Leave it to the one and only Julia Child to tell it like it should be. “Wine,” she said, “is meant to be enjoyed with food—that’s the point of it.” Napa Valley
In California’s Napa Valley, sampling wines at vineyards has long been accompanied by a prepared foods cold case amid the logowear, corkscrews, and other wine-related merchandise for purchase in the tasting room. But it’s mostly been picnic fare—perfect for enjoying with a newly purchased bottle on the grounds of the wine estate.
Yet more Napa wineries are heeding Julia’s mandate by offering small-plate creations that make perfect pairings with the local grape. In-house and consulting chefs also work with planners for private tastings, wine dining experiences, receptions and corporate retreats.
Here are outstanding examples.
B Cellars in Napa declares that central to its purpose is “maintaining equilibrium between guest engagement through curated, highly personalized wine and food pairing.” Its Vineyard Trek begins with a tour of the estate’s gardens and grounds led by a “wine guide,” a barrel tasting, followed by a seated wine pairing with seasonal “B Bites.” Terroir Tasting offers cheese and charcuterie. Five event spaces can accommodate gatherings of 10-100 persons.
Brasswood on Silverado Trail in St. Helena even has its own restaurant, with high-quality produce grown alongside its grapes. There’s a bar and bakery, as well. A lunch pairing offers the winery’s boutique, ultra-premium wines with seasonal dishes. The restaurant menu can be catered for group gatherings, from picnics to private luncheons and dinners.
Davies Vineyards in St. Helena does not have its own chef, but it pairs specially selected cheeses with its award-winning Schramsberg sparkling wines and red wines. It also does a bubbles and caviar brunch.
Domaine Carneros, another much-lauded sparkling and pinot noir producer, has long offered caviar, smoked salmon, cheese and charcuterie pairings at its majestic hilltop chateau. (In the Carneros region and not in the valley, it has a Napa address.) It offers an array of private event spaces, inside the chateau and on the manicured grounds.
Inglenook Winery in Rutherford, owned by film maker Francis Ford Coppola, has an estate chef who oversees all culinary events on the property, directs wine and food education and tends two chef’s gardens. The 19th-century winery chateau has several impressive group spaces.
Joseph Phelps Vineyards in St. Helena has a variety of wine and food experiences from its winery chef. Bountiful Table lasts three hours, a “wine and food journey” on its Redwood Terrace. A seated private tasting in one of the indoor rooms or outdoor tables can be led by one of the “wine educators.”
Long Meadow Ranch in St. Helena offers small bites using ingredients from its own organic farm. A wine and food pairing with five different wines features creations prepared at Long Meadow’s nearby restaurant, Farmstead. From team building to board meetings, Farmstead has multiple spaces, indoors and out.
Piazza Del Dotto Winery & Caves in Napa offers a Delicacies experience in which a French Laundry-trained chef pairs five pours of wine with satisfying plates like a Maine lobster roll on a handmade toasted brioche bun and a Snake River Farms Wagyu slider with black truffle.
Pine Ridge Vineyards in Napa offers a Savor Pine Ridge experience that pairs its cabernet sauvignons with savory small plates like smoked duck biscuit with fig jam and a salty pork rillette on walnut toast topped with sweet-and-sour prunes. Private event settings include a terrace, the estate garden, vineyards, cabernet caves and Cellar 47, an underground aging cave.
The Prisoner Wine Company in St. Helena offers “a trio of culinary pairings.” The Makery Food & Wine Experience (temporarily unavailable) is “a celebration of craft and community, bringing together diverse groups of artisans, designers and creators with a collaborative spirit for creating. The result? A private, immersive wine tasting experience unlike any other, celebrating wine and food pairings through discovery of the local maker community.”
Robert Sinskey Vineyards on Silverado Trail in Napa has a long history of special food and wine pairings. The five-course Chef’s Table experience follows a winery and garden tour. Chef Maria Helm Sinskey (wife of proprietor Robert Sinskey) focuses on produce from the winery garden and the estate’s pasture-raised lamb. A wine experience with organic bites from the garden is also available.
Round Pond Estate in Rutherford has an artisan tasting of estate wines accompanied by an artisanal gourmet board from the estate chef. Il Pranzo begins with a garden and olive grove tour followed by a curated four-course food and wine pairing featuring seasonal ingredients from the garden. Twilight Dinner starts with a wine reception and passed hors d’oeuvres, followed by a dinner paired with estate wines. Expansive views of the vineyard and Mayacamas mountains at no extra charge.
Sequoia Grove in Napa has a charcuterie and cheese plate to pair with its wines. A new pop-up experience, Tasting on the Terrace, begins with a walk through the demonstration vineyard, followed by a multicourse food and wine pairing on a private terrace prepared by the award-winning winery chef.
Robert Mondavi Winery in Oakville pairs its fume blanc wine with imported Siberian caviar. A Vineyard to Table lunch by the winery’s executive chef pairs fresh seasonal cuisine with three award-winning wines—on tables overlooking the winery and culinary gardens.