Napa Valley's restaurants draw as much attention to the valley as its award-winning wineries. Nowhere else in the state are kitchens as deft at mixing fresh seasonal, local, organic produce into edible magic, which means that menus change constantly to reflect the best available ingredients. Add that to a great bottle of wine and stunning views, and you have one heck of an eating experience. If foodie destinations are your trip's focus, your reservations are likely to focus around Yountville and Napa, though there are a few worthy dining rooms in St. Helena, which means you are likely to cover a lot of ground. Regardless, to best enjoy Napa's restaurant scene, keep one thing in mind: Reserve in advance -- especially for a seat in a famous room.
Where to Stock Up for a Gourmet Picnic
You can easily plan your whole trip around restaurant reservations, but gather one of the world's best gourmet picnics, and the valley's your oyster.
One of the finest gourmet-food stores in the Wine Country, if not all of California, is the Oakville Grocery Co., 7856 St. Helena Hwy., at Oakville Cross Road, Oakville (tel. 707/944-8802; www.oakvillegrocery.com). You can put together the provisions for a memorable picnic or, with at least 24 hours' notice, the staff can prepare a picnic basket for you. The store, with its small-town vibe and claustrophobia-inducing crowds, can be quite an experience. You'll find shelves crammed with the best breads and choicest cheeses in the northern Bay Area, as well as pâtés, cold cuts, crackers, top-quality olive oils, fresh foie gras (domestic and French, seasonal), smoked Norwegian salmon, and, of course, an exceptional selection of California wines. The store is open daily from 9am to 5pm. There's also an espresso bar tucked in the corner (open Mon-Fri 7am-5pm, Sat-Sun 8am-5pm), offering lunch items, a complete deli, and house-baked pastries.
Another of my favorite places to fill a picnic basket is New York's version of a swank European marketplace, Dean & DeLuca, 607 S. St. Helena Hwy. (Hwy. 29), north of Zinfandel Lane and south of Sulphur Springs Road, St. Helena (tel. 707/967-9980; www.deananddeluca.com). The ultimate in gourmet grocery stores is more like a world's fair of foods, where everything is beautifully displayed and often painfully pricey. As you pace the barn-wood plank floors, you'll stumble upon more high-end edibles than you've probably ever seen under one roof. They include local organic produce (delivered daily); 300 domestic and imported cheeses (with an on-site aging room to ensure proper ripeness); shelves and shelves of tapenades, pastas, oils, hand-packed dried herbs and spices, chocolates, sauces, cookware, and housewares; an espresso bar; one hell of a bakery section; and more. Along the back wall, you can watch the professional chefs prepare gourmet takeout, including salads, rotisserie meats, and sautéed vegetables. You can also snag a pricey bottle from the wine section's 1,400-label collection. The store is open daily from 7am to 7pm. (The espresso bar is open daily at 7am.)
Where to Eat in Napa Valley
Napa Valley’s restaurants draw as much attention to the region as its award-winning wineries. Nowhere else in the state are kitchens as deft at mixing fresh seasonal, local, organic produce into edible magic, which means that menus change constantly to reflect the best available ingredients. Add that to a great bottle of wine, and you have one heck of an eating experience. Here are some picks, from an affordable diner to a once-in-a-lifetime culinary experience, and everything in between.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.