Eat Here Now: The Restaurant at Wente Vineyards

IMG_1282Last week, I was invited to dine with Eric Wente at his winery’s restaurant, the Restaurant at Wente Vineyards. While the name may not be that original, the cuisine by chef Matt Greco certainly is. Our meal had a meat, specifically beef, theme and each dish was wonderfully crafted and absolutely delicious.

The vineyard, which is the country’s oldest family-owned and operated winery, is located on 3,000 acres of the Livermore Valley. There’s a tasting room, golf course, edible garden, and cattle that roam the grounds. The cows are very happy: they are fed two bottles of red wine a day! All of the meat for our dinner was Wente Estate raised beef.

To start, we had a trio of housemade charcuterie: grilled beirwurst, crispy brisket croquette, and cheddar beef sausage. The crispy brisket croquette was my favorite as it was so unusual. It was topped with dried cherries, pickled spring onion, and hazelnuts. Sommelier Jorge Tinoco paired each course with a different one of Wente’s wines. For the charcuterie, he poured the 2009 Brut Sparkling Wine. It was a lovely pairing; the dry bubbles cut the rich fat of the sausage perfectly.

IMG_1280The second course was beef chorizo wrapped rock fish. The fish was expertly cooked and melted in my mouth. It was served with a spring onion and saffron broth that was both delicate and flavor-packed. I could not stop spooning it up! The 2011 Riva Ranch Chardonnay was poured alongside the fish. A somewhat traditional pairing that worked nicely.

The main course was the best. How could you not love a 28-day dry-aged short loin steak?! It was sensational. Like the fish, the meat was flawlessly cooked and exactly medium rare.

IMG_1283A rich buttery béarnaise sauce and crispy potato cake were alongside, but the beef was so excellent it was all I wanted to eat. The portion was large — a whole 12 ounces! The 2010 Merlot was a smooth and silky pairing with the steak.

Just when I thought things could not get better, out comes the dessert! A show-stopping strawberry galette with lard crust and lavender ice cream. The strawberries were almost dehydrated, so their flavor was super concentrated, which resulted in an amazing dish.

The 2011 Small Lot Orange Muscat complimented the tart, but was the least memorable of the wines. The next day I could not stop thinking about this meal; I can’t wait to go back! I definitely want to take my parents, perhaps on a drive up to the cabin because Livermore is on the way?

Otherwise, I’m going to invite my grandfather and his girlfriend to the Chicago concert that is happening at the Vineyard this summer. Each year, Wente hosts a concert series and I’ve always wanted to go. This August seems like the ideal time to finally cross it off my to do list. If you get the chance to check out Wente Vineyards and their restaurant, I highly recommend it!

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