To get to Sixty Vines—the latest restaurant from the company behind Whiskey Cake Kitchen & Bar, Ida Claire, Velvet Taco, and Mexican Sugar—I did what I used to do when I lived in the San Francisco Bay Area and made excursions to wine-famous Napa. I got in the car and headed north. And in less than half the time the California journey used to take, I was at a new venture predicated on two equally relevant realities: a renaissance in the northern suburbs and the democratization of wine. The aim is clear: make this our Napa, without the valley.
The space is ample and rustic, with the wide-open feel of a barn. There are sturdy beams and natural wood, wine glasses at every table, and copies of Wine Spectator magazine scattered casually about. Against the back wall, under a custom Picasso-like painting depicting the stomping of grapes and Bacchus, god of wine, an impressive line of taps invites you to imagine its vanishing point.
The initial staff received Level 1 sommelier training. Overall, the service was excellent—attentive, genial, and unaffected, and, in the best cases, the training had clearly ignited a passion. Servers are backed by the handiwork of beverage director Aaron Benson, a cicerone who knows his craft and was most recently behind the phenomenal wine list at Wayward Sons. Here, there is a premium on quality and range, playfulness and accessibility.
The staff will steer you toward flights, which are a good place to begin to explore the list’s breadth. They’ve partnered with a Sonoma winemaker for the Vine Hugger series, all single vineyard. I love that the option of 2.5-ounce pours allows for accessible adventures among the 60 wines (of which 41 are on tap). If you want to introduce your friend to the Duchman Trebbiano but also the Bordeaux blend that has so much to say for itself—or the “Au Naturel” Chardonnay with an oaky woodiness and rich caramel notes that, served cold enough, is still crisp—you can.
The food tends to be simple and clean, like the decor. Nicely cooked steelhead trout came accompanied by a simple bean salad. Touches like heirloom Rancho Gordo beans from Napa—earthy, meaty black beans and creamy white ones, shaped like pebbles—reflect an effort in sourcing and a desire to capture the aesthetic of Northern California.
They’re not inventing anything. You can begin with the now-ubiquitous toast option, a canvas for various toppings. Or a hummus duo—sweet pea and roasted red beet. But the food is executed with such fresh touches and attention to detail that its charm is undeniable. Festooned with microgreens, the hummus spreads come to the table in a wooden rolling pin with carved-out nooks to hold small Mason jars. Somehow they’re adorable rather than twee.
The wood fire-roasted whole cauliflower head is one of the best treatments I’ve seen. Basted with a vibrant parsley gremolata and dusted with Parmesan, it’s soft and steamy inside and lightly charred outside, a perfect marriage. The cool yogurt sauce is bright with dill, lemon, and just a pinch of garam masala.
Pizzas wheel out of the oven, the crusts chewy and blistered, and fresh ribbons of pasta hang attractively in the open kitchen. Again, it’s little touches I appreciated. The pink peppercorn dusted on the duck egg set atop eggy fettuccine; the delicacy of squash blossoms and medallions of mandolined zucchini and summer squash on a pie.
And the burger takes your breath away. A thick, juicy patty of local beef drips with the combined savory power of caramelized onions, raclette cheese, and Cabernet reduction on an “everything” bun. The trappings are worthy of a fine steak; the primal flavor onslaught pulls you in with animal intensity.
At brunch, servers slip by fluidly with trays of drinks. Angel food French toast comes looking like dessert, thick slices of cake given a quick pan sear then topped with whipped mascarpone and berries. Pineapple upside-down pancakes are tawny and studded with caramelized pineapple like nuggets of gold. A citrusy dollop of cream cheese melts seductively on top, and more has been smoothed between layers. Even without the dashing Luxardo cherry, this would be a pancake lover’s perfect stack.
What the thick-cut bacon lacked in flavor, though it was billed as spiced with garam masala, the charming duck fat-fried potatoes made up for. The little skin-on fingerlings were nutty, firm-fleshed, crisp, and golden, and finished with a sprinkle of fresh herbs.
Everywhere, you see little still-life portraits, bright and attractive. The egg-white frittata is daringly lush, with wild mushrooms (shiitake, cremini, oyster), juicy tomatoes, and herbed goat cheese. Is it trendy, under its thicket of arugula greens? Sure. It’s also one of the most savory, enjoyable frittatas I’ve had. Smile, smooth your terry-cloth napkin, contemplate the wine list again, and consider ordering the avocado eggs Benedict, its hollandaise smoky with togarashi spice. This cultural borrowing, woven into a fresh aesthetic, is California, too. And those Brussels sprouts with kung pao vinaigrette, fresh-sliced red Fresno peppers, and crunchy toasted cashews? Yes, they’re also a delight.
Desserts were unimpressive. Two tasted of the refrigerator; another was a textural flop. I’d rather just end with coffee (from local roaster Eiland) and their excellent house-made biscotti.
Every time I went—and I went at all hours of the day, in visits that stretched out pleasantly like a cat arching its back—the place bustled. Groups clustered around large farmhouse tables, latecomers arriving with hugs and parcels to join the joyful fray. This may not be Napa, but after a couple of glasses of good wine the differences don’t seem to matter so much. Because when there are no vineyard vistas to be had, even a well-designed cocoon in the northern ’burbs can feel like a welcome escape.
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