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Tim Talk: Iconic Livermore wine country restaurant moves away from fine dining

 

The Livermore Valley's iconic wine country restaurant is shifting its format after decades as a fine 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 to Sunday Vineyard Table three-course prix-fixe menu with wine pairings. 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 Vineyard Table lunch offered the opportunity to enjoy several Wente small lot wines paired with the food.

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 has 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.

Editor's note: Journalist Tim Hunt has written columns on the Tri-Valley community for more than 40 years. He grew up in the valley and lives in Pleasanton. His "Tim Talk" blog appears twice a week at PleasantonWeekly.com.

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Comments

Like this comment
Posted by Grumpy
a resident of Vineyard Avenue
on Apr 6, 2019 at 5:56 pm

Grumpy is a registered user.

Their description is classic polishing, though I don't blame them. The sad fact is that the Tri Valley diners didn't go often enough to support what was once an iconic cornerstone of the Tri Valley, if not East Bay, dining scene.

It's a terrible loss, and means that another gaping hole has been torn in our area's restaurant industry. The replacement concept sounds merely like a way to prevent food service from disappearing there entirely, so that wine tasters can have some ballast. (The golf area grill is not an attraction.)

I hope there's a way that Wente can preserve some of their classics, at least the pork chop. But I suspect they cannot.


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