Creative Exec-Turned-Vineyard Owner Kimberly Pfendler Takes THR's Taste Test

Kimberly Pfendler Headshot - P 2013
Courtesy of Kimberly Pfendler

Kimberly Pfendler Headshot - P 2013

The film development alum talks tomatillos, sweetbreads, casserole and handmade habanero sauces.

Pfendler Vineyards owner Kimberly Pfendler began her career in Hollywood, graduating from UCLA film school in 1992, nabbing a spot in the agent trainee program at ICM, and serving as an assistant at various times for Julia Louis-Dreyfus (on the set of Seinfeld) and Jon Peters (during the Wild Wild West and Money Train era). She then worked as a creative executive under David Hoberman at Hyde Park Entertainment, tracking scripts and developing a series of movies, including Bandits, Raising Helen and Bringing Down the House.

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Then she met her husband Peter, a grape grower and vineyard developer in Northern California, and moved to Petaluma in 2003. He passed away in 2007, the year their vineyard (currently 19 acres of a 1,000-acre property) first bottled a Chardonnay and a Pinot Noir. The vineyard now produces 800 cases a year and is available locally everywhere from L’Ermitage to the Beverly Hills Hotel, as well as at revered L.A. wine store Wally’s.


Current Fixation
“I love the prix fixe Sonoma Neighbor menu at Charlie Palmer's Dry Creek Kitchen in Healdsburg. He always uses fresh, local ingredients to make the most amazing yet simple dishes, like the pan-roasted Petaluma chicken, and then pairs them with beautiful local wines. They also donate $2 to the Healdsburg Educational Foundation each time you order this three-course menu. It's important to support local businesses and organizations, and this does both.”

Known For Cooking
“Everybody loves when I have summertime BBQs on the ranch. We do a roast pig or lamb for a pulled-meat dish, and then add chef Mateo Granados’ handmade habanero sauces. They have amazing flavor and I love that the ingredients are all locally and sustainably grown.”

Destination Dinner
“Benu in San Francisco. Chef Corey Lee creates such amazing avant-garde dishes with an Asian flair, all exquisitely presented. He was chef de cuisine at The French Laundry under Thomas Keller and it really shows in Benu’s wine pairings and impeccable service. I had the tasting menu, and loved the interesting dishes like the thousand-year-old quail egg and abalone persillade.”

Go-To Take-Out
“It's always something from one of the three SEA Thai restaurants near my home. I love really spicy foods, the hotter the better. SEA Thai never lets me down, and they are in Petaluma, Santa Rosa and Corte Madera, so no matter where I'm running around I can stop by at the end of the day.”

Adventurous Bite
“I grew up in Minnesota with brothers who were hunters. During deer season they would bring back the results of the day’s hunt and we always had at least one bite of the fresh liver that had been quickly seared. It wasn’t my favorite thing, but I had to keep up with the boys!”

Simply Won’t Eat
“Sweetbreads -- it sounds like it should be something completely different!”

Favorite Snack
“Anything from the Healdsburg Pickling Company. Tomatillos, garlic, carrots and green beans: I buy them by the case.”

Dietary Regimen
“I don’t really have a regimen, but I do try to focus on eating healthy foods in my everyday life -- organic and local veggies and fruits, lean proteins like wild fish and organic chicken breast, salads and lots of water. I usually graze during the day and enjoy a fresh and healthy meal at night with a glass of wine.”

Preferred Company
“My son, Nicholas. From an early age he was introduced to every type of cuisine and is completely adventurous when it comes to food. I can take him to any restaurant and he’ll enjoy it. “

Pet Peeve
“Nuts mixed into dishes. I love nuts, but never in my salad or my stir-fry.”

Big Wish
“I wish that there was more diversity out here. I would love to see more authentic, international food. Los Angeles has so many restaurants serving really interesting ethnic cuisines like Peruvian, Afghan and Caribbean, but I would love to have options like that closer to home.”

Guilty Pleasure
“Oh, this is where the Midwesterner in me really comes out. My mom’s Tater-Tot hot dish is my guiltiest pleasure. It’s a casserole made with Tater Tots, cooked ground beef, canned corn and cream of mushroom soup. You mix it all up and bake it, then spoon it up and enjoy!”

Last Meal
“Spaghetti bolognese, made in the traditional Italian way with a blend of veal, pork, beef and pancetta. I love pasta, but I don’t treat myself to it often, and the combination of the aromatic and meaty yet delicate flavors is so wonderfully satisfying. And I would pour myself a big glass of Sangiovese. I love the history of Italian wines. My current favorite is from Badia a Coltibuono, whose origins date back over a thousand years -- it’s literally the birthplace of Chianti.”