Santa Fe Spotlight: Brian Bargsten
Arroyo Vino Managing Partner Brian Bargsten views himself as responsible for everything from “wine-buying to floor sweeping.” What many loyal Arroyo Vino clients and seminar attendees cherish most, however, is his extensive knowledge of wine, his educated palate and his wine-and-food-pairing ability.
What’s the short story of the journey that brought you to Santa Fe?
It’s been a long journey, so here it goes! I grew up in the Twin Cities in Minnesota and worked in finance at a hedge fund. I never loved it and found the right reasons to leave during the crash in 2008. A lot of my job was entertaining clients, and I developed a passion for food and wine. After leaving the finance world, I drove across the country to California during the harvest season, where I learned everything about pressing grapes and making wine. A friend told me about a job opportunity at Las Campanas, so that’s how I came to Santa Fe. In 2011 I opened the wine shop, Arroyo Vino. I remember the first day. My two-month-old baby was there with me. It was exciting and intimidating. Two years later we opened the restaurant.
What sets Arroyo Vino apart from the pack in a town full of great food?
So much thought and soul go into our food. We are very proud to have a female chef who uses the very best ingredients, which means local when possible. We also incorporate the vegetables, herbs and flowers we grow right in our own garden. People have recently become so focused on chefs and celebrity chefs, but such a big part of their dining experience is also the service. Our hospitality is the best in Santa Fe, unquestionably.
What’s the best part of your day?
At about 4 p.m., the team sits down to chat about the upcoming evening. I love this time of interacting with the staff. They are such an impressive group. I’m also amused when I uncover new discoveries right in my own environment. For instance, I love when I find a bottle of wine I’ve never seen before on our shelves.
What’s one meal in Santa Fe not to be missed?
I love El Chile Toreado food truck. The al pastor burrito is freaking delicious!
What childhood memories do you have surrounding food? I often think about my grandma who lived on a farm in Minnesota. Food was always very important to her. She had a massive garden and cooked everything from scratch. She instilled a love for fresh, seasonal cooking in me. As I kid, I learned how to slaughter pigs and chickens, and that gave me a great deal of respect and understanding around food. I can remember being a young child and feeling the damp, cool soil under my feet as I ran barefoot through the garden, plucking off fresh beans, corn and tomatoes and popping them in my mouth.
How does food play a role in your own family now as an adult?
I love cooking, and l do it often at home. One of our two daughters is celiac, so we are a gluten-free house. This has made me think about food differently. At the restaurant, we’re very conscious about people’s dietary restrictions, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how amazing food can be, even with such limitations.
As told to Alana Grimstad