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Barrel of Yum

The Restaurant at Wente Vineyards serves up a fresh barrel of Merlot and a delightful menu to go with it


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This month, the Restaurant at Wente Vineyards puts on the best barrel ride west of Niagara Falls. From August 15th through the 21st, Wente hosts one of its quarterly Barrel events, serving the newly released Sonata Merlot—straight from the barrel—with a carefully matched three-course dinner, for just $39.

Executive Chef Eric Berg has been planning the meal for months, though it’s always a bit of a guessing game. The barrel doesn’t arrive until a few days before the menu launches, so he has to go by the characteristics of the previous year’s release.

At the last event, in May, Berg got it right, pairing a mild grass-fed lamb chop with the vineyard’s 2008 GSM—a bold, earthy blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre. A side of fava bean relish and fava leaves from Wente’s 1,000-square-foot garden, and spring vegetable soup with prosciutto broth also kept pace with the wine.

Expect this month’s dinner to take full advantage of summer’s bounty.

“There’s a lot happening in the garden, whether it’s summer squash, eggplant, or tomatoes,” Berg says. “Basil, thyme, sage—we’ll have pretty much our pick of herbs with the Sonata.”

Wente Barrel Series, Aug. 15–21, $39, 5050 Arroyo Rd., Livermore, (925) 456-2450, wentevineyards.com

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