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Snooth User: Kirstin

Introducing the UC Berkeley Food and Wine Archives

Posted by Kirstin, Jun 24, 2008.

My next post promises to dive into that not-so-elusive yet expansive realm of food and wine pairing, but before that post comes into fruition, I wanted to direct your attention to a very special food and wine project.

I discovered this project while researching at Cal, where in the depths of the UC Berkeley Regional Oral History Office, next to the Civil Rights interview shelf and above the Rosie the Riveter interview folders, is the UC Berkeley Food and Wine Archives. This department, funded primarily through philanthropic donors such as Chuck Williams of Williams and Sonoma, records and transcribes interviews with THE movers and shakers in the San Francisco Bay Area food and wine world. Needless to say, these shelves are overflowing.

Just some wine interviewees include, for example: Ernest Gallo, Miljenko Grgich, Justin Meyer of Silver Oak, Robert Mondavi, Maynard A Amerine, Joseph E Heitz, Merry Edwards, and Paul Draper. Many include insights on the 1973 Paris Tasting. Just some of the people interviewed in the food realm include: Mary Risley of Tante Marie Cooking School, Cecilia Chiang of Mandarin, Chuck Williams, and (sigh...) food writer Doris Muscatine.

Unlike journalistic interviews, when the interviewees voice shines only when the journalist allows it, these interviews are rarely edited. Granted, this can make for a very long read- we learn about the person's background, childhood, and their extensive path to wine and food, however, while long, these oral histories are detailed, telling, and amazingly interesting. Depending on whose interviews you select to read, you might even get a dirty joke or two out of the journey (hello Mary Risely of Tante Marie Cooking School).

Most conveniently, all of the aforementioned interviews can be downloaded online at either of these two following web addresses, and all other interviews are available in hard copy through the University.


I was fortunate enough to interview some of the movers and shakers and transcribe others in which I was not otherwise involved, and consider myself very lucky. I learned so much! As you Snoothers are wine and food lovers, I'm sure that all of you will enjoy exploring this important historical project that at great lengths poignantly examines the world of food and wine.

Let me know what you think.

Kirstin Jackson Ellis works as a wine bar manager and wine and food consultant in the San Francisco Bay Area and writes about wine and food pairing at Vin de La Table , her luxurious and lighthearted blog.


Reply by John Andrews, Jun 24, 2008.

Kristin ... I didn't realize you were in the bay area ... just curious, do you have any recommendations in the city?

Reply by Philip James, Jun 24, 2008.

John - i think you should go scope out the wine bar that Kirstin manages. I was going to go there when i was last in town but Kirstin wasnt around so we never got to meet.

Reply by Kirstin, Jun 24, 2008.

In the city, I love the wine list at Bar Tartine, Bar Bambino, A16, Nectar....
And, a couple days a week, I can be found at Solano Cellars, which is a wine bar/wine shop in Albany (just across the street from Berkeley), where 12 new wines are available by the flight or glass everyday after 4pm.

Reply by John Andrews, Jun 24, 2008.

@Philip ... definitely a good idea ... now to find out which one it is!

Blog comment by Dan, Jun 24, 2008.

Wow, Kristin, thank you! The Andre Tchelistcheff interview is 246 pages long! It is like a auto-biography. This stuff is invaluable, thank you, again, for sharing this with us. It has become an immediate bookmark.

Blog comment by Dan, Jun 24, 2008.

By the way.... which interviews did you do ?

Reply by Mark Angelillo, Jun 25, 2008.

This is really great. What a wealth of perspective.

Reply by Kirstin, Jun 25, 2008.

Dan- Unfortunately no wine interviews! ROHO drew on my culinary background instead. Would have loved to do Merry Edward's (okay, and tons of others!). But I oohed and awed over the wine ones completed. I interviewed Christopher Lee (of Eccolo and Chez Panisse), Maggie Pond (of César) and Charlie Hallowell (of Pizzaiolo and Chez Panisse). I transcribed those interviews of Heidi Krahling, Justine Miner, Chuck Williams, Paul Bertoli and Mary Risely, and...... maybe that's it.
Glad you guys are enjoying the archives.

Blog comment by Dan, Jun 25, 2008.

Thanks, Kristin. If I ever make it into the pantheon of some of the wine greats that are housed in this Library collection, I will make sure that it is you who does the interview. Look forward to checking out the interviews that you did.... thanks again.

Reply by John Andrews, Jun 26, 2008.

@Kristin ... I'm just down the road in Jack London Square. I'll try to make it out there in the near future!

Reply by bobdmac, Mar 6, 2009.

