In late February, Kara Haspel Lind, founder of Kara’s Cupcakes, was poised to launch her new wine bar and restaurant, Bar Lucia, when COVID-19 halted her plans.
“I closed all of my businesses and laid myself off along with 90 other staff. It was heartbreaking for everyone,” she said.
Lind and her family decided to shelter in place at their home in Calistoga. Was ever a doubt that Bar Lucia would come to fruition? “No, never. Bar Lucia was meant to be born,” she said. “I kept moving forward with plans, finishing the build out, looking for staff and creating marketing opportunities that brought the wine experience alive.”
Instead of immediately opening when restaurants were given the green light in late May, Lind opted instead for a “controlled opening” on June 18, offering her full wine list, but a limited food menu.
Despite what she called the “COVID Challenge,” her objective was to create the best possible wine and food experience while simultaneously implementing the required coronavirus protocols such as frequent cleaning and sanitizing, wearing face coverings and gloves, maintaining social distance, and implementing contact-less payment options.
Lind said one of the greatest challenges has been the difficulty of having meaningful conversations with customers while wearing face masks and keeping a safe distance. It has been a delicate balancing act of caution, safety, hospitality and service.
Bar Lucia, named after Lind’s great-grandmother, Angela Luci, and daughter, Lucia, is a natural extension of her Italian roots and the significance of family, food, and wine.
Her wine list focuses primarily on rosés – along with a few sparkling wines, white, and reds – from smaller Napa and Sonoma County producers, plus a few others from Mendocino County, Washington state, and France (a Champagne).
Lind and her husband, Michael, chose selections for their inaugural wine list through recommendations from peers in the wine industry, word-of-mouth, and tastings.
The extensive list of rosés – currently 12 bottles, two on tap, and two in cans – includes wines from made from a variety of grapes such as Carignan, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, Pinot Noir, Sangiovese, Syrah, and even White Zinfandel.
Lind intentionally chose the slightly sweet Buehler White Zinfandel, the rosé of a generation gone by, for those seeking a sweeter wine. She also makes a fun frosé from Washington State’s highly rated Vino Rosé of Sangiovese, organic strawberry purée, and simple syrup.
A tasting of five dry rosés – Hogwash, Head High, Aesop, Lioco, and Ehlers Estate – followed by the Carboniste Sparkling Albariño, the frosé, and the Buehler White Zinfandel – demonstrates Lind’s commitment to offering a variety of wines. While serious about rosé and the other choices on her list, Lind added, “Rosés are fun, great with food, and approachable.”
Lind designed her food menu with the assistance of a consulting chef. It features Kara’s Cupcakes, as well as appetizers, sandwiches and salads made using local ingredients from purveyors like Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company and Model Bakery, as well as fruits, greens, and herbs from her Calistoga garden.
Bar Lucia will be phasing in these offerings over the next month or two. Current accompaniments are popular selections from Kara’s Cupcakes and a plate of salumi, Point Reyes cheese, Model Bakery crostini, toasted nuts, fig jam, and seasonal fruit.
A special menu feature is Lind’s unconventional flight of three cupcakes and three wines, with a choice of flavors like carrot, coconut, red velvet, and sweet vanilla paired with selections of rosé, sparkling, white, or red wines. Her banana, banana caramel, fleur de sel, Meyer lemon, and passion fruit cupcakes – as well as vegan – will be available soon as part of the menu rollout. Lind also offers gluten-free cupcakes such as flourless chocolate and sweet vanilla.
Also in the works is Lind’s “Bar Lucia’s Rosé Party and Pamper Pak,” which will include cans of Hogwash Rosé, branded glasses, pink gummy bears, pink nail polish, and a rose quartz stone because, “This is the stone of universal love—and we all could use some love,” she said.
Lind explained why she chose rosé and the pervasiveness of the color pink in the branding and mosaic tile design of Bar Lucia – as well as Kara’s Cupcakes. She has always been visual and drawn to the color pink. She has a lifetime affinity for sweet pink treats, despite being a dentist’s daughter. For Lind, pink is a color that signifies energy and happiness. When she tastes her rosés – and nibbles her cupcakes – she finds herself in a happy place, immediately transported back to sweet and delicious memories of her childhood and family. Through Bar Lucia, she hopes to provide customers with similar taste moments that “aim to nourish our souls and connect us.”
Kara’s Pimiento Cheese Dip with Point Reyes Toma and Model Bakery Crostini
Suggested Bar Lucia Wine Pairings
Aesop, Ehlers Estate, or Scribe (Dry Rosé)
Buehler White Zinfandel (Sweet Rosé)
Carboniste Albariño (Sparkling/White)
Chappellet Mountain Cuvée Cabernet Blend (Red)
Pimiento Cheese Dip
4 oz grated sharp cheddar cheese
2 oz grated Point Reyes Toma
1/4 cup jarred pimentos, chopped
2 oz cream cheese
1 tsp Frank’s Red Hot Sauce
1 tbsp mayonnaise
Mix all ingredients, cover, and refrigerate for one hour.
Place desired amount of pimento in ramekin or serving dish.
Model Bakery Crostini
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Slice crostini in 1/4 slices.
Place on a sheet pan and toast with olive oil and sea salt.
Cool to room temperature.
Serve with pimento cheese dip above.
Elizabeth Smith is a freelance contributing writer to the Napa Valley Register and Napa Valley Life Magazine. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her website at elizabethsmithconsulting.com.
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