California Wine Guide: Napa

F&W's guide to the not-to-miss places to eat, drink and sleep in Napa, including recipes from locally-based chefs (at right) and amazing new finds from Michael Chiarello and Jamey Whetsone.

Places to Eat in Napa Valley

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Thomas Keller goes casual in Napa Valley.

Napa Valley Wine Travel Guide: Alex Restaurant
© 2012

« Alex

Chef Nick Ritchie worked for Michael Chiarello for five years before taking over the kitchen at the new Alex, creating traditional Ligurian dishes like creamy lasagnette with Genovese pesto and béchamel. 1140 Rutherford Rd., Rutherford; 707-967-5500.

Andie's Café

Jeff Smith, owner of Hourglass Vineyard, claims the best burger in the Valley is at "this funky shack off Highway 29—it's part of the local car wash."


The French country food is straight-up simple and great, and the place is right on the Napa River, so you can sit outside.

Napa Valley restaurants: Bouchon
Courtesy of Bouchon

« Bouchon

Thomas Keller's ode to bistro cooking offers sublime steak frites and lemon tart. It's a destination for Michael Mina of Michael Mina in San Francisco. "Everything there is my favorite dish," he says.

Bouchon Bakery

Jamey's Pick Says Whetstone, "A chocolate éclair and coffee at Thomas Keller's bakery is tough to beat."

Bounty Hunter

Jamey's Pick Whetstone likes the beer-can chicken and the beer at this wine bar and barbecue joint.


Modern French menu.

Napa Valley places to eat: Fatted Calf
Courtesy of Fatted Calf

« Fatted Calf

Jamey's Pick Whetstone calls the chorizo and porchetta at this Oxbow charcuterie shop "crazy good."

The French Laundry

Still Napa's premier temple of gastronomy, The French Laundry is über-chef Thomas Keller's flagship.

Gott's Roadside Tray Gourmet

Michael's Pick "I am addicted to the crispy ahi poke tacos," Chiarello says.


A casual restaurant with a simple conceit (seasonal ingredients), Market has fast become a local favorite—not least for its great, affordable wine list.

Napastyle Paninoteca & Wine Bar

Michael's Pick "We pour wines like Matthiasson's terrific white blend, made with Ribolla Gialla," Chiarello says.

Norman Rose Tavern

Jamey's Pick Whetstone's favorite burger here: the lamb patty with garlicky spinach and goat cheese.


This hot spot, founded by Dean & DeLuca partner Lesie Rudd, a features giant fireplace in the dining room, plus massive, well-marbled Dry–Aged "Cowboy" Bone–In Rib Eye Steaks served with the restaurant's signature steak sauce.


Jamey's Pick For a break from wine tasting, this sophisticated restaurant serves great cocktails like the Casanova.

Sip Shoppe

Michael's Pick Created with designer Andy Spade, Swanson Vineyards' new tasting room offers pairings like chocolate truffles and 2006 Alexis Cabernet Sauvignon.

The Restaurant at Meadowood

After three months of renovations, like adding a Josper coal oven, the Meadowood kitchen is now worthy of F&W Best New Chef 2009 Christopher Kostow’s precise, elegant cooking. The best table: a five-seat chef’s counter right in the kitchen.


Nouveau-Med icon.


Aaron London turns out brilliant dishes at Napa's only vegetarian restaurant.

Ubuntu Annex

Jamey's Pick Jamey Whetstone pours his Whetstone wines at this tasting bar. It's inside a yoga-gear shop next to Ubuntu restaurant.

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Places to Stay in Napa Valley

Auberge du Soleil

The original wine country getaway.

Napa Valley places to stay: Bardessono Hotel
Courtesy of Bardessono

« Bardessono Hotel

Michael's Pick "I like to eat here on the quiet patio," Chiarello says. "Everything's organic."

Meadowood Napa Valley

Posh lodgings on the way to Howell Mountain. From $475.

Poetry Inn

A luxury bed-and-breakfast. Rooms have wood-burning fireplaces, outdoor showers and decks. From $500.

Wine Country Inn

Opened in 1975, one of Napa's first bed & breakfasts.

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Places to Visit in Napa Valley


After 11 years of renting winery space to make his acclaimed Aubert Pinots and Chardonnays, Mark Aubert purchased the old August Briggs winery, just south of Calistoga. Its tasting room, housed in a barn, offers tastes of hard-to-find vintages (333 Silverado Trail; 707-942-4333).

Napa Valley places to visit: Caldwell Snyder Gallery
Courtesy of Caldwell Snyder Gallery

« Caldwell Snyder Gallery

Michael's Pick The Napa branch of this San Francisco–based gallery specializes in works by emerging artists from Europe and Latin America.

