Wining and Dining at 8UP

Marc Mondavi and Jacob Coronado.

Marc Mondavi and Jacob Coronado.

Marc Mondavi is a third generation winemaker from California who visited 8UP Elevated Drinkery & Kitchen to show off some of the latest wines from his company. In order to do this, the restaurant played host to a special dinner on July 23 that paired Mondavi’s wines with special one-night-only creations of 8UP’s executive chef Jacob Fernando Coronado. The Voice-Tribune caught up with Mondavi and Coronado to get their take on what makes wine so special and how Coronado’s take on classic tastes with new techniques is taking center stage at the acclaimed eatery.

Marc Mondavi

When you go to wine evenings and tastings like this, what does it mean for you on a personal level.
Well there are thousands of labels out there, so you have to expose it. But evenings like this we are not analyzing it too deeply. It’s about the good food, wine and sharing moments with your friends.

Do you ever get tired of the industry, what keeps you going?
It’s fun and you get to meet a lot of good people. You travel and are in different restaurants and it’s a social kind of scene. I had a dinner for 35 people at my house on Saturday night. But in the end you’re selling passion. There is no function to this, it’s pure pleasure.

How do you not get tired of wine? How is there not a fatigue when it comes to working with the same product?
Every harvest is different. The way it comes about, unfolds – every single year it’s different and you need to work within that year and understand what it’s bringing you. The desire is to always get better and you never learn everything.

What’s your dream wine? Do you dream of the perfect wine? And if so, what does it taste like?
It’s all encompassing and yet it’s very smooth. Tannin is one aspect, but it’s getting the perfect balance of everything. I know it when I taste one, and I’ve only tasted one wine in my entire life that I can honestly say was perfect. When you hit one of those you’re just striving to make your wines like that. You’re never going to get there but you’re striving to hit those notes.

For those who want to get more into wine and to get more into the nuances of it, why should they? Why is wine so great on a basic level?
There are so many experiences that people can have with wine. Company, the food you’re eating, the wineries, the labels, the countries. There are all these little variations that make it so great. Wine is great company. If you’re into wine and want to learn everything, that’s great, but that’s not what gives people pleasure. Learn as much as you want to learn, and don’t be afraid to try other things. You’d be surprised and you’re going to find a lot of experiences. Thirty years ago you could find bad wine. Today you really can’t find bad wine. Back then the California wine business was just starting to come into its stride and a lot of new winemakers did not have the experience but now they do. They handle different weather conditions and harvests and are able to make the best out of sometimes not great conditions.

Jacob Coronado

How are you expressing yourself in the food that you’re cooking at 8UP?
The good thing about this restaurant and this company is that they want you to be happy. Because if you’re cooking what you want to, and you’re happy, it’s going to show. I want to cook great food with classic flavors, using local ingredients but at the same time I want the wow factor. I like to play with food and be whimsical. We do foams, powders, we go molecular. But we don’t go overboard. Grant Achatz (head chef at Alinea in Chicago) is definitely one of the people I look up to and read his books. But a lot of the times what we do is not even molecular. We have traditional spaetzle here, and the dough is traditional – golden brown like you would see elsewhere. But we elevated it even more by adding squid ink, so we have jet black spaetzel. But you look at it and you say, “Wait, timeout, what is this?”

Can people expect something different as you go through the season?
Oh definitely, as we go through summer into fall and winter we will change things up. We’ll change the vegetation as the seasons change. One of the best parts of moving here from Vegas was finding great seasons, where we have great farmers markets. Every Saturday morning I hit up the markets and we come up with a new special every Saturday – our farmer’s market special. We do specials throughout the week too, but Saturdays keep me sane because I get to kind of digress and talk to farmers.

What’s your thing? Are you a veg guy, or a meat guy?
I’m definitely a veg guy, but if you had to talk protein then I am very much pork.

What’s the latest dish you created that you’ve been so proud of?
Well on the bar side here at 8Up we are doing harissa lamb ribs. Harissa, which we make in house, is like a North African, Moroccan sauce and we serve that with yogurt, and pickled cucumber salads. Elevated bar food, that’s basically what we’re trying to do.

Is there any aspect to where you grew up that you still like to sneak into the menu?
I grew up in Houston, Texas, and there are two things I guess. I will go a little bit big on platters and food, but I think if there was one thing then it’s the hush puppies. VT