Testarossa Winery is the state’s fourth-oldest continuously operating winery, tracing its roots to Jesuits from Santa Clara College who began making altar wines in 1888, but a pair of Silicon Valley engineers-turned-winemakers are keeping operations 21st century with a new twist: The winery’s first full-time chef.
Nadiv Geiger, a veteran of the one-Michelin-starred Village Pub in Woodside, was picked to create food and wine pairings at Testarossa by its owners, Rob and Diana Jensen. They’re graduates of the college (now known as Santa Clara University) and moved their label into the historic former novitiate in 1997. Geiger, a 27-year-old Sunnyvale native, credits his Jewish, Eastern European and Middle Eastern heritage for an inclination toward hospitality. “I’ve wanted to be a chef ever since I learned it was a profession!” he says.
Armed with a degree in culinary arts and food service management, he worked after college for the Hillstone Group in New York City, and later at San Francisco’s Spruce and the Village Pub. He learned how to source top ingredients from the food supply chain and turn them into starworthy dishes. (Locals may also recognize him from a brief stint as executive chef at Vina Enoteca in Palo Alto.)
“One of the big takeaways for me in menu development was restraint—the ability to integrate multiple cuisines and food cultures into a seamless dish,” says Geiger. This serves him well in creating pairings to highlight Testarossa’s wines for private events, and for tastings for wine club members and Wine Bar 107, with small plates and live music on weekends (and named after the novitiate winery, the 107th bonded winery in the nation). Previously, food was provided by caterers. Because Testarossa is a winery, Geiger’s approach to cuisine development differs from the way he would creates dishes for a restaurant. “The menus are tailored to the wine experience,” says Geiger. “I basically act like a reverse sommelier. I use the technical aspects of the wines first—body, alcohol, tannin, dryness, sweetness, acidity—to determine the style of dish, and then I use the flavor profile to direct me from there.”
In the few months that Geiger’s been at Testarossa, one guest favorite has already emerged: the horseradish and Parmigiano-Reggiano-laced mashed potatoes served with braised short ribs. When served with Testarossa’s Doctor’s Vineyard Pinot Noir (2017 vintage, $70), there’s only one verdict: hallelujah. 300 College Ave., 408.354.6150
Originally published in the June issue of Silicon Valley
Photography by: Simone Sarmet