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Well Traveled: Foodie Finds in Napa Valley, California

The wine country northeast of San Francisco is an ideal place to eat, drink, and be merry, says Amazon executive Vickie Yakunin.
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Well Traveled: Foodie Finds in Napa Valley, California

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My knowledge of wine is limited at best. One mention of tannins, and you’ve lost me. Much to my surprise, on a recent trip to Napa Valley, I discovered wine to be not so intimidating, even for a novice like me.

I began my journey in historic town Calistoga, home to the Four Seasons Resort and Residences Napa Valley. Located within a vineyard and host to the onsite Elusa Winery, the resort offers a luxe spa, two pools, several dining options, and off-site excursion opportunities.

After settling into one of the well-appointed guest suites, I headed to dinner at Truss Restaurant + Bar. With its indoor-outdoor approach to design, the space offered spectacular views of surrounding vineyards and the Palisades peaks. Led by Chef Rogelio Garcia, Truss dazzles with its wide array of selections. I opted for a simple little gem lettuce salad, followed by the Australian Wagyu with confit garlic and herb butter. For good measure, I added the heirloom carrots and truffle parmesan fries. It was a good call.

If you are like me and sometimes prefer the company of animals to people, a visit to Tamber Bey Vineyards is a must. A former horse ranch turned sanctuary (ask about the miniature horses) and winery, it features handcrafted wines by vintner Derek Flegal. While visiting, opt for the delightful savory cookie paring in the garden courtyard.

For another exceptional dining experience, I visited Acacia House in nearby St. Helena. Led by Top Chef Masters winner Chris Cosentino, it provides an elevated take on American cuisine with a locally sourced, seasonal menu. I started with one of the signature cocktails (standouts are the Vesper Martini and Mexico City Margarita), then moved onto the heirloom tomatoes and stone fruit, followed by expertly pan-seared scallops. The Iberico Pork Schnitzel and Spice Prime Striploin also impressed.

If you find yourself heading south of Calistoga, like I did, be sure to drop in at Mustards Grill. Located off St. Helena Highway, this Napa Valley staple offers an enormous selection of wine, as well as number of mouth-watering entrees to satisfy any traveler. Named after the wild mustard flowers that bloom throughout the valley, this highway eatery is sure to impress. 

Rounding out my time in Napa, I headed to Stanly Ranch. The new Auberge property, nestled into a 712-acre ranch, boasts 78 private bungalows and suites, an extensive list of amenities, and endless vineyard views. Be sure to make time for a Swedish massage or other treatments at its onsite spa, Halehouse, and explore its various hot and cold steam rooms, salt therapy area, private pool, and, if you’re up for it, a hyperbaric oxygen chamber.

Known for its rich culinary program and grown-on-site ingredients, Stanly Ranch’s signature restaurant, Bear, is led by Executive Chef Garrison Price and Farm Director Nick Runkle. I recommend the fresh tagliatelle, and for the main, the peppercorn-roasted short rib. Both were delicious.

While in the valley, stop by Thomas Keller’s iconic Bouchon Bistro, just off Main Street in Yountville, for a decadently Parisian lunch. The French bistro offers an extensive raw bar, plus several seasonal classics. Don’t let the extensive wine menu scare you; the knowledgeable staff is there to offer plenty of suggestions. Highlights include the Soupe à l’Oignon (French onion soup), Steak Frites, and Poulet Rôti (French-style roast chicken).

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Snack Away Silver Trident Winery’s unique take on pairings matches wine with gourmet potato chips.

After lunch, schedule an afternoon visit to the Silver Trident Winery. Located within a Ralph Lauren showroom, the unique experience is highlighted by its gourmet potato chip and wine paring. Yes, please.

As part of your wining and dining tour, visit Torc in downtown Napa, owned by husband-and-wife team Sean and Cynthia O’Toole. The lively restaurant offers an extensive selection of wines—some that can’t typically be found by the glass—and farm-to-table treats that show off the region’s renowned produce. I’m still dreaming about the tempura squash blossom and house-made radiatori pasta.

For those looking for an experience that doesn’t involve food and wine, book a morning (albeit an early morning) hot air balloon ride with Balloons Above the Valley. Having been in business for more than 40 years, the experienced team will provide you with breathtaking views of the valley—and a few jokes along the way.  

After five days in Napa, I managed to leave a few pounds heavier with a suitcase full of wine and a blind confidence in deciphering wine menus when I dine out in the future. Just don’t ask me about tannins.

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