Vino Grand Opening – By Paul J. Seeling- Sun-Argus

Vino in the Valley is Open “That’s Amoré!”
By Paul J. Seeling- Sun-Argus

Gateway Publishing

MAIDEN ROCK- With a sparkling wineglass raised in a toast, Vino in the Valley host Larry Brenner, thanked everyone for coming to his new unique outdoor dining experience on its opening night last Thursday, May 31, 2007. After the toast of thanks Larry explained that a part of the dining tradition they will be following as you stimulate your senses at Vino in the Valley is to sing along as in Napoli, where love is king, when boy meets girl here’s what they say, “When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, That’s amoré…” with the end of each chorus of the song after singing “That’s amoré” the guests raise there glasses in a toast and take a little sip before singing the next verse of this fun song.

It was an absolutely beautiful sun lit evening to sit in the Vino’s delightful new open air  pavilion overlooking the newly planted vineyard and enjoy the company of friends and family while dining on a sumptuous meal and listening to the pleasant acoustic sounds of local artists Emily Huppert on standup bass and vocals, and Tim Casswell on guitar and slide guitar.

Being the very first night of operation for the Vino in the Valley, owner Larry Brenner dealt
with a few “hiccups” that few if any in attendance seemed to notice or care about. The new kitchen has a hood fan ventilation system that wasn’t working properly and didn’t pass inspection for the operation of the kitchen, so in lieu of a meal of pasta, which will be the standard fare for the Thursday night outings at Vino in the Valley, Larry and his marvelous staff served up a large slice of brick oven baked pizza as the main course. There were four varieties of pizza to choose from and each was delicious.

To begin the dining experience each table was served fresh home baked richly crusted bread with Brischetta toppings, and a glass of private label wine was offered as one of the beverage selections. Over pleasant conversation one can relax and enjoy the million dollar views of the Rush River Valley and the vineyard. Gourmet notchos were served as the tasty appetizer before the pizza slice was served. Capping off this fine meal was a slice of a sinfully delicious chocolate desert that was topped with fresh raspberries, blackberries and strawberries, beyond yum!

Over one hundred guests of young and old, couples and families were served on this inaugural Thursday evening at Vino in the Valley and all appeared to be having a great time at this unique dinning experience. The service was first rate and the guests enjoyed the attention of their host who stopped at every table to insure that their meal and service were meeting their expectations. Brenner thanked them for coming, shared toasts
for birthday and anniversary celebrations and even had a dance with one lucky gal.

Even the boorish attempts of disgruntled neighbors who tried to vandalize the evening with distant fireworks and other loutish behavior went unheeded by the guests who had picked a beautiful summer evening to “stimulate all their senses,” with good friends, good food and good wine.

It was nice to experience this new business venture of agricultural tourism, which has put
thirteen employees to work to the benefit of the economy in Pierce County. In addition to dinning at the open-air pavilion, there is a gift shop that is offering Vino in the Valley private label wine selections and handcrafted pottery. Ingrid Bjerstedt Rogers was there with her ingridware Pottery with special Vino in the Valley pieces along with other selections of her fine artistic works at reasonable prices.

The Pierce County Land Management Committee should feel good about their sound
judgment in granting the permit requests to advance this worthy business enterprise. This is a venture that should be good for the county.

Vino Valley is also hosting the El Paso Farmers Market where Larry’s good neighbors
will be offering their produce, eggs, honey and crafts. There were some beautiful wood cravings available on this first night.

If you have a special occasion coming up or want to take that favorite someone, or have the family out for a nice time, consider spending a Thursday evening at Vino in the Valley, “That’s amoré!”

Pasta alfresco


Vino in the Valley waitress Julie
Karlstad, sister to owner Larry
Brenner, and executive chef Allen Whitney believe strongly in good food and a good atmosphere for customers. The open-air-pavilion restaurant offers Italian food.
Staff photo by Pamela Powers

If You Go What: Vino in the Valley. Where: Rural Maiden Rock. When: May through September, 5 to 10 p.m. Thursdays and 4 to 10 p.m. Saturdays.

Directions: Take Interstate 94 west to the Glenwood City-Elmwood exit or Highway 128. Turn left and go to Spring Valley. Just past Spring
Valley, take a left on Highway CC. Drive 9.5 miles to 450th Avenue. Go right on 450th. The restaurant is four miles ahead on the right.
Cost: Entrees cost between $18 and $19 and include bruschetta, the main course and dessert.
Information: 715-639-6677 or
vinointhevalley.com. The restaurant has a first-come, first-served policy.

