"My mother doesn't know how to cook," says eight-year-old Isabelle Smith. Fortunately, her father, Hourglass winery owner Jeff Smith, doesand he proves it by making the family dinner almost every night of the week.
Where he finds the time is anyone's guess. In addition to producing one of Napa Valley's most lusted-after Cabernets (with a $110 release price and a 1,500-person waiting list), Smith partnered with Robert Lawson of Pavi on a new $12 Pinot Grigio called Tu Tu. He recently bought a new vineyard near Calistoga and is developing a winery there that will snake into the Vaca Mountains. He also plays guitar in a band, a hobby he shares with winemaker Robert Foley, who crafts Hourglass in addition to Pride Mountain Vineyards wines and his own label.
Despite Smith's busy schedule, most nights he prepares simple-yet-inventive dinners for Isabelle, his six-year-old son, Holland, and his wife, Carolyn. And he often asks some wine friends to join them. Frequent guests include Realm Cellars co-owner Juan Mercado, Switchback Ridge owner Kelly Peterson, Herb Lamb Vineyards co-owner Jennifer Lamb and Stony Hill Vineyard winemaker Mike Chelini. On the night I visited, Smith's high-school friend Lael Newman brought her husband, Douglas Keane, the chef at Cyrus and an F&W Best New Chef 2006. "It's nice having a sous-chef," Smith said without irony, as Keane rolled mushrooms in panko (Japanese bread crumbs), which would accompany racks of roasted baby back ribs basted with a sweet-salty Asian glaze. Most of Smith's dishes show a Mediterranean influence with Asian accents, such as the minty coconut milk-based sauce he serves with a roasted rack of lamb. This kind of cooking is his response to the dearth of Asian food in Napa Valley restaurants.