Café Bovino

cafe sign

My first encounter with Bovino Vineyards was at a Back Roads Wineries tasting event early this year. I was intrigued with their story and enjoyed the wines I tasted, ever since I’ve been meaning to go to their tasting room to try the full line of wine. When I heard they had hired a chef and launched a tapas style menu I knew it was time for a visit.

Before jumping into the food, I took a little time to taste through the wine list. The large tasting room has huge windows that offer gorgeous views of the surrounding vineyards and country side. In addition to seating at the bar, the tasting room offers cocktail tables with seating, a little lounge area, and a large patio with table and chairs where guest can sit and enjoy the spectacular views.

The wines available for tasting changes, with a nice selection of wines under two labels. The first label is Joludi, a combination of Joe & Ludi (the owner’s parents’ nicknames). The second is and a percentage of all sales from this label is donated to a charity. The selected charity changes every 6 months and is currently the Valley Children’s Hospital.

All wines are made from 100% estate-grown grapes by winemaker Steve Anglim. Forty-five acres of the eighty-five acre property is planted with seventeen different grape varietals, including Rhone, Bordeaux, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese varietals.

Chef Jeff Puckett

Chef Jeff Puckett joined the team at Bovino after meeting the winery’s owner. After chatting they felt Chef Jeff would be a great fit given his passion for developing flavors to pair with wines. His 15+ years of cooking experience, including private and corporate catering, has prepared him to develop the café’s menu and also create custom menus for events.

The café opens with the tasting room (at 11am) and closes one hour before the tasting room closes for the day. Arrangements can be made for food service after hours and private functions on the patio.

One of the items on the menu is rustic french fries with a flight of sauces. These perfectly seasoned, fried to perfection french fries are an ideal item to have while wine tasting. Guests can order a small or large plate and select up to three different dipping sauces. I went with the Tomatilo & Avocado, Chipotle Citrus Mayo and the Jalapeño Ketchup. They were all so good I couldn’t pick a favorite.

With the exception of the french fries, all items on the menu have a recommended pairing. Guest can order a sample (approximately 3 oz) of the paired wine for just $5. The menu items are designed for sharing, and each comes with an option of ordering small (perfect for one or two people) or large (portioned for up to four people).

The Smoked Country Ham, Comte Cheese and Potato Croquette was served with mustard and rosemary. Cutting into the crunchy croquette with the melted cheese and ham center, I knew this was a dish I would enjoy. The flavors were spot on and paired well with the Albariño.

New York Steak Crostini

Next up was a New York Steak Crostini. Served with roasted red pepper and Achiote puree, a little garlic and fresh herbs, this was another lovely item and the pairing of the estate Zinfandel with its smokey accent worked well.

Another winning dish was the Spanish Smoked Pork Belly served on skewers topped with tomato and basil. The star of this dish was the Romesco — I wanted to get a jar of this to go! The pork belly was cooked perfectly and once again I enjoyed the pairing, a blend of Zinfandel and Petit Sirah.

Caramelized Red Onion Jam, Bacon and Basil Bruschetta. Need I say more? These are addictive. At this point I really regretted that I was sharing the order with three other people! This is a must have item, and I enjoyed the paired 2016 Right Bank (Petit Verdot, Merlot and Cabernet Franc blend).

I typically skip dessert; however, I really wanted to get the full experience, so when others at my table ordered the Lemon Pudding Cake I was all in. My favorite part was the Grand Marnier Honeyed Berries and fresh basil on top. The Chef paired this dish with the Grenache Blanc (one of my favorites).

Overall I am so impressed with this winery that opened in May. Having a beautiful property and impressive buildings with state of the art equipment certainly helps, but I think what really makes this place special is the focus on hospitality. All of the staff clearly have a passion for what they do and a great respect for the owner. Offering guests so many choices of places to sit and relax with a wide range of food & wine options will likely make this several people’s favorite hang out place (I know I’ll be going back with friends soon).

Bovino Vineyards is located at 5685 El Pomar and is open Friday – Sunday with private tastings offered by appointment Monday-Thursday. Visit their website for more information.