The Livermore Valley’s iconic wine country restaurant is shifting its format after decades as a dining destination.
The Restaurant at Wente Vineyards, one of the anchors to the family-owned winery’s Arroyo Road showcase facility, is closed for renovations. The classic restaurant opened in the 1980s as the Wente family celebrated its 100th year of winemaking in the Livermore Valley.
The simple, classic architecture of the dining room, surrounded on two sides by an expansive patio, set the stage for an excellent dining experience. In another day-and-time when business often was done over lunch, the restaurant thrived day and night.
A little less than a year ago, the management shifted its daytime business, dropping lunch Tuesday through Thursday as well as weekend brunch in favor of a Friday-Sunday Vineyard Table prix-three menu with wine pairings. The restaurant also closed on Mondays. Dinner continued Tuesday through Sunday with the seasonal menu that often contained the same dishes as offered on the luncheon menu that also changed monthly.
The seasonal menu was complemented by a large and consistently evolving wine list. The Vineyard table lunch offered the opportunity to enjoy several Wente small lot wines paired with the food. Diners could also purchase the small lot wines in the restaurant, an offering that was normally reserved for members of the wine clubs.
My bride and I enjoyed a splendid vineyard table lunch last June and since then I have checked the menu as it changed monthly.
This month the page popped up with “Vineyard Table & Tasting Lounge. The Restaurant at Wente Vineyards is currently undergoing a refresh.
“Coming soon. A new casual concept that will reflect the entire Wente Vineyards experience from our sustainable estate grown wines to our renowned hospitality.”
Clearly the white table clothes and formal experience is given way to a fresh concept that’s more in tune with the dining preferences of today’s wine drinker.
Justin Noland, senior marketing manager at Wente, wrote in an email, “We are evolving our approach to enable today’s generation of wine lovers to craft their own wine and food experience in a relaxed and social atmosphere. The exciting sequel will come to life with the introduction of a modernized and approachable format offering an array of unforgettable wine country experiences. The new lively and social concept will create a timeless space where the experience of wine and food align for a memorable visit that can be enjoyed for any reason or occasion.”
He also indicated that they are still working on the experiences and plan to open the renovated restaurant in the new format in late spring. Executive Chef Mike Ward, who oversees all food service at Wente, is deeply involved in the new experience menu.
Incidentally, the announcement is spot on with the “renown hospitality”—Wente food and beverage has been extraordinary for decades. It was the highlight of the Nationwide Tour golf tournament when it was held there for three years and has been a gem during the concert series.
During the refresh, there’s still the popular choice of the Grill at the golf course. The dining room and patio look out on the splendid 18th hole. The menu is chock full of burgers and other grilled sandwiches complemented by wines and a full bar.
The Grill is so popular that is draws a lunch crowd that goes well beyond golfers seeking a bite after playing 18 on the picturesque Wente golf course that was designed by golf legend Greg Norman. It’s the only Norman course in Northern California and one of two in California—the other is at PGA West in La Quinta in the Coachella Valley.
By Tim Hunt