This is the sweet story of Greg and Shelley Lindgren. He is co-owner of some of the top craft cocktail bars in the city (Rye, 15 Romolo, Rosewood Bar), as well as co-owner of the craft cocktail catering company in the city, Rye on the Road. Shelley is the owner and wine director of SPQR, A16 and A16 Rockridge as well as being a cookbook author and teacher.
She is like the fairy godmother of wine and Italian food. Very few people can make you feel so comfortable and she possesses a deep wisdom about wine. Greg is somewhat of a cocktail savant with encyclopedic knowledge on the history of cocktails.
The Lindgrens caught up with Bay Area Bites recently and shared Valentine’s wine and cocktail recommendations that work no matter what one’s love status may be. Their comments have been edited for clarity.
Bay Area Bites: How did you two meet?
Shelley Lindgren: We met the summer of 1998 while I was working at Fleur De Lys. Greg and Jon had just opened 15 Romolo, and the Fleur staff would go there every night after work. Greg always had my drink waiting for me. One night, he asked me to a breakfast date at Suppenküche in Hayes Valley. The rest is history. We've been married 13 years.
Bay Area Bites: What is it like to work in similar and overlapping industries?
Shelley Lindgren: We try and keep work separate so that we don't become overwhelmed with the everyday grind, but we use each other as sounding boards for ideas, and, of course, wine and cocktail recommendations.
Bay Area Bites: How do you negotiate work vs. home life?
Greg Lindgren: We check in with each other, and see who can pick up kids and if we need to book a last minute sitter. Some weeks are more packed than others, but we're used to juggling and late hours.
Bay Area Bites: A16 SF is at the ten-year mark and Greg, you are seeing growth in your businesses. What else is new?
Shelley Lindgren: A16 catering recently had our first event alongside Rye on the Road. We had a blast and are looking forward to more events. Greg has been instrumental sharing advice from his experience in this department with Rye on the Road. There is still so much research and work to develop both A16 and SPQR. It is a marathon lifestyle and something we always want to grow with our wonderful team. We love what we do!
Greg Lindgren: Rye on the Road is getting it’s own commissary/studio in SOMA this year. For the last several years we have been running our offsite operations from the bar. This space will allow us to maintain our growth, and serve as a resource where we develop our bar ideas.
Bay Area Bites: Who pours at home? What are you drinking these days?
Shelley Lindgren: Sometimes we don't want to open a bottle of wine, so we happily opt for dabbling into Greg's Amaro collection that he has been building over the last 14 years. When we do drink at home, everyone pours (mostly wine). Our boys Finn and Asher take great pride in pouring a glass for Mom and Dad. We are starting them in service early! Tasting will have to wait until they are older though.
Bay Area Bites: What are you serving for Valentine’s Day?
Shelley Lindgren: We are beaming with excitement to welcome back as a guest A16's opening executive chef, Christophe Hille, whom we owe so much for our menu focus and food development at A16. It's wonderfully nostalgic and a great reminder of how fortunate we are to have so many people who have supported us all these years. Party time! Also, Valentine's Day is A16's anniversary.
Greg Lindgren: My cocktail, My Bitter Valentine, is the special of the day for Rye. It’s a cocktail for everyone else on Valentine’s Day, not just couples.
Bay Area Bites: What’s your favorite drink?
Greg Lindgren: I love a Sazerac, or a Highball made with Japanese whisky.
Shelley Lindgren: I’m a Negroni girl, and have been for years and years.
Bay Area Bites: Where do you get inspiration for your work?
Greg Lindgren: Life here in San Francisco, and travel.
Shelley Lindgren: I learn so much from our Italian winemaker friends, many who make the journey to San Francisco this time of year for events. It is a reminder to always put our best foot forward and show as much hospitality as possible. I love it and feel inspired every year I get to see them here. The world seems very small sometimes.
Shelley’s Wine Recommendations:
Damiano Ciolli, 'Silene', Olevano Cesanese, Lazio 2009:
For many years, Cesane-based red wines were not easy to find exported outside the demands of Rome. Quality-focused, small producers, like Damiano Ciolli, make incredibly versatile wines that I have had so much fun pairing with a wide range of foods from artichokes to porchetta.
Ettore Germano 'Rosanna,' Brut Rose, Piemonte:
I often think pink with bubbles on Valentine's Day. In fact, we always offer at least one rose sparkling at A16, SPQR and A16 Rockridge. As a longtime fan of Sergio Germano and his talented winemaking, his newest sparkling release, 'Rosanna' is my new obsession. Sergio likes to drink great Champagne and it shows with the quality of Nebbiolo sparkling he was able to create here. It has great effervescence, rose petals, biscuity nose and elegance that have me wanting to pour it for everyone.
Pietracupa, Greco di Tufo, Campania 2012:
Sabino Loffredo will be joining us for our 10th anniversary at A16. He is not only one of the most talented white winemakers in Italy, he is a star of Campania. He makes wines he believes in and they have become a benchmark for greatness of Fiano di Avellino and Greco di Tufo. From bitter greens like kale and dandelion to fish and braised meats, this fabulous Greco di Tufo is complex and delicate, making it a really fun wine to recommend and a go-to for drinking.
Greg’s “My Bitter Valentine” Cocktail Recipe
- 3/4 oz. Campari
- 1/2 oz. Aperol
- 3/4 oz. Cocchi Vermouth
- 1/2 oz. Blood Orange Juice
- 3 oz. Seltzer
- Dash of Regan’s Orange Bitters
Combine ingredients and serve tall over ice with a blood orange slice.