Califonia Bountiful

Creative collaborations

July/August 2020 California Bountiful magazine

Winery chefs give voice to seasonal ingredients

As winery chefs, Tracey Shepos Cenami and Justin Wangler treat wine not as an afterthought to pair with a dish, but as a starting point for that dish to spring from. Photo by Alan Campbell Photography for Kendall-Jackson

Justin Wangler and Tracey Shepos Cenami, who lead the culinary team at Jackson Family Wines, are quick to acknowledge their good fortune. The chefs work in a large, well-appointed kitchen adjacent to one of Sonoma County's most expansive culinary gardens.

"Every time I step foot in the garden, I gasp because it's just so beautiful," Cenami said of the 4-acre plot. "This time of year, it's extra magical because there are so many colors and layers. We cook seasonally, so for July and August, that's a lot of tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, stone fruit—all those things everybody's excited about in the summer."

The secret to great summer meals, the chefs agree, is to keep things simple and allow the ingredients to speak for themselves. And don't forget the wine.

"When we create a dish, we start with the wine," Wangler said. "Our main focus here is to help people appreciate food and wine and understand the pairings. When the two come together, the sum is more than the parts."

That's true for the culinary team as well, who've worked together for about 15 years. Wangler serves as executive chef and Cenami as chef de cuisine and cheese specialist.

"We each bring a very different perspective, yet we meet in the middle to create a great experience," Cenami said, to which Wangler added, "I think our best dishes are when we collaborate."

Barbara Arciero


Heirloom tomatoes with basil salt and ice lettuce

Peach toast with garden honey and spicy bush basil

Summer melon with shiso and sumac salt

Corn, fregula and Sun Gold tomato salad

Dark chocolate budino with blueberries and basil

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