Where to Eat and Drink in the Napa Valley

Just over an hour outside of San Francisco lies one of the country’s most-visited wine regions: the Napa Valley. 

Photo By: Bob McClenahan ©2014 Bob McClenahan

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Where to Eat and Drink in the Napa Valley

Much has changed since the 1976 Judgment of Paris, when a California Chardonnay beat out a French Chardonnay in an infamous blind tasting. Now, with a wine train and a highway full of vineyard driveways to turn off onto, the Valley is home to more than 450 wineries, dozens of restaurants and a bevy of spots to rest after a full day of tasting. (Image courtesy Bob McClenahan)

Where to Stay

The Vintage Inn (6541 Washington St., Yountville, CA 94599), recently underwent a major renovation of its 80 guest rooms, suites and villas, enhancing the French country decor. Many rooms include a wood-burning, stone-framed fireplace and private balcony or garden patio. If you’re able to book one of the eight charming standalone bungalows at The Cottages of Napa Valley (1012 Darms Ln., Napa, CA 94558), you’ve got a one-in-eight shot of staying in the same spot that Clark Gable and Carole Lombard visited back in the 1940s. Unique touches, like transportation to dinner and a breakfast of fresh-baked pastries delivered to your cottage, heighten the romance. If you’re after luxury, look no further than Bardessono (6526 Yount St., Yountville, CA 94599) in downtown Yountville, which is also the only hotel in California to be LEED Platinum certified. There are 62 well-appointed guest rooms, each designed for private in-room spa services, plus a rooftop pool and a restaurant featuring local ingredients.

Where to Eat Dinner

Opened in 2005, Redd (6480 Washington St., Yountville, CA 94599) was the first venture from acclaimed Chef Richard Reddington, and it offers an updated interpretation of wine-country cuisine with influences from Asia, Europe and Mexico. The relaxed yet elegant dining room overlooks the courtyard, where you can also dine when weather permits. In the mood for French? Head to Bistro Jeanty (6510 Washington St., Yountville, CA 94599) for escargots and classic coq au vin. Chef and owner Philippe Jeanty opened the doors in April of 1998 and has served a packed dining room ever since. For a more casual atmosphere, head to Oenotri (1425 1st St., Napa, CA 94559) for pasta dishes using ingredients sourced from its own garden. If you haven’t landed a table at hard-to-get-into French Laundry (6640 Washington St., Yountville, CA 94599), head down the street to Chef Thomas Keller’s casual Ad Hoc (6476 Washington St., Yountville, CA 94599), which serves classic American comfort foods like fried chicken and pot roast.

Where to Eat Lunch or Brunch

Head to the Oxbow Public Market in downtown Napa (610 & 644 1st St., Napa, CA 94559) and you’ll have your pick of lunch (and dinner) options. Check out Hog Island Oyster Company (610 1st St. #22, Napa, CA 94559) for shellfish shucked to order, direct from Tomales Bay. Or check out C Casa (610 1st St. #B, Napa, CA 94559), for housemade white corn tortillas and other classic Latin fare that’s also gluten-free. If you’re already on the wine road, make a stop at Gott’s Roadside in St. Helena (933 Main St., St. Helena, CA 94574) for half-pound beef (or veggie or turkey) burger patties dressed in grilled onions and Gruyère, local blue cheese and more, best eaten with a side of sweet potato fries. Though it’s hard to pass up a thick milkshake, the stand serves top-tier Napa wines to pair with the burgers. Need something to go? La Luna Market & Taqueria (1153 Rutherford Rd., Rutherford, CA 94573) will pack up your burrito, quesadilla or taco for the road.

Snacks and Provisions

Model Bakery in St. Helena (1357 Main St., St. Helena, CA 94574) is perfect for a morning or midday break: Pick up healthy lunch options or splurge on an awesome pastry. If a picnic is more your style, Sunshine Foods (1115 Main St., St. Helena, CA 94574) is fully stocked with cheese, bread, pâté and renowned sandwiches to fill your basket. Or head straight to the cheese source at Raymond & Co. Cheesemongers (388 Devlin Rd., Napa, CA 94558) and stock up on perfect pairings for your wine.

For Farm Lovers

738 Main St, St. Helena, CA 94574

 

Focused on Bordelaise-style wines, Long Meadow Ranch Winery crafts elegant, food-friendly wine with an organic, integrated farming system. At their 650-acre Mayacamas Estate winery and caves, they produce wine and premium olive oils, as well as raise grass-fed Highland cattle. At the Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch, their estate-grown wines are paired with organic produce for ingredient-driven American farmhouse cooking. The onsite General Store is a place to taste and shop for artisanal goods, provisions and produce.

For Something Unique

8711 Silverado Trail, St. Helena, CA 94574

The Barrel Blending Experience at Conn Creek ($95) is a unique way to experience the terroir of the Napa Valley. Guests will learn about, taste and blend wines from the many distinctive regions of the area before blending their own bottle of wine to take home, complete with a customizable label.

