Tess On the Town: The Winery, where tradition holds court
When I first moved to Grand Junction, a friend gave me her opinion of the restaurants in town.
The good dive diners. The best Italian. The fresh sushi. The miscellaneous “it closed before I got a chance to try it,” variety.
The Winery was presented to me under the category of “maybe somebody will take you there for a special occasion.”
It’s been a few years now and I finally finagled — no thumb screws required — a visit to the downtown fine dining restaurant.
It does have a certain allure, because it’s tucked away in a vine-canopied brick breezeway on Main Street. “We’re off the beaten track, keep out, riff-raff,” the old building seems to say. The 90-year-old structure that houses The Winery is the former home of a horse-drawn carriage fire station.
The Winery recently expanded outside, creating an eight-table patio venue. It’s small, but private, and was filled to the wrought-iron railings when we visited.
Reservations are recommended. Nary a table was empty on a recent Saturday night and the mood was lively.
My dinner date immediately liked the rustic vibe of barn wood walls, restored brick and stained glass windows. Good bones. But, The Winery would do well to de-warren the place. The spindly plants, fabric curtain to the kitchen and knick-knacks give it a Hobbit-ish feel. The open kitchen is a bright spot.
The menu is befitting a traditional fine-dining restaurant. Starters include a platter of hardwood smoked salmon, macadamia crusted wheel of brie and scallops wrapped in apple-wood bacon. We ordered Whitefield mushrooms, billed as a winery staple for over 30 years. Can’t go wrong with that much tradition, right? I don’t know the origin of Whitefield, but what we got was a large serving of button mushrooms sautéed in butter and garlic. The mushrooms not consumed immediately paired well with the steak to come.
The wine list is extensive, with choices running the gamut, from a $7 glass of Plum Creek to a bottle of 2003 Opus One. Ditto for the spirits menu, which lists dozens of aged scotches, whiskeys, ports, cognacs and sherries.
The Winery’s menu is heavy on traditional steak and seafood fare, with such standards as Veal Oscar, market price lobster tails and beef tenderloin tournedos. Looking at the menu online beforehand, I pretty much had decided on halibut picatta with capers and mushrooms. But that was before I was tempted with the special: Colorado lamb chops.
Our other order was a 14-ounce ribeye.
Salad choices were tossed or Caesar, basic but generous and well done. After a right-timed lull, our entrees arrived looking stunning. The ribeye was aged and choice and full of flavor. Even better were the succulent lamb chops in a demi-glace with spiced, pickled Palisade peaches. Potatoes and vegetables rounded out the meal.
The chef knows his craft, especially the preparation of prime cuts. The wait staff was knowledgeable, and the service was well-timed, even on a busy Saturday night.
Less attention was paid to smaller things, such as the obligatory potato and vegetable side dishes, which were fine but lacking anything that set them apart.
The Winery is one of Grand Junction’s finer restaurants, fit for people who appreciate a traditionally prepared and classic dining experience.
I ran across a sweet online review from a fan of the restaurant. It read, “My wife and I went to The Winery 35 years ago for our honeymoon, and we returned last night. The place is clearly one of Grand Junction’s finest restaurants.”
To see the place yourself, take a virtual tour of The Winery and view the menu at http://www.winery-restaurant.com.
READERS KNOW BEST: Real Salt, once sold at Target, is no longer available there. You can still find it at Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage.
A clarification from another reader, gyros aren’t available every Monday on Greek night at Pantuso’s. Rather, the chef mixes it up, serving sometimes gyros, or sometimes lamb chops, pastitsio, lemon chicken or kebabs of spanikopeta.
QUOTE: “The disappearance of hot hors-d’oeuvre was the result of the excessive development of women’s skirts.” — Baron Leon Brisse (1813–1876)