Being out in fresh air
will encourage appetites at an Italian
restaurant along the Rush River.
By Pamela Powers

Menomonie News Bureau
MAIDEN ROCK – Good vino, good views, good
vibes. That’s amore!, according to the owner of the new Vino in the Valley, an open-pavilion Italian
restaurant.

Owner Larry Brenner, 48, who works as a salesman
for Clear Channel Radio in the Twin Cities, built the
restaurant on his 300-acre farm along the Rush River.
While designing the pavilion, he kept in mind the beautiful scenic valley.

“It’s about having a framed picture of the valley,” he said. The pavilion is shaped like an amphitheater so customers can see the entire open-air seating area, as well as 1,800 grape vines planted nearby. The fruit eventually will be harvested for wine to be
served at Vino in the Valley.

“The restaurant is really there to provide a market for my wines,” Brenner said. “I definitely wanted the restaurant to be something different and a new experience.”

With the short summers in Wisconsin, he wanted to make sure customers could get outside and enjoy the warm weather.

As well as Italian cuisine, Vino in the Valley offers live music by area performers.

Visitors can stroll through the vineyard, walk by the river or relax by a bonfire.

Others may enjoy buying items from the farmers market, which features local produce, or the gift shop on site.

Vino in the Valley, which lies in the town of El Paso, opened in May. Dinner is served Thursday and Saturday evenings, May through September.

In October, Brenner plans to be open from noon to 7 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, with a pick- your-own pumpkin patch, apples and gourds available for visitors.

In December, people can purchase Christmas trees there. With planting underway, visitors eventually will be able to get Christmas trees grown at the farm.

Vino in the Valley serves about four entrees, all of which include bruschetta, the main course and dessert, said executive chef Allen Whitney.

The menu is small because the restaurant is open only for a few hours.

“People come for the food, but they also enjoy the atmosphere and the breathtaking view,” Whitney said.

All entrees cost between $18 and $19.

On the menu recently was a red wine vinaigrette salad that tossed together
Italian sausage, artichoke hearts, Parmesan and mozzarella cheeses and romaine lettuce.

Another salad combined rigatti pasta, shrimp, vegetables and spring mix lettuce.

Rigatoni with a rustica sauce included pork sausage, tomatoes, white wine and peas. The other pasta dish featured linguine with marinated and sauteed chicken breast, topped with an asparagus-Parmesan cream sauce.

“We make everything from scratch,” Whitney said. “We’re trying to use as much locally produced food as possible.”

For example, locally grown heirloom tomatoes are excellent for sauces, he said.

For dessert, a slice of chocolate torte cake from Whitney’s River Chocolate
Co. is topped with fresh seasonal fruit.

Pizzas baked in a brick oven are available for $19.

Among the recent selections, That’s Amore! was topped with pepperoni and sweet
Italian sausage with fennel, green bell peppers and onions.

Another pizza, the “Whey” Good, blended mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses
with roasted red peppers and black olives.

A third offering, the Farmer’s Market Pizza, consisted of eggplant, fresh mozzarella cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, sweet roasted garlic and fresh basil.

The menu suggests wines to accompany entrees. A glass of wine costs
between $5 and $7. There are three house wines, which were created at Northern Vineyards in Stillwater, Minn.: Rush River Red, Moonlight Whisper and Lost Creek Sunset.

“A lot of people aren’t familiar with what wine works with which entree,” Whitney said.

Screens on the pavilion help keep out bugs and offer some sun shade. Inside, linen napkins dot tables. Flowers line the path to the restaurant, and hanging ferns swing in the breeze.

Each evening, Brenner leads customers in a rendition of the song “That’s Amore!”

Julie Winger of Ellsworth has eaten at the restaurant about four times. “I am absolutely
impressed. I love being outside,” Winger said.

“I love the salads and the rigatoni,” she added. “I love the view. It’s down in
the valley, and it is just beautiful.”

“Everyone is so friendly. The food is great. The scenery is beautiful,”
agreed Becky Beissel of Ellsworth.

“It is just so different,” Beissel added.

An open-air restaurant is rare in Wisconsin, Whitney said, but the 80-seat restaurant stays busy.

“If it gets a little chilly, we will drape a blanket over a customer’s shoulders,” he
said. “They can still enjoy the outdoors.”

Powers can be reached at
715-235-9018 or
pamela.powers@ecpc.com.