s been drinking quite a bit lately. “I love this winery,” he says. “There’s not a lot of people doing really, really awesome Rieslings in Northern California, so it’s fun to find a really great one.” It’s dry, light and crisp to pair with the vinegary rice and fresh vegetables, while also serving to balance the touch of creamy richness from the avocado and sashimi-grade fish.
“At the end of the day, you want something very easy-drinking ... [This meal] is not so much about having one plate of food in front of you and one glass of wine,” Kyle says. “As you’re making the different hand rolls, the flavors keep changing, so you need something that’s versatile.” For additional options, he points to other aromatic white varieties, along with Rieslings, from Alsace, Austria and Germany. Below, Wine Spectator selects nine more bottlings fit for this summery feast.
Summer Sushi Hand Roll Party
For the rice:
- 3 cups short-grain sushi rice, rinsed
- 3 cups water
For the sushi-zu (sushi rice seasoning):
- 1/2 cup rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 2 teaspoons salt
For the fillings:
- About 1 pound in total of your choice of a combination of sashimi-grade raw fish fillets (such as tuna, yellowtail and salmon), cut into about 2-inch-long strips
- 4 large sushi-grade scallops, sliced in half horizontally
- 1 cucumber, cut into 2-inch-long batons
- 1/2 avocado per person, cut into 2-inch-long batons
- 1 cup daikon radish sprouts
- 1 small fresh wasabi plant, grated (can be substituted with wasabi paste)
- 1 to 2 tablespoons toasted white sesame seeds, such as Japanese sesame seeds (iri goma)
- 10 sheets full square nori, halved
- Soy sauce
1. To make the sushi rice: Combine the rice with the water in a donabe (earthenware pot) or electric rice cooker. Let soak for 20 minutes. Cover and cook over medium-high heat for 13 to 15 minutes (if using a donabe rice cooker). Turn off the heat and let rest for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, combine the ingredients for sushi-zu in a bowl and mix until the sugar and salt are dissolved.
2. As soon as the rice is ready, uncover and quickly add the sushi-zu. Fluff with a paddle while mixing until the sushi-zu has evenly coated the rice and the rice is no longer wet. Cover until ready to serve.
3. Set all the fillings, condiments and nori, along with the sushi rice, on the table. Each person should have a serving plate and a saucer for the soy sauce. To make a hand roll, place a piece of nori (shiny-side down) on your nondominant hand. Spread a small amount of rice on a short end of the nori (about 1/3 of the size of the nori), about 1/4 inch thick. Rub the wasabi in the center lengthwise and add your choice of fillings (a single ingredient or combination). Lift the outside bottom corner of the nori and roll into a cone shape. Drizzle with soy sauce and enjoy. Serves 4 to 6.
9 Easy-Drinking White Wines
Note: The following list is a selection of outstanding and very good wines from recently rated releases. More options can be found in our Wine Ratings Search.
Gewürztraminer Alsace 2016
Score: 91 | $28
WS review: Beeswax and crushed pine notes are layered with poached apple, Marcona almond and lemon curd flavors in this dry, medium-bodied version, framed by sleek acidity and petrol-laced minerality. Drink now through 2026. 12,000 cases made. From France.—Alison Napjus
Grüner Veltliner Kremstal Kremser Kogl 2018
Score: 90 | $17
WS review: Mineral-driven and well-built, this is bursting with notes of iodine, lentil and white pepper, while nectarine and pear flavors take a back seat. Very energetic, with enough structure to stand up to a serious meal. Drink now through 2026. 2,000 cases made. From Austria.—Aleksandar Zecevic
REICHSRAT VON BUHL
Riesling Pfalz Bone Dry 2017
Score: 89 | $16
WS review: Very minerally, showing a slight fizz, with grapefruit and quince flavors leaving a mouthwatering impression. Very dry, but expressive and well-balanced. Drink now through 2023. 4,000 cases made. From Germany.—A.Z.
Riesling Alsace Réserve 2017
Score: 89 | $16
WS review: A bright, minerally, light-bodied white, offering a creamy range of yellow plum, preserved lemon, delicate spice, sage and petrol notes. Clean-cut finish. Drink now through 2023. 12,500 cases made. From France.—A.N.
Grüner Veltliner Kamptal Schlosskellerei 2018
Score: 88 | $16
WS review: Combining notes of yellow apple with tobacco leaf flavors, this well-knit white is silky in texture, showing vibrant acidity and minerally elements that add complexity. Leaves a savory herbal hint on the echoing finish. Drink now through 2025. 15,000 cases made. From Austria. —A.Z.
Grüner Veltliner Kremstal 2018
Score: 88 | $16
WS review: Crisp, with notable minerality and flavors of lemon oil, green apple and spice. Focused and precise, showing good intensity, this extends on the finish. Drink now through 2023. 10,000 cases made. From Austria.—A.Z.
Riesling Alsace 2016
Score: 88 | $17
WS review: A delicate skein of aromatic spice threads through the fruit flavors of Asian pear and green melon in this fresh, light-bodied white. Drink now through 2022. 1,200 cases made. From France.—A.N.
Riesling Eden Valley 2018
Score: 88 | $20
WS review: The lime and quince flavors are vibrantly juicy, with hints of minerality and matcha green tea. Drink now. 40,000 cases made. From Australia.—MaryAnn Worobiec
Riesling Marlborough Single Vineyard 2017
Score: 88 | $15
WS review: Mouthwatering lime and white grapefruit flavors are vivid, intense and not shy on acidity, with accents of mineral, petrol and makrut lime leaf on the finish. Drink now. 1,300 cases made. From New Zealand.—M.W.