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Sustainable Restaurants – The Restaurant at Wente Vineyards outside San Francisco

One particularly burgeoning sector of the green movement is the organic restaurant. They’ve sprouted all around the country, offering fresh, local food to legions of diners who care about how their eating habits impact the environment (or maybe they only care about eating yummy, nutritious stuff; either way, organic restaurants fit the bill).

Green Among Gray is focusing on a few of these restaurants in various Captivate cities. Today we focus on The Restaurant at Wente Vineyards, in Livermore Valley, Calif., about an hour east of San Francisco.

I’ve not had the pleasure of dining at any of these restaurants, but the accolades each has received speak for themselves. If you’ve eaten at Wente Vineyards, or any of the restaurants in this series, please let us know your impressions either in the comments below or via kscribner@captivate.com.

The recently remodeled Restaurant at Wente has been serving fine food for more than 25 years (a mere child compared to the vineyard’s 125-year history), relying heavily on their extensive organic vegetable and herb gardens, so they certainly can’t be accused of bandwagon-hopping. The kitchen pledges to use the best sustainable, local ingredients in their daily changing menus focused around the season’s freshest produce. The staff utilizes a composting system, water is conserved in energy-efficient dishwashers, the dining room’s floors are made from sustainably harvested timber, and the Restaurant is outfitted with hand-crafted furniture made from recycled materials. They also convert kitchen waste to biodiesel fuel by recycling oils.

Wente’s organic sensibility may best be seen in its “Farming for the Future” program. Created in the early 1990s, its system “enhances the vitality of the soils, creates a balanced, sustainable ecology, minimizes water use and reduces non-organic wastes.”

For example, Wente’s use of drip irrigation and data from its on-site weather stations allows it to deliver the optimal amount of water to its vines at the most advantageous time.

Also, Wente naturally controls pests through the growth of native grasses and beneficial broadleaf species to maintain an ecological balance, and in 2000 was awarded the Integrated Pest Management Innovators Award by the California EPA.

Wente is also a drop-off spot for ReCORK America, which recycles used and
surplus corks from wineries.

I asked Christine Wente, senior vice president of hospitality and fourth generation winegrower, for more about the Restaurant’s organic sensibility:

What drives your passion for organic ingredients?
Our belief in sourcing the freshest local, organic ingredients stems from our belief that the most delicious meals are ingredient-driven. At The Restaurant at Wente Vineyards, we put our own innovative twist on familiar dishes with our inspiration from French and Italian provincial dishes. Our organic kitchen gardens supply The Restaurant with the freshest flavors of the season.

Do you find patrons dining at your restaurant as a result of actively seeking out organic options, or are they more often simply looking for good food and the organic aspect is just an afterthought for them?
Organic ingredients do matter to many of our guests. And even those who don't eat organically at home appreciate the quality ingredients that come from our organic gardens and local purveyors. Our patrons like dining in a vineyard setting and pairing their meals with wines grown a few hundred yards away.

Through Nov. 9, the Restaurant is offering a prix-fixe $29 “Celebration Week” dinner that includes two courses and a glass of wine.

The Wente complex also offers a Greg Norman-designed championship golf course, a concert venue, and wedding and special event hosting.

And of course, don’t forget to check out the vineyard itself, which draws from 3,000 acres of sustainably farmed estates, and, in an interesting bit of trivia, is the source clone for the majority of Chardonnay grapes grown in the US.

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“Sustainable Restaurants – The Restaurant at Wente Vineyards outside San Francisco”