So you’re visiting the Bay Area and you’ve learned that Napa Valley in Northern California has been making a name for itself as a world class destination (for some time now, actually). Now wouldn’t it be great to go wine tasting there? Brilliant!
Most people only have a day to spend. And there’s a variety of ways to spend this day. Some book wine tours, some rent a car (or bikes or Segways) and take in the scenery, and enjoy some fine wines this world has to offer.
Here’s what I learned though: there are some wineries that have restaurants or delis, but most tasting rooms have a counter, the fine wines, the sommelier, and a bowl of crackers. That may be well and good as you came here for the vino. Last time I took some people wine tasting, we decided to hit a couple of tasting rooms before our lunch reservation at Lucy. Bad idea for me – I was so hungry and I definitely needed food with my alcohol.
So, if I’ll be driving around Napa to drink some of the best wines the country could offer, I might as well make stops for food along the way. I could sit down for a bit, or take the food with me. Best solution with no compromises! Plus I get to really drink responsibly with a full belly.
BOON FLY CAFE
You can make this your first pit stop as you come in through Highway 12. If your time permits, you can have your full breakfast here, classic Americana – order green eggs and ham. It might take you a while to be seated, so skip this if there’s a wait.
If you have had breakfast elsewhere, just pick up what you really came here for, and that’s the world famous Boon Fly donuts – no kidding, that’s it’s name, even how it’s listed on the menu. They’re mini cinnamon and sugar dusted donuts, oh so light and airy, that comes with a hot chocolate dip. Take a baker’s dozen with you with a cuppa or enjoy at the bar or on the swing.
People line up here for the erroneously macarons. I say erroneously because in focusing on the hyped up macarons, they overlook the real star that Bouchon Bakery offers the world better, and that’s the epi baguette. So simple and basic, right? But no, there’s only a few places where you could get a baguette with that perfect crust that gives you that crisp crackling sound when you give it a gentle squeeze with a perfectly soft inside (Acme is another one of the few).
Grab an epi baguette here (or two), and you’ll have used for it at the next stop below. Since you did get it line already, sure, grab a pistachio macaron. It is quite good, especially if you don’t get to buy macarons quite often. But if you have a Pierre Hermé standard, well, as my husband said, the Bouchon macarons would seem like a basic cookie.
You might feel turned off with the sheer amount of people here. But, don’t worry, for this stop, you’re here to buy items that will go oh so gloriously well with that epi baguette. And really, you come here for the wide selection of cheeses. There’s quite the array to choose from, but I come here for the Brillat-Savarin that’s not so easy to find. Serve me Brie anything and I’m a happy camper. So, triple cream Brie, so soft, so creamy, is really heaven on a baguette.
What I’ve concocted from items at V.Sattui is a layer of duck mousse, piece of turkey from the deli, and a chunk of the Brillat-Savarin. It’s a lot of flavors but it’s so simple. And, you can enjoy this anywhere. If you find a picnic table at V. Sattui, that’s lucky. Otherwise, sit on the grass, it’s perfectly fine. But, as this is meant to be a stop with your wine tasting journey, bring your goodies with you at your next winery stop and grab a table outside. Oh, by the way, don’t forget to bring a cheese knife. If you don’t, there’s handy ones at V. Sattui too.
CULINARY INSTITUTE OF AMERICA AT GREYSTONE
I could spend hours here. More because of the cooking utensils that I just get lost in for some reason. I just enjoy shopping for kitchen stuff so much. You can tour this castle but since this is again a stop between tasting rooms, go to the end of the kitchen shop and you will find chocolates. These are made by the students and they are wonderful, colorful, delicate pops of flavor. They are so pretty you may not want to eat it. But, resist that. They come in nice gift boxes too if you ask them, so you can buy a box for you and a friend. But this will definitely satisfy your sweet tooth!
C Casa and Ritual below are both in the same place, one of our favorites, the Oxbow Market. This could very well be your first stop and grab everything you’ll need for the day. Either way, there’s a variety of things you’ll find here. You can have your big lunch or dinner at Ca’ Momi Enoteca, Hog Island Oysters or the Kitchen Door. But for something quick enough that won’t cost you more than $20 per person, C Casa is the place for it. You can still get something quite unique like the spiced lamb taco or the mixed field green with duck.
RITUAL COFFEE ROASTERS & THREE TWINS ICE CREAM
It’s rare we ever leave the Oxbow Market without getting a proper cup of coffee. If the Oxbow Market had been your first stop for the day, you’re off to a good start with this one. Otherwise, these perfectly roasted beans will also be good to sober you up after a day of wine tasting! You can’t go wrong here – either drip or espresso based. Here’s a bonus: buy a scoop of creamy organic ice cream from Three Twins at the next stall, combine with Ritual espresso, and you’ve got yourself a veritable affogato.
If this had been your last stop, it would be a sweetly perfect way to end your wine tasting journey. Or, give you that boost for that dinner you probably booked.