Chef Charlie Palmer raised eyebrows in 2004 when he picked up his family and left New York City, where his flagship Aureole restaurant had earned him national acclaim, and moved to a ranch in California’s Sonoma Valley. By then Palmer was already chef and owner of Dry Creek Kitchen in the Hotel Healdsburg; he became one of the driving forces behind the wine country culinary renaissance and started his own Charlie Clay wine label, all while raising four sons with his wife, Lisa.
In the new American Artisan video series, debuting Nov. 10 at WineSpectator.com/Video, Palmer is introducing viewers to some of the wine country purveyors that inspired him to bring his family here, and his filmmaker son Randall is behind the camera: The series is produced by Fam4 Media, co-founded by Randall Palmer and his three brothers, Eric, Courtland and Reed.
“Randall is the real creator,” Charlie said of American Artisan. “His history, growing up in wine country, has really given him an inside view of the wine country lifestyle—it’s not just about wine and grapes; it’s a sensibility.” Randall also studied filmmaking at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, and his first feature, Vineyards, earned a Best Cinematography nod at the 2020 Golden State Film Festival.
”He’s not shy about directing!” Charlie laughed. “I’ve learned a lot from him. I try to do my homework ahead of time now.”
”When [the pandemic] started, we realized it was a new world, where chefs like my dad weren’t going to be able to reach their audience from a restaurant, and all these other makers were in the same boat. So we figured, let’s do something fun and interesting and tell these people’s stories,” Randall said. His dad added, “We thought, we have so much right here in our backyard [in Sonoma]—we should document it.”
The Nov. 10 debut of Wine Spectator Presents Charlie Palmer’s American Artisan features Sonoma sausage king Bruce Aidells. “That was a relationship that started in the kitchen,” Charlie said, “but Bruce has a home in wine country, and we’ve become good friends. We share dinners, we cook together. It was a natural thing to tell his story—a guy that started with a scientific approach and became one of the most famous pork and sausage makers ever.”
The American Artisan series continues Nov. 17 with craft cocktail creator Tara Heffernon of Duke’s Spirited Cocktails in Healdsburg and on Nov. 24 with a visit to baker Crystal White of Wayfarer Bread.
For more with chef Charlie Palmer, watch his appearance on "Straight Talk with Wine Spectator," a live interview series airing every Tuesday and Thursday on Wine Spectator's IGTV channel.