Erin Martin Design

Michael's Pick Napa's most sought-after interior designer, Erin Martin, sells eclectic pieces at her showroom.

Frank Family Vineyards

Frank Family makes some of the most in-demand wines among insiders.

Jarvis Winery

Jarvis, famous for both its classic Cabernet and Chardonnay, built its entire winery—including the press, barrel room, aging cellar and tasting room—in a huge, doughnut-shaped cave, complete with underground stream and waterfall.

Joseph Phelps Vineyards

One of Napa's oldest postwar wineries, and known for its Rhône varietal wines and California's pioneering Bordeaux-style wine blend, Insignia. Views of bucolic Spring Valley are amazing, and the seated tastings are expertly run.

Kuleto Estate

Food is important to restaurant owner and designer Pat Kuleto, so his winery is also a working farm that raises goats and cows and grows vegetables used in their seasonal wine pairing dinners.

Napa Valley Wine Travel Guide: Alex Restaurant
Courtesy of Kollar Chocolates

« Kollar Chocolates

After dinner in Yountville, stroll by the new modern chocolate shop by former Peter Michael Winery chef Chris Kollar and his wife, Naomi Pasztor. He creates beautiful truffles, in flavors like passion fruit and fennel pollen, and a surprisingly savory white chocolate poppy-seed-and-saffron bar. 6525 Washington St., Yountville; 707-738-6750.

Ladera Vineyards

Tours of the historic 1886 stone winery are led by owners Pat and Anne Stotesbery or other family members. If you arrange in advance, the Stotesberys will lead a tour of Howell Mountain's vineyards—Ladera's as well as those of neighboring wineries Dunn and O'Shaughnessy— followed by lunch and a tasting of Ladera wines.

Mark Herold

In downtown Napa, winemaker and consultant Mark Herold has opened a tasting bar with samples of all his wines, from labels like Kobalt and Celani, in addition to his own Mark Herold wines. Also from the custom-made zinc bar: small plates of cured fish from his favorite Spanish cannery (710 First St.; 707-256-3111).


Michael's Pick Next door to Bottega is Chiarello's newest NapaStyle outpost, which sells picnic goods, tableware and furniture.

Napa Valley places to visit: Outpost Wines
Courtesy © Greg Gorman

« Outpost Wines

Michael's Pick Says Chiarello, "I'm a big fan of Outpost, maybe because we share a winemaker: Thomas Brown.

Oxbow Market

Jamey's Pick "The kids can have a cupcake or ice cream, and my wife and I can drink a beer alfresco," Whetstone says.

Pride Mountain Vineyard

This vineyard bridges Napa and Sonoma counties at the top of Spring Mountain: A brick marker indicates the county line, and grapes crushed on either side must be labeled differently. Tours visit both sides and offer a taste of winemaker Sally Johnson's highly extracted, dense and chewy wines.


The tour explains how this organic and biodynamic winery works and ends with a sit-down tasting of three vintages of Quintessa wines with local cheese.

Schramsberg Vineyards

The grande dame of America's sparkling-wine estates. The tour ventures into mile-deep caves that were hand-dug in the 1870s.

Spring Mountain Vineyard

Spring Mountain is best known for the Victorian mansion that served as the face of the 1980s soap opera Falcon Crest. The tour includes a visit to the caves, vineyards where a variety of grapes are grown for educational purposes, then ends with a tasting at the mansion or in the caves themselves.


With four family members working at Viader, visitors are likely to run into one of them on a tour. Call to set up a visit that includes cheese or attend winery events that feature food such as wine–friendly BBQ prepared by executive chef Mariela Viader.

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Five Great Napa Valley Bottles

Vineyard 7 & 8 Estate
Photo courtesy of Vineyard 7 & 8.

  • 2009 Honig Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc
  • 2007 Duckhorn Vineyards Merlot
  • « 2007 Vineyard 7 & 8 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon
  • 2007 Grgich Hills Estate Napa Valley Chardonnay
  • 2008 Chiarello Family Vineyards Giana Zinfandel

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Dishes for a Napa Valley Vineyard Picnic

Roast Brined Chicken with Raisin and Pine Nut Agrodolce

"Brining isn't imperative," says Michael Chiarello, "but it adds juiciness." Before roasting, he rubs the brined birds with a spice mix and brushes them with butter; the flavors are even better at room temperature, making this a stellar picnic dish.

Roasted Artichokes and Prosciutto

Artichokes are notorious for making wine taste bitter. To prevent that, Chiarello slow-roasts artichoke hearts in extra-virgin olive oil to bring out their sweetness, then serves them with prosciutto, an ingredient that matches particularly well with wine.

Calabrese Mustard Greens

Just a little red wine vinegar transforms this otherwise familiar bowl of garlicky greens.

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