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Georgeanne Brennan: A Woman in Full

At 80, cookbook author Georgeanne Brennan is still creating.

Georgeanne Brennan. Photo by Rachel Valley.

Georgeanne Brennan is fetching groceries from her car as I pull up to her Winters farmhouse for a visit. When I offer to help, Georgeanne starts to give me a bag, then changes her mind. “I’ll take the heavy one,” she says, placing a much lighter sack into my arms.

The prolific cookbook author and renowned food expert turned 80 in May, but she’s clearly capable of toting heavy bags—and much more. In the past year alone, she opened an apéritif tasting bar in Winters, finished writing a cookbook, became a recipe developer for Kermit Lynch’s wine club, accepted a commission to create a collection of small artworks for Pottery Barn Teen, traveled to France, cruised the Mediterranean, penned travel stories for the Napa Valley Register and started a blog. For the past few months, she’s also been sorting through and organizing her papers for donation to the UC Davis Library Archives.

Photo by Rachel Valley

Dropping the groceries off in the kitchen, we move into her cozy sitting room and settle in. The first thing I do is apologize sheepishly for asking her how it feels to turn 80. “That’s all right,” she says briskly. “I’ve come to terms with it.”

At an age when most people have been retired for years if not decades, Brennan shows absolutely no signs of slowing down. The past year has been particularly rewarding, both personally and professionally, for her: Last June, she opened L’Apéro les Trois with Berryessa Gap’s winemaker, Nicole Salengo, and its president and COO, Corinne Martinez.

Apéritifs have long been one of Brennan’s many interests. Many years ago, when she lived in France with her first husband and their toddler, neighbors would invite them over for local wine that they infused with lemon. She then began making her own French farmhouse-style apéritif wines, and in 1997 she wrote the cookbook “Aperitif: Recipes for Simple Pleasures in the French Style.”

Photo by Rachel Valley

During the pandemic, Brennan and Salengo (a friend) started musing about making apéritifs with Berryessa Gap wines. Using Brennan’s recipes and fruits and nuts sourced from local orchards, they whipped up their first batches in Mason jars. The results were good enough that they went to Martinez with samples and a business plan to sell a few cases through the winery. But Martinez had another idea: to turn a building she owned in downtown Winters into a French-style tasting room serving the apéritifs, which come in six flavors: Meyer lemon, rosemary orange, Blenheim apricot, green walnut, homestead quince and black Mission fig.

Aside from a short stint in a doughnut shop when she was 16, Brennan had never worked in a restaurant, let alone owned one. Her main claim to fame is her cookbooks: more than 30 of them, many of them written for Williams-Sonoma and a large number of them related to her life in and love for France. Her book “Food and Flavors of Provence” won a James Beard Award; “Aperitif” was honored with a Julia Child award.

Photo by Rachel Valley

At L’Apéro, she creates the recipes and writes the promo materials and website content, including a monthly blog. “I’m kind of the creative director,” she explains. Her food menu is straightforward and French, featuring nibbles that go well with the apéritifs: black olive tapenade; Skyhill Farms goat cheese served with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of herbes de Provence; Mt Tam cheese baked in a mini casserole dish; and a seasonal pate such as smoked trout with Meyer lemon.

Brennan also comes up with the menus and recipes for the ticketed five-course dinners held at L’Apéro every other month, which sell out quickly and focus on one of the tasting room’s apéritif flavors. For the orange-centric dinner in April, the meal included beet and orange salad, grilled lamb with orange marmalade, and orange almond olive oil cake. “L’Apéro has allowed me the opportunity to do things I excel at, one of which is thinking up things,” Brennan says.

Photo by Rachel Valley

She seemingly has no trouble thinking up things to do. Right now, she’s planning a trip to Ireland and looking forward to the publication of her new book, “Pistachios: Savory and Sweet Recipes Inspired by World Cuisines,” in the fall. And of course she still cooks every day. “There’s always something to do,” she says.


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