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Walnut Creek Magazine

Tour the Wente Vineyards Garden with Master Gardener Diane Dovholuk

Jun 06, 2017 11:17AM ● By Fran Miller

By Fran Endicott Miller

Diane Dovholuk’s enthusiasm for her profession is tangible. She pinches a sprig of lemon verbena from a plant in the Wente Vineyards garden and holds it out to her guest. “Smell this!” she encourages. “Isn’t it heavenly?” The master gardener has nurtured this ¾ acre parcel of Wente land for nearly 30 years. A treasure trove of fruits, vegetables, herbs, flower beds, bees, and butterflies, the garden is Dovholuk's baby, and she is faithfully familiar with every inch. She plants her own seeds, makes her own compost, and harvests the sun-ripened produce that she proudly presents to Mike Ward, executive chef at The Restaurant at Wente Vineyards. The two are a match made in culinary heaven, with Ward crafting delicious dishes based on Dovholuk’s bounty.

Roasted baby beets

It all seems so natural and simple, this garden-to-table endeavor. For as long as Dovholuk has tended the garden, The Restaurant has garnered accolades for its culinary artistry. Through skill and craftsmanship, Ward has managed to further elevate the kitchen’s offerings, something he credits in part to Dovholuk’s well-tended, and well-timed garden gifts. While she concedes that the partnership is not entirely effortless (planning a menu based on perfectly ripened produce can be tricky), the hyper-local culinary artistry is often derived from something as straightforward and lovely as a fresh, hand-picked, heirloom tomato. “The Wente family has been presenting sustainable cuisine as long as I’ve been here,” says Dovholuk, who started her Wente employ as a server at the restaurant. “The Restaurant at Wente Vineyards is the original farm-to-table restaurant.”

Foie Gras Torchon w/strawberry

A native of New Hampshire, Dovholuk is an educator at heart and she welcomes the strolling wine tasters who happen upon the garden, located behind the winery’s historic sandstone caves. She’s there nearly every day, weeding, planting, and pruning. She’s happy to answer questions, and provide gardening tips to those lucky enough to catch her in action. If she’s not too busy, she might even suggest a sit-down under the garden arbor that houses a 14’ teak table, utilized for garden dinners and special occasions. But there’s no reason to leave to chance a Dovholuk meet-up. Those interested in her guidance can book an exclusive tour and workshop, held monthly through October. Dovholuk’s passion for her craft inspires and educates, and her zeal is infectious. Upcoming dates and topics include: August 5th, Fall Vegetables. September 23rd, Sensory Herb Class. October 14th, The Art of Composting. Each tour is from 10am – 12pm. $20 for Wente Entertainment Club members, $25 for non-club. Book a reservation for lunch afterward at The Restaurant for the full Wente experience.

Chef Mike Ward and Dovholuk

Call 925.456.2424 for more information or visit

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