Courtesy Wente Vineyards
In the heart of California’s wine country, the staff at Wente Vineyards prides itself on sustainable agriculture and green practices at its winemaking operation. That emphasis comes through in the company’s well-known chardonnay and the dishes served at the Restaurant at Wente Vineyards.
“The restaurant serves wine country-style food,” said Brendan Finley, senior vice president of hospitality. “We have our own garden, and a lot of our food comes from there. Our chef works with our master gardener to grow a lot of the produce and herbs we need for the restaurant. We also use our local farmers here for things like duck and steak.”
The restaurant has been open 25 years, and its most famous dish — a pork chop with braised cabbage, pickled apples and shallots — has remained on the menu the entire time. Other favorites include squash popovers and a lamb pastrami with coriander aioli and pickled onions.
The restaurant can set up pairing dinners for groups that highlight Wente wines as well as wines produced by other California vineyards.
Cambridge Brewing Company
In 1989, the founders of Cambridge Brewing Company decided to build a brewery that would focus on interesting craft beers, such as Belgian tripel and other exotics. At the same time, they opened a restaurant that brings the same creative spirit to food.
“We look for creativity in everything we do,” said assistant general manager Laura Peters. “Our menu changes seasonally, so what you get now won’t be the same thing you get in the summer. We want to work with ingredients that are fresh now, so we don’t give you summer produce in the middle of winter.”
No matter what time of year they visit, diners will find beer integrated with the menu offerings. The chef uses house-made beers for dishes such as beer-braised lamb shank with butternut squash risotto or the summertime favorite, beer-steamed mussels.
In addition to great locally sourced meals, groups that visit the brewery can arrange for a beer tasting, where they can sample not only products, but also the hops and grains used in the brewing process.
Messina Hof Winery
The Texas wine scene continues to build a strong reputation, and Messina Hof Winery is among the local leaders, with about 90 wine products. The winery is known for its port, merlot and Riesling, as well as its four-star restaurant, where the food highlights the wine products.
“All of our dishes incorporate our wine,” said public relations manager Brittany Hanagriff. “We have a pan-seared buck breast that includes our Muscat Canelli, with a honey-ginger spice glaze. Our filet of beef has port demiglace.”
Diners will find five salads on the menu, with vegetables coming from an on-site garden. Other favorites include lamb chops, mixed grill, shrimp Creole and a choice of pastas.
Although dessert is an afterthought for many diners, Messina Hof makes traditional and flamboyant desserts a centerpiece of its restaurant experience.
“We offer tableside flambe, where we actually light cherries jubilee or bananas foster on fire,” Hanagriff said.
Groups can have tours, tastings and meals at the winery. They can also participate in special events such as wine appreciation classes and murder-mystery dinners.