When you tell your foodie friends you’re spending a weekend in California’s Wine Country, you’re going to get countless suggestions for wining and dining your way around the area – and with good reason. There are almost 200 restaurants alone in the area on OpenTable and more than 400 wineries. Unless you’re a local, there’s no way to tackle them all even in a year (or 10!), let alone a couple of days. But, the good news is that it’s really hard to take a wrong turn. This was my stealthy and delicious agenda in Napa and Sonoma earlier this month.
1PM: Cakebread Cellars
One of our very helpful Uber drivers cautioned us that the Napa winery scene was becoming quite corporate, with many requiring appointments. Having gone the non-appointment route several years back, I preferred the intimacy of scheduled tastings, particularly at Cakebread Cellars. For $40 per person, we opted for the Reserve tasting, which included a private tour of the winery’s operations and a very gently paced, thoughtful tasting in a grand room overlooking the vineyard, where we sipped wines that we’d never sampled, despite being longtime Cakebread fans.
3PM: Gott’s Roadside (FKA Taylor’s Refresher)
My last visit to Gott’s was a bust as the Saturday lines were obscenely long, but this time out, the weekday timing played to our favor. At this local classic, we were eating juicy cheeseburgers and sharing crispy fries with each other (and a few brave birds) within a few minutes of parking. Bonus for my fellow gluten-free diners: You can get any burger animal-style, wrapped in lettuce, and it’s still supremely satisfying.
Chef Richard Reddington’s Redd remains as fresh as when its doors first opened in 2005. The restaurant is warm and elegant all at once, as is the food. The little gem salad was the best my husband ever had (which is quite a statement, as he’s not a salad lover). Other standouts include the generously portioned foie gras trio, caramelized diver scallops, skate wing, and petrale sole. The wine list is deep yet accessible, and, despite being surrounded by California Chardonnay, we opted for a French Bourgogne. Tip: Be sure to arrive early and grab a signature craft cocktail at the stylish bar.
1PM: St. Francis Winery & Vineyard
The food and wine pairing experience at St. Francis is apparently the best kept secret in Sonoma, shocking considering that it has the distinction of being an OpenTable Top 100 Restaurant in America for two years running, earning the #1 spot in 2013 and the #5 spot in 2014. At $60 for five seasonal courses and generous pours of carefully paired wines, plus a cheese selection, I understood why one reviewer called it “The French Laundry for $60.” And, yet, many folks we encountered in our travels weren’t aware of it. So, here it is; I’m blowing the lid off: the pairings are a sublime steal.Continue Reading