With her family roots in California cuisine, years of experience at high-stakes dining houses and an unapologetic affection for the hills she grew up in, Ginger Budrick-Carter seems like the ideal person to bring a spark of innovation to Amador’s fledgling farm-to-fork dream. And after opening Small Town Wine Bar in December, she’s already made quite a few believers.

In some respects, Ginger was born into an appreciation for great food. Her father, Jerry Budrick, played a role in getting Berkeley’s Chez Panisse off the ground, a restaurant that triggered California’s fresh ingredient insurgency and set a guiding light for a generation of famous chefs to come. Jerry and his wife, Deborah, eventually moved to Amador County and opened Caffe Via d’Oro in Sutter Creek. Classy and cozy, the restaurant’s use of fluffy dough, melted goat cheese and bright Mediterranean flavors made it a top dining destination for years. Caffe Via d’Oro also proved that restaurateurs could thrive in the foothills by offering creative dishes; what it takes is what the Budricks did, mix a great culinary vision with the area’s down-to-earth, easy attitude.

It was a lesson Ginger learned early on. She started washing dishes and bussing tables alongside her parents when she was 13. Over the years, she worked her way up to a server at Caffe Via d’Oro, and was the Monday night pizza chef. After starting college in San Francisco, Ginger sharpened her skills by navigating plates of American fare around the tables at Huston’s. It was a fast-paced, urban environment; the servers at Huston’s went through a rigorous program to make the machine work.

“It was really good, because it was almost militant training for waitresses,” Ginger recalled. “It helped me work really well with a team.”

Small wine bar reflects big family traditions

Ginger Budrick-Carter greets customers at Small Town Wine Bar in Amador City.

Ginger’s next stop was at San Francisco’s highly rated hub for Malaysian fusion, Betenut. Eventually, she took a job at a busy center of nightlife in Pasadena called the Bodega Wine Bar. Ginger glided through nine more years of learning the restaurant trade before her internal compass began to change; she thought more and more about Amador County.

“I missed my family all the time, and I had gotten tired of living in a city,” she explained. “I had been doing that for almost 15 years, and I was ready to slow it down.”

Ginger moved back to Amador City with her husband, Matt, happily in tow. She was soon ready to step back into cuisine, but this time in the spirit of what her family had done. Ginger wanted to combine her love of wines like Sauvignon Blanc, Austrian Grüner Veltliner and dry Roses with the award-winning excellence of Amador’s Barberas, Zinfandels and Syrahs to create a rustic cafe that paired all of them with fresh, healthy, locally sourced dishes made from scratch.

“My main goal is to eventually have it set up so that you can come in and have a Barbera from this region and then have a Barbera from somewhere else in the world, and taste them side by side to see what the differences are,” Ginger said.

Given that her dad was present at the birth of the slow-food movement, and that her mom has been involved in Mother Lode Harvest for years, it’s not surprising that Ginger’s approach to food involves tapping some of Amador’s longtime farmers and ranchers. The array of small plates, sandwiches, soups and daily specials at Small Town Wine Bar is colored with vegetables from Upcountry Farms in Ione and James Hackworth’s farm in Plymouth. The grass-fed beef on the menu comes from just over the hill at Sutter Creek Cattle Co. And the juicy pork on the plates arrives courtesy of Golden Acorn Farm in Volcano. Golden Acorn is owned by Megan Monaghan, who’s been friends with Ginger since the two of them were in junior high school together.

“Megan is someone I met on the school bus in seventh grade, and it’s so cool that now I can support her, and the pork tastes really good,” Ginger noted. “The dream is to eventually get to a place where we don’t have to get anything from the large vendors. There’s so much good farming going on here, and people are working so hard at it, that we want to use as much of it as we can.”

The artisan wines and flavorful food at Small Town Wine Bar is complimented by the cafe’s cool, comfy atmosphere. It’s the former site of Buffalo Chips, a place Ginger had plenty of memories from growing up in Amador City. What she has brought to the place is a casual elegance that reflects the Mother Lode’s medley of historic grit and country charm. A few European-style posters of Chez Panisse line the walls, along with photos of glistening, rolling grasslands. The wood-plank countertop that separates the open kitchen from the tables feels like an homage to the ridgetop ranches just beyond the windows.

But possibly the biggest part of the ambiance comes from the faces behind the counter. Though Matt puts in long hours in the aviation industry in Sacramento, he often makes it to the wine bar to help Ginger play host to the many residents and visitors coming through the doors. Deborah is also behind the counter a lot, lending her years of experience to the endeavor.

The family’s approach and attitude might explain why Small Town Wine Bar currently has some of the highest online customer reviews for any place in Amador County. That’s rewarding for Ginger, but she says the biggest payoff involves her relationship with her hometown.

“The most fun thing about this has been getting closer with all the community members of Amador City,” she admits. “I grew up here, and I lived here forever, but I never felt as connected to Amador City as I do right now.”

