House-blended wines, on-premise brewed beers and made-from-scratch food. The newly expanded and relocated Village Vintner does it all.
Village Vintner's wine experts buy grapes from the world's premier wine regions and then locally do everything from fermentation through bottling. In a separate wing of their building, brewmasters concoct their microbrewed beers. Not to be outdone by the beverage experts, the chefs and kitchen staff create everything in-house from wood-fired oven pizzas to barbecued ribs.
Village Vintner2380 Esplanade Drive, Algonquin, (847) 658-4900, thevillagevintner.com
Hours: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday
Motif: An industrial look with high ceilings defines the restaurant and large U-shaped bar space. Coordinating earth tone colors warm the space, divided into several seating areas. The main dining area overlooks a nicely landscaped patio that affords outdoor seating in season.
A dome-shaped woodburning oven on one side makes it obvious that this winery and brewery also is serious about food. A stainless steel counter in front of the brew kettles is used for wine tastings.
Crowd: The dinner crowd on a recent weeknight was a mix of suburban adults. Several tables appeared to be young couples with parents or in-laws. A few youngish adults sat at the bar, but there was no bar "scene" at that early hour.
Service: Our waitress could not have been nicer, although it took awhile for her to deliver our beverage and food orders. Service times may improve after this spot has been open longer. The restaurant was out of a few featured wines and dishes, such as the mussels, which the waitress said were discontinued until a better supplier is found. We appreciated that bit of information.
Liquid consumption: The 39-bottle wine list is named by grape variety only, with short tasting notes because the grapes' origin changes periodically, according to co-owner Bob Boyer. I was happy with the wines sampled: Fume Blanc, richer and more full-bodied than Sauvignon Blanc; Showcase Merlot, fairly light yet flavorful; Primitivo, nicely fruit-forward and not tannic; and Grande Fortissimo, a blend of Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, also fruit-forward and not tannic. Wine pours were not skimpy.
Three house-brewed beers were available in three sizes -- Vanilla Cream Ale, Double Oat Stout and Red Head Ale. I chose a sample size of the Red Head Ale, an Irish-style ale that had a pleasant mild sweetness.
The beer list includes microbrews from all over, and a full array of spirits is served, with special cocktail menus for martinis and other mixed drinks.
Regular customers can opt to join either the Wine Club or the Mug Club for discounted purchases that range from 10 percent to 20 percent. After earning 300 points, members receive $30 gift certificates for future purchases.
Food: It's obvious that the menu is designed with beer-friendly foods in mind. My Red Head Ale went especially well with the baby back ribs, which sported ale in the barbecue sauce. Our appetizer, a spinach and artichoke dip with toasted pita triangles, was OK but nothing special. The pizza we chose, pesto and asparagus with lots of goat cheese, cherry tomatoes and a little fresh mozzarella, was excellent. You can't beat a woodburning oven to produce a delicious thin crust that's truly Italian-style. Other menu items include salads, burgers and pastas.
Parking: A large lot behind the building has plenty of room for large crowds.
Overall: The food was much better than I've had at many other brewpubs, and the beer I sampled was top-notch. Wines were pretty good, although I'd rather know in more detail what I was drinking. For a place that's been open a very short time, Village Vintner holds great promise.