This summer, the longtime local winery entered the dining arena, offering casual meals and family style culinary dinners. Although the winery had been doing special events for a number of years, outside caterers had always provided the food.
“It was as a direct response to these events that we decided to build a kitchen and expand our dining area, which we call the Cellar Room,” explains Jaci Kajfas, DiStefano’s event coordinator. “Now, we can seat 40 people for an intimate sit-down dinner in the Cellar Room, as well as offer casual food options in our tasting room or out on our deck when the weather is nice.”
During regular hours in the tasting room, the emphasis is on bistro style, with offerings that include small artisan plates consisting of local cheeses, charcuterie, house marinated olives, fig jam, bruschetta and Macrina baguettes, along with Muffuletta or New Orleans style sandwiches and assorted salads.
Delectable dinners, “culinary delights that tantalize the imagination,” as DiStefano owner Mark Newton describes them, take center stage in the Cellar Room on various weekend evenings.
They feature fresh local cuisine accompanied by the winery’s high quality, award-winning wines.
An open kitchen design allows diners the ability to watch Executive Chef George Stevenson in action, as he whips up such specialties as hazelnut crusted hanger steak with potato-leek gratin Brussels sprouts or Coq au Vin, traditional French Chicken and red wine stew. “The dinners are usually built around themes,” says Kajfas. “Chef Stevenson has a great background in a variety of cuisines. He’s very talented and creative and we’re fortunate to have him heading up our kitchen.”
Stevenson is a graduate of the New England Culinary Institute and The University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee.
He grew up in the South, as well as spent time in Belgium and Germany, giving him an international upbringing which has greatly influenced his culinary style.
Stevenson sharpened his skills working in award-winning restaurants, including Fuller’s in Seattle and The Sunset Grill in Nashville. He also served as chef for Lowell-Hunt Catering and banquet chef of Willows Lodge in Woodinville.
Some of the events Chef Stevenson does at DiStefano Winery focus on culinary demonstrations. An upcoming session is all about Spanish Tapas.
Another one emphasizes cooking with wine.
In the past, he has also taught knife skills to guests, instructing them on the different types of knives, how to select the right one and the proper way to use a knife in the deboning process.
Once a quarter, the winery holds cigar dinners, which include a five course dinner where each course is paired with a cigar and wine.
“These usually sell out,” comments Kajfas. “They’ve gotten to be very popular, and yes, with women as well as men.”
The response to the added component of food at the winery has been overwhelmingly positive, according to Kajfas.
She notes that people appreciate having fresh and tasty food options available while they sample and taste the wines.
“It’s just a nice addition and something that not many wineries offer, mainly because they don’t have a kitchen,” she adds.
DiStefano plans to continue to slowly grow the food side of the business and do more catering and special event dinners in the future.
“We’re thrilled that our special events have been so well-received,” says Kajfas. “We’ve done minimal marketing, so it’s really been a lot of word-of-mouth among people who know the winery. They come to one and then tell their friends and the interest just builds. It’s an exciting time for us.”
For more information about DiStefano Winery’s upcoming special event dinners, private events and catering services: (425) 487-1648 or www.distefanowinery.com.