June 12, 2013
Keen oenophile? Don’t miss the Napa Valley on your next San Francisco holiday. The region has been producing wine ever since the early nineteenth century, and with an enduring focus on viticulture it was only a matter of time before food was brought into the picture. Ironically, however, although its wine pedigree is world-class and Napa Valley has more Michelin stars per capita than any other wine region in the world, the wine and food are fighting a battle (or in many cases, treading a fine line) to be combined and enjoyed together under one roof. In a strange turn of events, it’s actually the case that a large number of wineries in the area are prohibited from serving real food. It’s nothing other than a crying shame, but luckily there are a few that have escaped the net, and even more that are finding that where there’s a will, there will always be a way. We’ve selected a few of the best restaurants in Napa Valley for wine-loving foodies…
The obvious starting point, étoile Restaurant at Domaine Chandon is the only full fine dining restaurant within a winery in the region, which marks it as not only unique, but top of our list when it comes to atmospheric vineyard restaurants. As well as the aesthetic benefits of its location, the proximity between vineyard and kitchen provides the perfect opportunity for collaboration between the two professions, which translates beautifully to the table in the form of their innovative, wine-inspired, seasonal cuisine. With two Michelin stars under its belt, the team of chefs and expert winemakers must be doing something right”¦
étoile, 1 California Drive, Yountville, CA 94599
As well as handcrafted wines, the Long Meadow Ranch Winery also specialises in extra virgin olive oils, both of which you can taste in the historic setting of Logan-Ives House, a restored Gothic revival farmhouse. For something a touch more substantial, however, bookings are available for their four levels of wine and food experiences. The top two tiers, the “Farm-to-Table” and the “Full-Circle” experiences involve a tour of the grounds and a multi-course tasting menu, the ingredients of which are sourced from the surrounding gardens, orchards and 650-acre Mayacamas Estate.
Long Meadow Ranch Winery, 738 Main Street, St. Helena, CA 94574
One of the ways in which wineries get around that pesky law mentioned earlier is to host cookery classes in which the end result is a rather delicious lunch paired with wine. As well as food and wine pairing experiences, Cakebread Cellars have opted for this approach. Unlike the classes at many other wineries, however, these all-day events are truly hands-on, conducted either in the quaint winery kitchen or the outdoor barbeque area, complete with wood-burning oven.
Cakebread Cellars, 8300 St. Helena Hwy Rutherford, CA 94573
Probably one of the most relaxed wineries in the region, Ram’s Gate offers a nice variety of food and wine tasting experiences in and around the winery – which was designed by none other than award winning architect Howard Backen. As well as seated and guided tastings, there are places available at the demonstration table with executive chef Taylr Benham and the head sommelier. Or if you’re looking for something a little more informal, there’s always the option to grab a blanket and take a specially prepared gourmet picnic basket (with wine, of course) down to the pond and enjoy panoramic views of the countryside amongst the vines.
Ram’s Gate Winery, 28700 Arnold Dr. Sonoma, CA 95476
In a welcome departure from the half-hearted, somewhat disappointing cubes of cheese and charcuteries that can tend to dominate wine tastings, Robert Sinskey Vineyards provides a whole host of delectable treats, such as tartlets, artisan cheeses and homemade jams and preserves to accompany each tasting. For the real deal, however, take a seat at the Farm to Table experience at The Vineyard Kitchen, where all ingredients are sourced from their organic, biodynamic vineyard gardens. Robert Sinskey’s wife Maria – whose cookbooks have shot her to culinary fame in the U.S and beyond – wears the apron, so you can be sure you’re in for a treat”¦
Robert Sinskey Vineyards, 6320 Silverado Trail, Napa, CA 94558
Header photo © Robert Sinskey
Have you explored the Napa Valley and Sonoma wine regions? We’d love to hear your recommendations for great wineries and restaurants in the comments below…