For the History

1100 Larkmead Ln., Calistoga, CA 94515

 

The Firebelle Merlot blend at Larkmead Vineyards isn’t just an incendiary name — it’s a tribute to the winery’s founder, Lillie Hitchcock Coit, a pioneering 19th-century tomboy who earned the nickname Firebelle Lil as an honorary San Francisco firefighter before moving to Napa to start her winery. Now set on 150 acres just outside Calistoga, Larkmead offers by appointment daily tastings of the current and limited-release wines, including earthy Cabs and a summery Tocai Friulano. (Image courtesy of Larkmead)

For the Views 

200 Taplin Rd., St. Helena, CA 94574
 

Joseph Phelps Vineyards recently completed a major renovation at its winery in St. Helena, enhancing the tasting room but still maintaining the building’s existing redwood exterior design. Newly created private tasting areas, a library and barrel room, plus even more vineyard views will allow you to sip in style.

For Something Bubbly 

If the weather allows, plan a trip to the mecca that isChandon (1 California Drive, Yountville, CA 94599) for a behind-the-scenes look at the only U.S. location of the French-based champagne house Moet & Chandon. Take a tour ($40) of the process for making sparkling wine and sample bottles sold only on the property. For more sparkling sips, head to Domaine Carneros (tastings from $30), founded by the family behind Champagne Taittinger (1240 Duhig Rd., Napa, CA 94559). From the classic vintage Brut Cuvée to the luxury Le Rêve Blanc de Blancs, all of Domaine Carneros' wines are from the Carneros appellation, and 95 percent of the fruit comes from their estate vineyards — all certified organic by the California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF). 

To Keep It Old School 

4045 St. Helena Hwy., Calistoga, CA 94515

 

Situated in the hills above Calistoga, family-owned Castello di Amorosa truly is a castle, made with brick, wood and iron imported from Europe and combined with more than 8,000 tons of local Napa Valley stone. The estate produces red and white varieties that are sold only at the winery; a tasting is also on offer, as well as a Royal Food and Wine Pairing Tour ($80 per person) and a Cheese and Wine Pairing tour ($60 per person), each including a tour of Dario Sattui’s authentically built 13th-century Tuscan-style castle.

For Something Modern

4240 Silverado Trail, Napa, CA 94558


The Darioush Estate was founded in 1997 by Iranian-born Darioush Khaledi and now comprises 120 acres in the southern Napa Valley. The tasting room and main building are new construction but reminiscent of ancient Persia, complete with columns and water fixtures. Their Fine Wines, Artisan Cheeses tasting is in partnership with Cowgirl Creamery in Marin County and includes a 90-minute shared tasting experience featuring a tour of the winery followed by a seated tasting in their Barrel Chai room with limited-release wines like Signature Viognier and Shiraz ($75 per person).

For the Gardens

8300 St. Helena Hwy., Napa, CA 94558

 

Cakebread Cellars was founded in 1973 and it’s worth a visit to taste some of their wines that might otherwise be out of budget. A reserve tasting ($40) features their Chardonnay Reserve and a selection of other reserve or library labels. Or stick to their flagship wines and pair them with food ($45) from culinary director Brian Streeter. Streeter uses Northern Californian ingredients (many from the onsite garden) and draws on the cuisines of the Mediterranean.

For Wine Geeks

1080 Fulton Ln., St. Helena, CA 94574

 

Acme Fine Wines in St. Helena is a wine shop run by wine-passionate locals who seem to know everyone in the valley. They have access to small-scale labels that are impossible to find elsewhere; they are often the sole retailers for passion projects of winemakers and for labels that might otherwise go unnoticed. Schedule a curated tasting, or shop new labels with a little assistance (the wine club membership makes a great gift for friends).

Not Wine

1 Executive Way, Napa, CA 94558
 

Need a break from all of those Chardonnays and Zinfandels? Napa Smith Brewery now has an onsite taproom open seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. They offer 10 beers on tap, including classics and only-on-tap, limited-release beers. Take a daily tour, or just stop in for beer flights or a pint.

For Something Intimate

915 Oakville Cross Rd., Oakville, CA 94562

 

Book one of the wine-and-food pairing experiences at Silver Oak and you'll be treated to Chef Dominic's seasonal and often local bites. The menu pairs Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Pinot Noir with herbs and vegetables from the onsite garden, and the whole experience is limited to eight people. Rebuilt after an unfortunate fire, the new winery opened in 2008 and showcases everything the estate has to offer.

For Something Sustainable

850 Rutherford Road, Rutherford, CA 94573

 

Honig winery and vineyard is focused on sustainability and maintaining a socially responsible business. Book an Eco-Tour and Tasting ($45) for a glimpse of the sustainably farmed vineyard, followed by a Classic Tasting of Winemaker Kristin Belair's Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon.

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Ultimate Wine Guide