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Wineman’s Toast | Wine Thief unlocks lunch and dinner menus

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Serving counter at The Wine Thief in downtown Wenatchee.

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Looking for something special and different for lunch or dinner? Something that might pair perfectly with a glass of chilled Albarino or Chardonnay.

The Wine Thief, downtown Wenatchee’s trendiest wine bar and shop, is now The Wine Thief & Eatery, serving fresh and healthy lunch with European flair six days a week. Dinners are served each Friday evening starting at 5 p.m.

Owners Paul and Jenni McNeill have hired family friend and bistro chef Chrystalle Weins and former Eatery Park owner-chef Tony Davis to run their new kitchen in the rear of their wine shop at 120 N. Wenatchee Ave.

The simple lunch menu focuses on crudité, deconstructed salads featuring raw, blanched and roasted seasonal vegetables, grilled meats and whole grains. One dish features roasted and sliced red and gold beets layered in a tangy goat cheese and cauliflower puree over fresh organic endive and watercress drizzled with an Italy-inspired vinaigrette.

Did I say simple? Maybe elegant is a better word. You can add slices of grilled steak or fresh Dungeness crab if you like.

There are also sandwiches, seasonal soups like cold cucumber gazpacho and asparagus and crab and decadent desserts.

Full course Friday dinners are single offering affairs left up to the chef’s whims and what fresh ingredients available. Last weekend’s dinner featured leg of lamb with rustic pasta. Nearly everything is made from scratch by Weins and Davis.

Wine pairings are suggested for all meals, but you don’t have to order wine with any meal, said Paul McNeill. Sodas, Pellegrino and ice teas are available. There’s always a selection of micro brews on tap too.

Starting this month, The Wine Thief will also have a full coffee and espresso bar featuring Stumptown Coffee, an old world style Portland-based coffee roaster that has attracted a cult following, McNeill said.

The kitchen also enables the store to have more private wine dinners, parties and wine club events without having to hire an outside caterer, he said.

Of course, The Wine Thief is also a great place to find wines not to be found in grocery and liquor stores. Paul and Jenni are constantly on the look-out for prized wines from small wineries. Often, they’re wines that are usually only available at the wineries themselves. Prices range from a $3.50 California Chardonnay to a $450 Ermitage ex voto Rhone Valley red from France. Most wines are priced in the $10 to $20 range. McNeill said he sells a lot of upper end wines in the $30 to $50 range.

We work hard to know what we have on the shelf and learn each customer’s tastes so we can suit them, but also continue to broaden their horizons,” he said. “We don’t like customers to be disappointed.”

The selection of wines and beers available by the glass changes every week or so. Friday nights are flight nights, when you can taste four wines from a particular winery or four examples of a particular wine style from different wineries.

It’s whatever I feel like doing,” he said. “That’s what’s really fun. Often, it gives me a chance to sneak in something good that people might not think to try.”

New signs lead to fine wines

Tourists and locals should have an easier time finding wine in Chelan and Douglas counties.

The last of 24 new Wine Country signs directing travelers to local wineries was dedicated June 27 near the Chateau Faire Le Pont Winery in Olds Station.

In all, some 90 Wine Country, specific wine logo and directional signs were planted this year at 35 locations to direct travelers to wineries in Wenatchee, East Wenatchee, Peshastin, Leavenworth, Chelan and Manson.

Chelan County Public Works, Chelan County Port District and Douglas County worked with Cascade Valley Wine Country over the past two years to get approval and get the signs made and installed.

It’s been a long time coming, but the timing was right,” said Susan Trimpe, Cascade Valley Wine Country director. The organization is the promotional arm for all Chelan and Douglas county wineries and tasting rooms.

Trimpe said several wineries have been urging Chelan County to help them with signing for more than 10 years. Public Works finally got behind the idea after Yakima County began putting up signs and it was clear that wine tourism was becoming an important economic contributor to the region, she said.

Winery owners involved have told Trimpe the signs are already making a huge difference in helping people find wineries that are often in out-of-the-way country locations.

Chelan County now has nearly 65 wineries and/or tasting rooms. Most are in Leavenworth and around Lake Chelan. Douglas County has two: Martin-Scott Winery and Fielding Hills Winery.

The signs direct travelers to 19 local wineries. Wineries involved paid some of the cost of making and installing the attractive, mountain scene signs, along with the port district and the two counties.

Some wineries don’t want signs because they are only open by appointment, she said. Some wineries didn’t want to pay the cost. Other are not eligible because they aren’t open regular hours or fulfill other criteria.

For more information about local wineries, check out the Cascade Valley Wine Country website: If your winery wants a sign, contact Chelan County Public Works at 667-6415.

Visconti’s, Sun Mountain: Make list of top wine-servers

Visconti’s Italian Restaurants in Wenatchee and Leavenworth have been named to Wine Spectator magazine’s list of the world’s top wine-serving restaurants.

Sun Mountain Lodge, near Winthrop, was also named to the prestigious list of fine restaurants that feature award-winning wine lists.

Some 3,748 restaurants from all 50 U.S. states and more than 80 countries are on the list. Only 32 Washington restaurants are on the list, which is featured in the August issue of Wine Spectator. Visconti’s and Sun Mountain Lodge are the only North Central Washington restaurants on the list. Valley Cafe in Ellensburg is also listed.

Visconti’s, owned by Candy Mecham and Dan Carr, and Sun Mountain Lodge are perennial winners of numerous Washington and Northwest wine menu awards. Visconti’s in Wenatchee was picked as the state’s best wine restaurant by the Washington State Wine Commission in 2013.