I just found the Andre Tchelistcheff interview online yesterday, because I had just watched "Bottle Shock" and was looking the real history of that event. . I was the original transcriber of the Tchelistcheff tapes, in about 1976, as I recall. As a former Russian linguist, I loved hearing him talk. The inimitable Russian soul pours out of him like well-aged burgundy.

Among the many unexpected stories was how Heublein picked up Smirnoff Vodka from a Russian emigre in Paris (a friend of Tchelistcheff's) whose family had the charcoal filtering patent. They paid him cash plus a five per cent lifetime royalty, making him a millionaire many times over, but he had barely been getting by selling to the Russian immigrant community in Paris, and he just couldn't believe that Heublein could sell enough vodka to legitimately pay him as much as they did. At one point, he even demanded to look at their accounting.

One tidbit that was edited out of the interview, and only hinted at, was that he and Warren Winiarski had a bitter falling out. Tchelistcheff never said what it was about, just that the loss of their friendship was a tragedy to him. If anybody knows anything about this, I'd be curious to hear it.

For all that has been written about Tchelistcheff, I think he is still underappreciated. The interview is a great read, and it's free! How can you go wrong?

Reply by dmcker, Mar 27, 2009.

Just saw this--fascinating, though unfortunately the server at those URLs isn't letting me in at the moment (tried both Safari and Firefox from a DSL connection in Tokyo). Read a very interesting book from a small publisher in Santa Barbara (can't remember book or publisher name at the moment, though may come back if I keep pushing for awhile) back in the early '80s that did interviews with lots of people making good wine in the '70s in California, especially those who'd participated in Spurrier's little adventure in '76. Tchelistcheff was in the book, as was Winiarski and many others. Would love to have access to those documents when the servers allow.

Am a UCB alumnus and still have family and friends in the Oakland/Albany areas. Any other recommendations (more for them but also for me on visits) in the East Bay? Has become a regular tradition to catch Chez Panisse upstairs or downstairs when there, as well as the tapas bar next door since my brother-in-law is from Bilbao, or rather Guernica. Where else is good to eat and drink these days?

Reply by dmcker, Mar 27, 2009.

Also, GDP or Philip, does it make sense to start some sort of Wine Resource type of corner, thread, what have you? I just stumbled across this thread started nearly a year ago, and wouldn't have without some hunting. This kind of reference is something I, for one, would be very interested in knowing about--which would happen more easily with a more accessible/integrated/concentrated access point within Snooth. I'm sure there are other sorts of resources, as well, that could be included and that I or others might feel the same way about...

Reply by Gregory Dal Piaz, Mar 27, 2009.

This one may be harder to build but I'll think about it.

What is your thinking dm, a wine and food history resource?

Incidentally both links work for me and I recently used the wine link to do a little research myself.

Reply by dmcker, Mar 27, 2009.

Wine and food history section sounds good.

How about a Wine Resource Center button over in the 'Categories' box, or even somewhere closer to Home. Click on it and you see other buttons for Wine and Food History, Wine Education and Training Resources, Worldwide Vintage Charts, Wine Cellar Buying and Building, etc., etc. as the list and content grows over time...

Don't know if the problem yesterday was a temporary server glitch on their end or a browser (or even ISP) issue on mine that lead to the timeout. Today using Firefox (yesterday was Safari for technical reasons) I got in instantaneously.

I put up a dedicated thread on the provisionally named 'SWRC' to see if anyone else has any good ideas...

Reply by dmcker, Mar 27, 2009.

Anyone with East Bay wine and food recommendations? ;-)

Reply by dmcker, Mar 27, 2009.

Here's the book I was referring to above. It's very well done and a great read, or so I remember thinking at the time:
BENSON, ROBERT Great Winemakers of California
Capra Press, Santa Barbara, CA, 1977, 1st Ed. Hardbound. Conversations with Robert Benson. With a preface by Andre Tchelistcheff. 28 California winemakers discussing the myths and methodology of making great wines. Illustrated. LCCN 77-3888. 303 Pgs. ISBN: 0884961079.

Capra Press was a remarkable boutique publisher out of Santa Barbara founded and run by another iconoclast, Noel Young. Unfortunately it went into a number of years of decline, even before Young died at the beginning of this decade. What remained of it was bought up by someone else around the time of his death, but I'm not sure how truly active it is now and whether the publisher will respond to enquiries (I just got bounced on an email query, but that may be temporary). If you want to hunt for the book, looking elsewhere on the Web might be the way to go...

Reply by dmcker, Mar 30, 2009.

One good commercial resource in San Francisco I've found for older and out-of-print books is:

And they have great music recording archives, too... :-)

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