Bricoleur Vineyards chef launches ambitious food program during pandemic
Chef Shane McAnelly started his job as executive chef and director of culinary operations at Bricoleur Vineyards in March 2020, just three days before the shelter-in-place orders took effect.
When the winery quietly opened to the public in early May in the middle of the pandemic, the chef had to pivot but was able to gradually roll out a substantial food-and-wine program aligned with the winery’s goals as well as health department protocols.
“A big piece of the philosophy here is that food and wine make each other better,” McAnelly said. “When we opened, we had to have the food. That’s our vision.”
In May, the chef eased into that vision with wood-fired pizzas, meat- and plant-based charcuterie boards and fried chicken sandwiches. A picnic menu was added, and in July, two programs pairing wine with small bites were introduced. By October, the fried chicken sandwich was joined by a grilled cheese sandwich, salad and soup of the day.
Meanwhile, the culinary team at the winery launched a free virtual cooking class in March 2020 that has evolved with the seasons, from a weekly class in the spring to a once-a-month class last summer. In January, In the Kitchen with Bricoleur Vineyards returned to its original time slot every Saturday, led by McAnelly along with a few guest chefs.
“It’s been a hell of a year,” said McAnelly, who moved to Sonoma County in 2013 to launch Chalkboard restaurant in Healdsburg. “But the fun part for me is that I am talking to everyone who comes here. ... I’ve really gotten to know our club members.”
When possible, the winery also has hosted special themed dinners such as a Julia Child dinner, a truffle dinner and holiday dinners such as the Sláinte dinner, a St. Patrick’s Day celebration in March.
Apart from Kendall-Jackson Wine Estate and Gardens in Santa Rosa with its culinary staff offering multifaceted programs, its hard to imagine a Sonoma County winery with a more ambitious goal of integrating food with wine.
Bricoleur Vineyard’s ultimate vision encompasses intimate seven-course dinner parties around McAnelly’s kitchen island — he was able to host just one so far — as well as large outdoor gatherings featuring festive farm-to-table dinners.
“Our goal is to have big, elaborate dinners,” said Chris Richard, sales and hospitality director. “We want to open both ends of the barn and extend a table through it and outside.”
In the meantime, visitors to the new winery can choose from four tastings that are served on the tented patio outside the 10,000-square-foot Winery Barn, where McAnelly’s kitchen is located.
With help from sous chef Evan Castro, McAnelly offers four bites to pair with four wines for the “Our Roots” tasting and six bites with six wines for the “Sip & Savor” tasting. Guests also can opt to taste four wines or six wines without food.
The chef, who has cooked at top Bay Area restaurants such as Garibaldi’s in Oakland and Va de Vi Bistro and Wine Bar in Walnut Creek, has a passion for pastas and the pizza pies of Italy. He loves introducing diners to lesser-known types of pasta.
“I have been making and cooking pasta for over 15 years, and I am still discovering new shapes I have never seen,” he said. “I love the endless world of pasta. ... I also love the versatility of how easy it is to incorporate our fresh garden ingredients into pasta dishes.”
The primal magic of cooking in the wood-fired pizza oven also appeals to the chef. The Bricoleur Vineyards’ oven gets a workout in the summer and fall, when the winery offers regular Wine and Pizza nights aimed at families.
“It is an entirely different way of cooking,” McAnelly said of the pizza oven. “You have to keep the heat just right, the dough needs to be just right, and again, the topping options are endless and allow us to utilize just-picked produce that we grow on site.”
The chef recently launched an innovative “Wine and Food To-Go” program, with various meal kits featuring pasta dishes and frozen pizzas that can be finished at home. They come with a bottle of Bricoleur wine and a fresh salad made from greens grown in the winery’s greenhouse.
“I’ve been trying to support local restaurants, but takeout is such a mixed bag,” he said. “So we tried to find easy ideas for people to make at home ... but it tastes like it was made here.”
Although the chef experimented with food to-go last spring, this time around he has refined the program, with handmade pastas like gnocchi or gnudi that can be boiled quickly while the sauce is heated.
In his virtual cooking classes, the chef often focuses on one seasonally appropriate dish. Sometimes the classes are led by guests such as Isabella Cirelli, the winery’s marketing and hospitality assistant, who will lead a baking class this Saturday.