Why you don’t find winery restaurants in the US

hill_of_grace
Last year, one of Australia’s leading wineries, Henschke Vineyards, branched out. The Henschkes opened Hill of Grace, a fine dining restaurant in downtown Adelaide at the Adelaide Oval, a place filled with tradition and lore as cricket test matches are played among various national teams. The restaurant’s wine list is centered on a Henschke wines but includes other Australian and imported wines. Wines from Henschke Hill of Grace, arguably Australia’s finest single-vineyard wine, are currently available back to 1990 and a glass of the 2010 can be yours for $125 US. When I spoke with Stephen Henschke recently in New York, he said the restaurant was doing very well and they were thrilled with the reception.

While that’s great for locals and tourists to Adelaide, it does leave the American wine mind wondering…why are there no winery restaurants away from wineries in America? Where’s the Screaming Eagle Nest at SF’s AT&T Park? Harlan Estates on Houston in Lower Manhattan? Franzia on Freeways?

The simple reason is that vertical integration is not allowed in the wine industry. In the aftermath of Prohibition, various state and federal authorities passed various regulations that split the industry into three tiers (producer, wholesaler, and retailer–or restaurant) and banned them from overlapping (with some exceptions that allow for one company to straddle two tiers). Tied-house laws, as they are called, go so far as prohibiting wineries from even providing incentives to retailers. On a related note, given that AB InBev seems intent on siphoning many beer brands–and even spirits with Diageo rumored as a target–into one giant keg, tied-house laws have thus far prevented the emergence of the Bud bar, Stella saloons, etc.

So, if you want a dine at a winery restaurant that’s not at a winery, you’re out of luck in America. Better hop on the plane(s) to Adelaide.

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13 Responses to “Why you don’t find winery restaurants in the US”


  1. So how does Cooper’s Hawk get around the restriction. Granted, it isn’t Harlan or Henschke but somehow it is a set of restaurants that sell wine from its “private winery”.


  2. We have St. Clair Winery & Bistro in Albuquerque since 2005 and they’re not at a winery. Someone should tell them that they’re out of compliance.


  3. As an Adelaidean – there aren’t that many winery restaurants outside the wine regions. A few wineries are now opening city based cellar doors though, and they usually do some kind of food. To be fair – our wine regions are mostly within very easy reach of the city (for example, The Lane’s magnificent restaurant & cellar door in Hahndorf, about 1/2 hour drive from the CBD).

    I suspect the massive Adelaide Oval refurbishment which has only recently taken place meant that they were looking to partner with a prestige brand for the dining component and Henschke fit the bill perfectly. Especially as the other obvious brand would have been Penfolds which has its own restaurant already at Magill Estate.


  4. I like the way you chose your words as “winery restaurants away from wineries,” because that’s a technicality most customers have trouble understanding. In California, you might ask why there aren’t more wineries with restaurants? TTB and CA ABC code allow restaurants at the bonded premise, however, many counties have land use laws that either do not permit restaurants or discourage them. The reason is usually that of preserving agriculture-zoned land with a focus on crops or livestock. It will always be a heated debate as to where to draw that line.


  5. @Karen – is it a restaurant at the winery? As Jon Bjork points out, such permits can vary by county. But off the winery grounds, it’s hard to see exactly how it would work legally.

    @ Robin – Where’s the emoji with the monkey covering his ears?

    @ Alex – Cellar door visits in (South) Australia seem to have a lot more food options than American wineries! Have you been to Hill of Grace? Or the Adelaide Oval?

    @ Jon Bjork – Yes, glad you caught the off-site aspect of my comments! Splitting hairs for some, but you are absolutely right about counties varying. Are there any you know of that actually have full-on restaurants on the grounds? Older wineries in Napa do have food options and catered events.


  6. The Wente Family Vineyards, and Garre Winery, both in Livermore California, have a restaurant at the winery.


  7. Besides Wente and Garre in Livermore, here in Lodi Michael-David Winery has a full-blown restaurant that has been in business since it’s fruit stand beginnings; Dancing Fox is a full-on restaurant as well at their bonded premise, though that one is in the jurisdiction of the City of Lodi, which is more permissive. I used to love going to Domaine Chandon’s restaurant before it recently closed: http://insidescoopsf.sfgate.com/blog/2014/12/31/etoile-at-domaine-chandon-to-close-tonight-after-37-years/


  8. @dr vino: the restaurant is not at the winery. There are a number of restaurants in the US and although the website state that there are barrels at the restaurants but I understand all production is central and not at the restaurant. Farmstead is also owned by Long Meadow Ranch although I don’t know if it is labeled a “winery restaurant”.


  9. Better still hop on a plane/s (you’ll need a few from the US) to Margaret River! We have Leeuwin, Vasse Felix and Voyager to name 3 of the 20 plus winery restaurants in the Margaret River region.


  10. Wolffer Estate Vineyard in the Hamptons opened a wine bar and restaurant called Wolffer Kitchen in Sag Harbor.


  11. While restaurants at wineries are very common up here in Canada, in British Columbia the province just overhauled the liquor legislation to eliminate the last vestiges of tied-house rules from craft breweries and distilleries. Let’s hear it for progress!

    If you ever make it to British Columbia, there are a (metric) ton of great restaurants with award winning chefs at wineries in the Okanagan (Burrowing Owl, Tinhorn Creek, Liquidity Wines, Hester Creek, Quail’s Gate, Mission Hill… to name a few).


  12. Yes – I have been to Adelaide Oval (many times!) but not yet eaten at the HoG restaurant (but have, of course, visited Henschke in the Barossa).

    And yes, I do appreciate how spoilt we are for food/wine options on our doorstep!


  13. @Thibaut – Thanks for the tip. Well, whaddya know…

    http://www.wolffer.com/news/w%C3%B6lffer-estate-vineyard-launches-w%C3%B6lffer-kitchen-sag-harbor


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