It’s not yet a trend, but it could become one as we march forward in the second decade of the new millennium: restaurants attached to wineries.
It makes perfect sense, since the marriage of food and wine is the exact opposite of a typical Hollywood marriage: happy. And when the restaurant’s menu has been developed with specific wines in mind, that happiness can turn into pure bliss.
Australia has been at the forefront of the winery/restaurant combo, but other countries are catching on. So we decided to put together a list of some of our favorite winery restaurants, from a pioneering estate in the Napa Valley to a handful of destinations in the Pacific Northwest… from Canada’s Okanagan Valley to the Stellenbosch area of South Africa… and from Tuscany to Temecula…
* ETOILE – Domaine Chandon was a Napa Valley pioneer in offering winery visitors a fine dining experience. This is the latest iteration of the now 30-year-old restaurant, where the American menu is dotted with creative French accents. If you feel like dressing up, this is one of the few places in the valley where you won’t feel out of place. (But please note that jackets are not required.)
* DUNDEE BISTRO – A delightful restaurant that’s part of the Ponzi family’s “wine complex” in Dundee, Oregon. You can spend a lot of time (and money) there, beginning with a visit to the winery’s tasting room, continuing with a fine meal, and concluding with a stroll through the wine shop, where one can find several bottlings that are made in such limited quantities that they never make it out of Oregon.
* TAGARIS TAVERNA – Washington’s wine country has long been short on “big city” dining, but that conundrum has been solved with the opening of this restaurant, which is adjacent to the Tagaris Winery in Richland. Great food… great service… and, of course, great wine.
* OKANAGAN VALLEY – Several wineries in this British Columbia wine region have restaurants on site, including Quails’ Gate (www.quailsgate.com/visiting-the-winery/old-vines-restaurant.php), Summerhill Pyramid (www.summerhill.bc.ca/sunset-bistro/hours-and-info), Sumac Ridge (www.sumacridge.com/cellardoor/default.asp), Burrowing Owl (www.bovwine.ca/the_restaurant.html), and Gray Monk (www.grapevinerestaurant.ca/). But our favorite is the…
* TERRACE – Open for lunch from May through October, and for dinner from June through August, this restaurant on the front lawn of the Mission Hill Family Estate offers an unforgettable dining experience – both for the food and setting. If your palate needs awakening, or if you just want to treat yourself to a very special dish, try the venison carpaccio with arugula, anchovy and creamy Salt Spring Island cheese.
* BUCA LAPI – Love steak? Hop on a plane to Tuscany, bring along a significant other, head to Palazzo Antinori and order the bistecca chianina (Italian grass-fed beef) for two. Atmosphere absolutely contributes to the enjoyment of a meal, and at Buca Lapi, you’ll be dining in a room that formerly was used to age Antinori wines.
* RESTAURANT AT TOKARA ESTATE – This stunning stone-and-glass South African winery sits atop the mountain pass that separates Stellenbosch from Franschhoek, and the owners take full advantage of their location to provide visitors with stunning views. The menu, crafted by Belgian-trained Etienne Bonthuys, is part French and part South African, with inspired flavor surprises at every turn. The signature dish: calamari and shredded oxtail braised in red wine with ginger.
* RESTAURANT AT SOUTH COAST WINERY – We have long touted Thornton Winery in Temecula as the quintessential wine country destination in Southern California. With its fine sparkling wine, superb restaurant and summer jazz concert series, what’s not to like? But if you’d like to simply get to your destination, park the car and not restart it for a few days, there’s an alternative: the South Coast Winery, Resort and Spa. Its name says it all – almost. South Coast also is home to an outstanding restaurant – which means you really can plant yourself for a few days.