Vine Dining in the Napa Valley
The boutique hotel experts and gallivanting gourmands at Mr & Mrs Smith raise a glass to some of Napa Valley’s best wineries and restaurants…
Napa Valley is serious gastro territory. Acre upon acre of vine-lined hillside makes the region the heartland of U.S. wine production, but what good is a bottle of fruity red without food to do it justice? Luckily, some of California’s finest restaurants call Napa Valley home, too, taking the area’s organic, seasonal ingredients and crafting them into fantastic French-influenced cuisine.
Oenophiles brace yourselves: there are around 300 wineries to work your way through (might take a couple of trips). For a whistle-stop tour of some of the best, head for Swanson in the Oakville District
In Calistoga, you’re close to a glut of Napa’s renowned eateries. If you want to sample the famed fare at Thomas Keller’s The French Laundry, you’ll need to book a month or two in advance and bring a well-stuffed wallet — the set menu starts at $240 a head. La Toque in downtown Napa is also over-subscribed, thanks to its always-excellent menu of Valley victuals (try the five-course tasting menu) and great wine selection. Modeled on a traditional Lyonnaise bistro, Bouchon in Yountville is the French Laundry’s younger, sexier (and cheaper) sister. Buy hot-from-the-oven bread from Bouchon Bakery next door. For burgers, Mustard’s Grill in Napa should be top of the list, while for fine quality meat and seafood, Press in St Helena is the connoisseur’s option.
For somewhere stylish to bed down — somewhere that combines classic Cali hospitality with tantalizing tastes — try these Valley hotel hotspots.
Modernist marvel, The Carneros Inn in Santa Rosa has a quartet of culinary enticements: the Boon Fly Café for casual lunches (and incredible donuts), the Hilltop Dining Room for soul-stirring vineyard views, Market, a shop offering local wines and picnic essentials, and the Farm, which serves entrées
such as lobster risotto and filet steak with bone marrow in an alfresco lounge with wood-burning fireplaces.
Between the Napa River and the Silverado Trail, Milliken Creek Inn & Spa is a classic clapboard country home set in a three-acre sea of lawns and maples. As you’d expect on the threshold of Californian wine country, the cellar is a massive temptation, and bottle-laden vintners visit every day during ‘magic hour’ to offer tastings — usually accompanied by an intimidating quantity of fruit and fine cheeses.
Seamlessly woven into the forest, alongside its own vineyard, Calistoga Ranch (pictured) is a cluster of luxury wooden cabins with a restaurant at its heart. The bright, beamed Lakehouse crafts fresh Californian dishes including crispy sweetbreads, prime cuts, and seafood, all locally sourced and painstakingly engineered to complement the voluminous wine list. If you’re not lucky enough to wrangle a dinner in the chandeliered wine cave, at least grab a table on the terrace so you can overlook the lake.
For more insider tips, and to book your next trip, call the travel experts at Mr & Mrs Smith on 1-800 464-2040.
(All photos courtesy of Mr and Mrs Smith Hotels)