There is a place we’ve been going to for years and we still can’t describe it. It’s actually a winery with a tasting room and bottles of their own stuff lining the wall to sale or build into gift baskets. But it’s also a gift shop, maybe even approaching emporium with all the usual cute but questionable gifts that go with wine. You know, the t-shirt with the picture of the corkscrew and the legend, “Screw this.” It’s a picnic grove, a banquet hall, a wine bar.
But it’s also a restaurant. One that has expanded a couple of times over the years that we’ve been going there. It’s always had the exceptionally talented local performers grace its outdoor seating area or dining room. The singers sing soft tunes perfectly matched to a light lunch on a patio in the European countryside. Except for it not being in Europe, it’s always been a pretty good place to go. They have good food, good wine, good entertainment. What more could you want on a summer afternoon?
Yesterday we found out. We hadn’t been there since last season and we knew they made more changes. They added another indoor seating area expanding it to challenge a full scale restaurant. And the outside patio had a new small stage for the singers. Our favorite was there – in fact he was what brought us there the first time we visited this site – and we were looking forward to a fruit and cheese platter, a crisp Riesling, and a few hours of first rate solo entertainment.
We should have known things changed for other than the best as we approached the hostess stand and 4 young girls were huddled around it. They seemed somewhat confused whether there were or not any outside tables available and we were advised to wander the gift shot while they found one. No problem, we’d get a bottle of wine and a couple of glasses and hang out in the grassy area flanking their pavilion. But no sooner had we gotten the wine paid for that Hostess #1 was at our sides with a table ready. We left the plastic cups meant for perimeter use and headed to our table. After 10 minutes of staring at our open bottle of wine, which He of We seriously considered guzzling from, a waitress finally appeared with real glasses and a promise to bring us a wine chiller for our bottle and to take our order.
To make a long story short, we were left unattended then for not the first time that afternoon and for long periods. We were served a delicious salad on a plate that never made it through the dishwasher after its previous use. We sat with empty water glasses in 85 degree heat. We were left with dirty plates on our table from two courses. And we never got the bottle chiller until the second bottle. (Actually we rarely order a second bottle but we were on a quest to see if there really was ice inside the building our waitress kept disappearing to.)
We wondered if we had brought this on. When we first started going there it was very small, just a handful of tables outside the tasting room and the talent perched under a large umbrella. We said many times in those early years that we wished the owners good luck trying to create a destination out of their little winery so more people could enjoy it. We should have taken that old advice, be careful what you wish for.
As always, the entertainment was top notch. But we can always find our favorite singer at other venues. The food was very good. But not incomparable. The atmosphere was charming, but not unmatched.
New this time around, the service sucked. And that’s why we’ll question ever going there again.
Now, that’s what we think. Really. How ‘bout you?