The United States’ longest, continuously operated family-owned winery, Wente Vineyards in Livermore, California, continually makes adjustments to stay welcoming and to grow its customer base.
A visit to either of the tasting rooms gives customers a unique experience, said Senior Brand Manager Aly Wente, a fifth-generation winegrower.
“We have kind of done it all,” she said. “We started, for the past 30 years, having a fine dining restaurant on property.”
There are two different tasting rooms for Wente Vineyards in Livermore. One, being a casual and more traditional tasting room where a food truck would come in and serve food. The other acted as a fine dining restaurant for 30 years, that was meant to elevate the wine and be paired with California cuisine.
“That really became more of a special occasion restaurant,” Wente said. “Then we recently went through a transition that was taking that fine dining establishment and really trying to make it more of a social atmosphere. Having wine and food together, a little bit more casual, and a little bit more inviting for younger demographics.”
Part of the reason for this was taking away the price barrier. Now the Wente family is being intentional about food and wine pairing, and offering a curated food and wine experience.
The family began working on the transition to a casual experience in late January, early February, Wente estimated. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, however, it hasn’t been put into practice yet, since the tasting rooms have been closed since early March, but Wente hopes the casual experience will be able to be implemented before the end of the year.
In the fine dining restaurant, a server would recommend a wine to guests to pair with a chosen food. In the more casual setting, it will be the duty of the server to recommend wines and dishes together.
“Where we’re going is going to be very much us recommending a flight of wines and paired food together,” Wente said. “It’s going to be up to the ambassadors to educate and show the stories behind each wine and not necessarily help them pick the wines because we’re really hoping to do that ourselves with the menu, but really help tell the story, tell the brand’s story, talk about the wine and winemaking techniques.”
There are two options when coming into a tasting room now. The first will be a rotating set menu each day. “For example a woodfire pizza and a garden salad with three or four wines and they all go together at different parts,” Wente said.
The other is a more reserved tasting experience where guests will be served small curated bites that are paired with individual glasses of the higher-end wines.
Wente offers wines that are specifically sold in tasting rooms for guests who want to visit.
“We certainly do want to expand their palates and introduce them to the new ones that we make and the capabilities of our winemaking team,” Wente said.
“I think it’s all about evolving that experience that we’re constantly surprising, delighting, educating and expanding our guests’ knowledge on what we have to offer.”