How winemaker Karl Wente chills when off duty.
When he’s not making wine or doing yoga, fifth-generation Livermore Valley winemaker Karl Wente is usually playing guitar with plenty of friends. They jam from the porch of his comfortable family farmhouse on the sun-strewn Louis Mel Vineyard, where neighbors are few and far between.
Those who have hung out at Karl’s say he is an amazing home cook, professional on every level except attitude, which settles characteristically at laid back. With his days spent managing 3,000 acres of family-farmed grapevines and overseeing the production of 600,000-plus cases of Wente wines, he does need, after all, to relax.
Recreate the Region
The food includes cheese and Triscuits, as well as flatbread. “For the flatbread I’ve been doing thin-sliced potatoes and truffle oil with hummus as the base,” Wente says.
“It’s temperature and light dependent,” he explains. “If light and warm enough, we sit outside on the front porch facing west, just slightly angled to the north. The sun sets through the diversity of trees on the property, with many of the species planted by Louis Mel [one of the Livermore Valley’s most important early wine pioneers] himself in 1912—California oak, eucalyptus, sycamore, pine, olive, cherry, and of course grapevines.
“If cold or dark, we move inside to my living room, which is designed to be a classy grip and rip place to play music. Tuned instruments are intermingled with artwork on the wall and percussion instruments are strategically placed throughout the room so that each person in attendance is enticed to play.”
“We do our own jamming.”
“The wine always includes that which has been bottled and not yet released to see how the wines are progressing post-bottling. If not drinking the above-mentioned wine, I have various beers on tap from the newly founded Altamont Brewery brewed around the corner from my house, supporting local!”
Karl’s cooking philosophy: no measuring, no timers. Be there and in the moment.
Spread hummus on flatbread.
Cook or fry thin-sliced potatoes separately in olive oil.
Layer potatoes in a round baking pan or skillet and put cheese of choice on top.
Drizzle with white truffle oil, salt and pepper, and bake in oven until cheese starts to melt.
Put the entire potato round on flat bread. Bake flatbread with potatoes until browned.
Slice like a pizza and serve.