One week since we returned from the incomparable Napa Valley, and my heart still skips a beat as I reflect on the trip. To put it simply, there’s a calm that washes over you upon driving down the Silverado Trail and taking in the sunny yet breezy, pure, humid-free air. I am hanging onto that sense of calm as much as I can from afar; but there’s nothing like it!
The Greenstein family embarked on a week-long visit through the Valley, sampling the best of local and savoring every sip of wine around a table of cherished family and friends.
I packed lightly and luxuriously for the trip (see my packing tutorial here) thanks to breezy dresses and blouses by Oak Hall, which carried me from day to night effortlessly. Because of the valley climate, a dry sunny day turns crisp and cool after sundown. Layers were key! Scroll to the bottom of this post for some of my favorite pieces I brought along.
I can’t take credit for the following list of food + wine recommendations, as our gracious host—my second cousin Deb—planned and prepared the dreamiest itinerary. I couldn’t recommend these places more, however, and I hope you’ll them on your list next time you head West. Let me know if you do, too…
Farmstead: I absolutely love this place for lunch and dinner too, don’t get me wrong — but during this trip, I discovered a little morning coffee shop on the grounds, tucked beneath a sprawling tree. The coffee is excellent, and pastries and juices are also available for a light bite. It’s a little oasis that will begin your morning on a bright note.
The Model Bakery: The English muffins. The damn English muffins. The light and airy yet rich and buttery bread because the daily ritual. We’d either pop into the St. Helena location for a breakfast sandwich version or grab a half-dozen to toast with a simple smear of butter and local marmalade. You can’t miss this perfected baked balance of complexity and simplicity.
Note: Each day, a tasting was reserved at 11 a.m. I highly recommend this route, as it’s just the right start time to open your palate and, soon-after, enjoy a late and leisurely lunch. I don’t know how people jam pack more than one or two tastings in a day!
Brasswood Cellars: General Manager Marcus Marquez took us on a private tour of his immaculate grounds, which have redefined a winery as an all-encompassing destination. From the food (scroll to the lunch section) to the vintages and wine caves, we basked in the Brasswood beauty for half a day.
Ashes & Diamonds: This new-generation-run vineyard is simply (and strategically) doing things differently. A contemporary, mid-century-modern, Palm-Springs-esque tasting room carries you through minimalist-branded yet robust wines. We enjoyed the juxtaposition of rustic Napa with the “new” definition of Napa.
Palmaz Vineyards: A truly state-of-the-art master of wine, Palmaz mixes family tradition with exceptional technology that, during the tour, you can experience yourself. I especially enjoyed getting to try and compare three cabernet sauvignon wines together from 2013, 2014, and 2015. I find it’s almost more of an educational and memorable experience than the usual flow from light and bright whites to rich reds.
Round Pond: I absolutely loved getting to embark on a “vino + olio” tasting, which paired Round Pond’s wines with its olive oils. The strategic pairings were eye-opening and made me appreciate subtleties of flavors more than ever. We also were fortunate to visit Round Pond’s gardens and vineyards, which brought a deeper meaning to our sips.
Brasswood Bar + Kitchen: After your tasting or walking of the grounds, take a seat on the patio of Brasswood’s Bar + Kitchen. Order the off-menu mozzarella, which arrives with five toasted crostinis that the server meticulously tops with perfect cheesy portions. The chilled corn soup was divine, as well as the shareable fire oven pizzas. After the meal, don’t miss the adorable bakery/café with grab-and-go bites, as well as the beautifully curated Bottleshop mercantile.
Oxbow Market: Downtown Napa’s sprawling food hall-meets-gathering spot is a can’t-miss opportunity to grab a snack or drink, enjoy a full-on meal from oysters to acai bowls to burgers, and explore local vendors. I have been fortunate to meet Kara of Kara’s Cupcakes (we wish we spelled our name the same!), whose cupcakes and cookies at the front of the market are quite a treat.
Gott’s Roadside: Gourmet hamburgers, fries, and shakes — can you go wrong? Gott’s has got it going on. And yes, it’s worth waiting in line.
Oakville Grocery: Founded in 1881, this grocery is absolutely here to stay. Mozying through the aisles of highly-curated yet incredibly varied food products and wine is an activity on its own. And upon lunch hour’s arrival, stand in line for a masterful sandwich to enjoy on the side patio. I dream of the next time we visit and can grab a handful of local cheeses and accouterments for an afternoon cheese board.
Charter Oak: The two-year-old restaurant is making its mark in Napa Valley, delivering “elemental” preparations of a bounty of meats, vegetables, potatoes and more. Family-style platters, prepared straight from the hearth next to our table, allowed us to sample almost every dish from Chef Christopher Kostow’s brilliant menu (He’s a three-time Michelin star chef for The Restaurant at Meadowood). From the cheeseburger to the ribeye, the trout to the broccoli, we finished every plate proudly.
Bouchon: We indulged at Bouchon for Alex’s birthday, the perfect excuse to order shaved black truffle gnudi and enjoy the entire (I’m not kidding) dessert menu, right? Chef Thomas Keller and the Bouchon team are masters of their French craft, and I couldn’t rave more about the quality of service and food. We began with with brut rosé and fresh-baked baguettes from the next-door Bouchon Bakery and continued with oysters, pastas, mussels and more. This original location is a Napa Valley must.
Acacia House: A new hotel in St. Helena opened just about a year ago, restoring a beautiful old mansion and surrounding it with a contemporary series of rooms, a pool and event space. Chef Chris Consentino opened the restaurant in the original mansion, called Acacia House, and the charming ambiance was the perfect compliment to the smaller yet seasonally-daring menu. We couldn’t get enough of the Acacia House margaritas, the vegetable crudités with tahini, and the larger-than-life grilled asparagus (below).