Emerging from the congested streets of Santa Rosa onto Highway 12 east is always a revelation. As the highway opens up into an expanse of vineyard covered hills and estate wineries in Kenwood, I remember anew: Oh, yeah. I live in wine country.
"Wine country" is a marketing conceit, a state of mind and a real place. All three come together beautifully at the Kenwood Restaurant. The restaurant, which changed ownership six months ago, serves a menu of eclectic, upscale comfort food in a drop-dead gorgeous setting. While the execution of some dishes is clumsy, the restaurant is a real road-side attraction.
The deeply, caramelized, batter-free fried chicken ($13) is a standout. Spaghetti Western ($10, a mix of bucatini, bits of pork belly, fava beans and baby artichoke) is a winner, as is the plump, house-made hot dog ($15). In spite of its casual persona, the restaurant takes its commitment to local and sustainably sourced ingredients seriously. The list of local purveyors is long.
Given the restaurant's wine-centric location, I'd expect a deeper and more diverse wine list. There is a nice list of draft beers, however.
The best seats are out on the patio with a view of the bubbling pond, wildflower-choked meadows and vineyards and hills beyond. Sitting outside on a warm summer eve with a glass of wine and nibbling on something raised a few miles away, it's easy to drift into your own wine county idyll.
The Kenwood Restaurant, 9900 Sonoma Hwy., Kenwood. 707.833.6326.