Livermore Valley, California, is home of the country’s oldest, continuously operated family owned winery, Wente Vineyards. Wente Vineyards provides exquisite wine, fine dining and championship golf, located just 45 minutes east of San Francisco. The Restaurant’s philosophy has been to use organically grown local ingredients ever since their opening in 1986. The hidden jewel beneath all of this is Chef Matt Greco, who uses fresh seasonal ingredients in his flavorful uniquely crafted dishes. I was able to speak to Chef Greco to learn more about their harvesting ingredients from their very own on property garden.
AH: With a half-acre garden on property, what ingredients are you harvesting currently?
CG: We are harvesting 50 varieties of tomatoes, 8 varieties of chiles and peppers, 4 varieties of eggplant, 3 varieties of summer squash, summer pumpkin, ground cherries, and every herb under the sun.
AH: Are there other local produce items, not from your garden, that are being used in your dishes currently?
CG: Yes, we have chestnut pumpkins from a local farmer.
AH: Have you created any special menu items that highlight the local produce, or do you create your menu solely around available items?
CG: The garden is always a starting point; the rest of the ingredients are components. There is a signature pork chop with green chile from garden. We have utilized everything that has been harvested from the garden, which is great.
AH: What is your favorite dish that includes ingredients from the garden?
CG: The roasted eggplant dip, which includes: roasted squash, roasted tomatoes, fresh grown herbs, blended with olive oil freshly made from across the street.
AH: As you include seasonal produce in your menu, how often do you change your regular or special menu items?
CG: The menu items are constantly evolving every day. There is never a big slip because of the gradual change of one dish at a time. If one thing is not selling, we will take it off. They can be changed daily if needed.
AH: Do you work with any farms in particular?
CG: Yes, it is where we get our squash and tomatoes. We go through about 50 pounds of tomatoes a day, sometimes exceeding 70 pounds.
AH: What makes your menu/restaurant unique?
CG: We have all these resources right in our backyard. All the wine is grown, not bought. We have our own olive oil some parts of the year. We are also harvesting from the garden in the back. We have to be resourceful because it is more difficult than if we were in the city.