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Napa Travel Tips: A Guide to Napa Valley

Town of Napa

Bistro Don Giovanni Donna and Giovanni Scala's slice of Tuscany offers delicious wood-fired pizzas and Sonoma duck Bolognese. Warning: When you're driving south on Highway 29, the place is invisible. If you hit Salvador Avenue, you've gone too far (4110 St. Helena Hwy.; 707-224-3300).

Cole's Chop House Chef-owner Greg Cole grills fantastic prime, dry-aged beef; superior sides are served family-style (1122 Main St.; 707-224-6328).

Pearl Awfully cute and truly local, Pearl is half oyster bar, half sandwich shack--but forget tuna salad; think ahi tuna on sourdough with Asian slaw (1339 Pearl St., suite 104; 707-224-9161).

Villa Corona Burritos are the draw at this decor-challenged but lovable place, with a sister in St. Helena. Go early or late to avoid waiting (3614 Bel Aire Plaza; 707-257-8685).

ZuZu Chef Charles Weber takes in influences from all over the Americas: tortillas, bacalao, quail wrapped in grape leaves and a daily paragon of the sandwich art, the bocadillo del día (829 Main St.; 707-224-8555). The perfect dinner after a trip to nearby COPIA, the year-old center for wine, food and the arts (500 First St.; 888-51-COPIA).

Seguin-Moreau Cooperage A surprisingly gripping foray into the world of barrel-making. The bending, shaving and toasting of oak staves is as fragrant as their eventual contents--and tours are free (151 Camino Dorado; 707-252-3408).

Tacos la Playita A taco truck? Yes, indeed. The cooks are friendly, and the spiced pork quesadillas and corn-tortilla tacos filled with tongue, beef or chicken are fabulous. One winemaker is such a fan he hired the truck to park in the field where he held his wedding reception (First St. and Soscal, Napa).

Hotels

Meadowood Spacious cottages, lodges and suites on a vast estate. There's also a wine center--not unexpected, since one of the owners is H. William Harlan of Harlan Estate vineyards (Meadowood Ln., St. Helena; 800-458-8080 or www.meadowood.com; doubles from $460).

Milliken Creek Inn Exquisite style, with white voile drapes and Frette linens, is one reason to stay in Napa's newest inn. Fireplaces and spa tubs in all 10 rooms and the guaranteed absence of chintz are a few more (1815 Silverado Trail, Napa; 888-622-5775 or www.millikencreekinn.com; doubles from $275).

Napa River Inn Cherry wainscotting and velvet ottomans adorn the 66 rooms in this two-year-old hotel in the historic 1884 Hatt Building (500 Main St., Napa; 707-251-8500 or www.napariverinn.com; doubles from $250).

The Classics

Bistro Jeanty Authentic French country dishes in Philippe Jeanty's four-year-old neighborhood bistro (6510 Washington St., Yountville; 707-944-0103).

French Laundry Deservedly famous for Thomas Keller's expertly produced and paced nine-course dramas. Reserve two months ahead (6640 Washington St., Yountville; 707-944-2380). Bouchon, the lower-priced outpost, is open late--for Napa: It closes at midnight (6540 Washington St., Yountville; 707-944-8037).

Mustards Grill Immensely popular for its dependable grill and casual ambience (7399 St. Helena Hwy., Yountville; 707-944-2424).

Taylor's Refresher Joel and Duncan Gott's witty, reimagined '50s diner is the undisputed favorite for comfort cravings: burgers, pulled pork and chili-cheese dogs (933 Main St., St. Helena; 707-963-3486).

Terra Inventive American-Asian cuisine in a romantic 1884 fieldstone house owned by Hiro Sone (chef) and his wife, Lissa Doumani (pastry chef) (1345 Railroad Ave., St. Helena; 707-963-8931).

Yountville

Gordon's Café and Wine Bar Play spot-the-cult-winemaker over the self-serve breakfast; they're here for the excellent eggs and bacon, Yukon Gold home fries and world-class scones. Their wines are the backdrop--alongside other local goods on the packed farmhouse shelves (6770 Washington St.; 707-944-8246).

Pancha's Bar This family-owned, barnlike place is the ideal dive, with two pool tables, great tunes and chatty locals amused that you've found the least touristy joint in the valley (6764 Washington St.; 707-944-2125).

St. Helena

Giugni's When all you want is a great sandwich, this unprepossessing deli is the place to go. With fancy meats--coppa, prosciutto, soppressata--fresh mozzarella and nine kinds of rolls (1227 Main St.; 707-963-3421).

Martini House Probably the hippest place in Napa right now. San Francisco restaurateur supreme Pat Kuleto's latest work has Native American touches and Todd Humphries (formerly of Campton Place) in the kitchen, dishing up mahi mahi with almond-caper crust or roasted squab with chestnuts and chanterelles. There's a swinging subterranean wine bar, and the witty wine list includes sections like "Our Favorite Winemaker Women" (1245 Spring St.; 707-963-2233).

Model Bakery And that's just what it is: a broad counter laden with scones and muffins, frosted cupcakes and intricate patisserie, pizzas, pies and artisanal breads. Refueling par excellence (1357 Main St.; 707-963-9731).

Roux A tiny burgundy-painted boîte that's a young couple's labor of love--and a real find. Chef Vincent Nattress and his wife, sommelier Tyla Jones Nattress, frequently change the half-dozen dishes in each course and keep a pared-down wine list to match. Flavors are concentrated, not fussy, and the intensity is fresh and wonderful: scallops with tomato pistou, sweetbreads with mushroom hash, organic pork chops with beluga lentils (1234 Main St.; 707-963-5330).

Culinary Institute of America at Greystone The West Coast campus of the C.I.A. offers daily cooking demos, plus American-Med food from chef de cuisine Pilar Sanchez at the Wine Spectator Greystone Restaurant (2555 Main St.; 707-967-1010).

Olivier Napa Valley Here are vats of small-production oils, with tasting cups and dipping bread; olive soaps, tapenades, linens, olive-wood utensils--everything for fans of the fruit of the other kind of vine (1375 Main St.; 707-967-8777).

Calistoga

All Seasons Café and Wine Shop The unassuming name does no justice to this corner bistro and shop. The wine list includes both local and French bottles at gentle prices--all well chosen for accompanying moules marinière, house-cured pork chops with braised red cabbage or ricotta ravioli (1400 Lincoln Ave.; 707-942-9111).

Wappo Bar and Bistro An "international" menu that actually succeeds: Vietnamese spring rolls can be followed by vatapa (a Brazilian seafood stew with peanuts and coconut milk) or hornada (Ecuadorian chile-and-beer-braised pork). The wine list, fat with small producers, yields bargains (1226 Washington St.; 707-942-4712).

Clos Pegase A Michael Graves-designed winery with an impressive collection of twentieth-century art: Jean Dubuffet, Richard Serra (1060 Dunaweal Ln.; 707-942-4981).

Published October 2002
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