Send word on your Amador County events to mtaylor@sierralodestar.com.

With her family roots in California cuisine, years of experience at high-stakes dining houses and an unapologetic affection for the hills she grew up in, Ginger Budrick-Carter seems like the ideal person to bring a spark of innovation to Amador’s fledgling farm-to-fork dream. And after opening Small Town Wine Bar in December, she’s already made quite a few believers.In some respects, Ginger was born into an appreciation for great food. Her father, Jerry Budrick, played a role in getting Berkeley’s Chez Panisse off the ground, a restaurant that triggered California’s fresh ingredient insurgency and set a guiding light for a generation of famous chefs to come. Jerry and his wife, Deborah, eventually moved to Amador County and opened Caffe Via d’Oro in Sutter Creek. Classy and cozy, the restaurant’s use of fluffy dough, melted goat cheese and bright Mediterranean flavors made it a top dining destination for years. Caffe Via d’Oro also proved that restaurateurs could thrive in the foothills by offering creative dishes; what it takes is what the Budricks did, mix a great culinary vision with the area’s down-to-earth, easy attitude.It was a lesson Ginger learned early on. She started washing dishes and bussing tables alongside her parents when she was 13. Over the years, she worked her way up to a server at Caffe Via d’Oro, and was the Monday night pizza chef. After starting college in San Francisco, Ginger sharpened her skills by navigating plates of American fare around the tables at Huston’s. It was a fast-paced, urban environment; the servers at Huston’s went through a rigorous program to make the machine work.“It was really good, because it was almost militant training for waitresses,” Ginger recalled. “It helped me work really well with a team.”Ginger’s next stop was at San Francisco’s highly rated hub for Malaysian fusion, Betenut. Eventually, she took a job at a busy center of nightlife in Pasadena called the Bodega Wine Bar. Ginger glided through nine more years of learning the restaurant trade before her internal compass began to change; she thought more and more about Amador County. “I missed my family all the time, and I had gotten tired of living in a city,” she explained. “I had been doing that for almost 15 years, and I was ready to slow it down.”Ginger moved back to Amador City with her husband, Matt, happily in tow. She was soon ready to step back into cuisine, but this time in the spirit of what her family had done. Ginger wanted to combine her love of wines like Sauvignon Blanc, Austrian Grüner Veltliner and dry Roses with the award-winning excellence of Amador’s Barberas, Zinfandels and Syrahs to create a rustic cafe that paired all of them with fresh, healthy, locally sourced dishes made from scratch.“My main goal is to eventually have it set up so that you can come in and have a Barbera from this region and then have a Barbera from somewhere else in the world, and taste them side by side to see what the differences are,” Ginger said.Given that her dad was present at the birth of the slow-food movement, and that her mom has been involved in Mother Lode Harvest for years, it’s not surprising that Ginger’s approach to food involves tapping some of Amador’s longtime farmers and ranchers. The array of small plates, sandwiches, soups and daily specials at Small Town Wine Bar is colored with vegetables from Upcountry Farms in Ione and James Hackworth’s farm in Plymouth. The grass-fed beef on the menu comes from just over the hill at Sutter Creek Cattle Co. And the juicy pork on the plates arrives courtesy of Golden Acorn Farm in Volcano. Golden Acorn is owned by Megan Monaghan, who’s been friends with Ginger since the two of them were in junior high school together.“Megan is someone I met on the school bus in seventh grade, and it’s so cool that now I can support her, and the pork tastes really good,” Ginger noted. “The dream is to eventually get to a place where we don’t have to get anything from the large vendors. There’s so much good farming going on here, and people are working so hard at it, that we want to use as much of it as we can.”The artisan wines and flavorful food at Small Town Wine Bar is complimented by the cafe’s cool, comfy atmosphere. It’s the former site of Buffalo Chips, a place Ginger had plenty of memories from growing up in Amador City. What she has brought to the place is a casual elegance that reflects the Mother Lode’s medley of historic grit and country charm. A few European-style posters of Chez Panisse line the walls, along with photos of glistening, rolling grasslands. The wood-plank countertop that separates the open kitchen from the tables feels like an homage to the ridgetop ranches just beyond the windows.But possibly the biggest part of the ambiance comes from the faces behind the counter. Though Matt puts in long hours in the aviation industry in Sacramento, he often makes it to the wine bar to help Ginger play host to the many residents and visitors coming through the doors. Deborah is also behind the counter a lot, lending her years of experience to the endeavor.The family’s approach and attitude might explain why Small Town Wine Bar currently has some of the highest online customer reviews for any place in Amador County. That’s rewarding for Ginger, but she says the biggest payoff involves her relationship with her hometown.“The most fun thing about this has been getting closer with all the community members of Amador City,” she admits. “I grew up here, and I lived here forever, but I never felt as connected to Amador City as I do right now.”

Send word on your Amador County events to mtaylor@sierralodestar.com.

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