There are few people, if any, more synonymous with San Francisco’s wine scene than Shelley Lindgren. The co-owner and wine director of two of the city’s most iconic Italian restaurants—A16 and SPQR—Lindgren has long been one of the country’s most respected voices on Italian wine. At both restaurants, as well as the recently-opened A16 in Rockridge, Lindgren pulls from a playlist heavy on lesser-known regional Italian wines—with a focus on the South at A16 and “varietals grown across the ancient Roman roads” at SPQR—and pairs them with engaged service. It’s Lindgren’s approachability and warmth that has no doubt propelled both restaurants to their status as modern classics.
With two kids and two cookbooks under her belt, it’s hard to imagine that Lindgren has much time for anything else. Yet she and her husband, Greg Lindgren, somehow manage to run two of the city’s most beloved craft cocktail bars—15 Romolo and Rye—both of which draw on the same spirit of adventure and hospitality.
What do want to be when you grow up?
Best thing you ever drank:
The first time I tasted a 1959 Chateau Latour in 1996 from a collector of Bordeaux. It really brought to life the idea of when great wines are made in the best vintages and have a lasting beauty for decades.
Worst thing you ever drank:
Long Island Iced Tea gone wrong.
First time you ever got drunk:
I’m the fourth of five kids in a family raised from a single mom, so my older brother and sisters had a few parties when Mom was out of town. Learned how to play quarters with Bacardi & Coke, had a lower-than-zero tolerance. I have not touched Bacardi since the mid-1980s as a result.
If you had to listen to one album on loop, for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Probably Kaya from Bob Marley and the Wailers.
What’s the weirdest hobby you currently have or have had?
I am planning this year’s holiday wreath-making for A16 using recycled corks and foraged pinecones.
What do you know now that you wish you’d known five years ago?
That knowledge on wine is always in motion and nobody is truly an expert.
Weirdest cocktail experiment you’ve ever attempted:
Tried to incorporate Moutai into a Chinese New Year-themed cocktail with Visciole cherry wine and it was not the right ingredient combo by any stretch of the imagination.
What’s your favorite thing to do when you’re not eating, drinking or drink-making?
Taking time to get outside with my two sons.
Your favorite bar, and why:
15 Romolo. It’s where I met Greg on soft-opening in 1998.
Best meal you’ve ever had:
I’m not sure how to compare experiences like truffles in Piedmont in the fall or great seafood at restaurants like La Pineta in Tuscany or the freshest sushi in Tokyo. One of the amazing things about our industry is that we are able to enjoy food, wines and cocktails at so many distinctive places and artistic expressions.
What’s your go-to drink in a cocktail bar?
In a wine bar?
Crisp, dry white wine, like albariño.
In a dive bar?
Campari & Soda.
Your preferred hangover recovery regime:
Lots of coffee, Advil, anything with an egg and, if time allows, a trip to Soul Cycle.
The last text message you sent:
“Looks like we forgot to put the garbage cans out last night at our house. I’ll call for pick up.”