The culinary scene in Napa Valley is becoming increasingly diverse. Sommelier Courtney Humiston gives her recommendations, including a Japanese izakaya, winemakers' hangouts and local Italian classics.
Thirty years ago, I would be hard pushed to make a list of the best restaurants in Napa Valley – as there was almost nowhere to eat. It seems strange today, since now there are enough Michelin stars in the region to populate a tiny galaxy. But, northern California wine country as a dining destination is a fairly recent phenomenon.
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While Thomas Keller set a certain precedent (The French Laundry; Bouchon), today’s chefs and sommeliers are having much more fun. They are finding creative ways of celebrating the bounty of California, while embracing international flavours and perspectives.
Thankfully, gone are the days of mock-Tuscan villas and French gardens. Instead, today’s Napa Valley has a style all its own. Over the past five years, downtown Napa has gone through a serious revival and the current landscape is encouraging for locals and visitors alike.
Oenotri, while not a new kid on the block, has established itself over the last 10 years as a quintessential Napa restaurant. in one corner of the brick-lined room, a bachelorette party may be tucking into wood-fired pizzas; while in another corner, winemakers visiting from around the world are being seduced by the Barolo selection.
1425 First Street
+1 707 252 1022
Visit Oenotri’s website
Curtis Di Fede, a fourth-generation Napan who opened Oenotri, took a second stab at downtown in May 2016, this time with a Japanese blade. Miminashi, an izakaya-style restaurant designed by Michael McDermott – a local artist responsible for dozens of the coolest Napa Valley wine labels – has brought some much-need umami to the food scene.
821 Coombs Street
+1 707 254 9464
Visit Miminashi website
Cadet was founded by former French Laundry sommelier, Aubrey Bailey, and Colleen Fleming, whose mother, Kelly Fleming, is a well-known Napa vintner. The two young women have created something special: a place where both serious discussions among local winemakers about the complexities of press cycles and sulphur additions can take place, as well as dance parties. Likely, in the same night.
930 Franklin Street
+1 707 224 4400
Access to talent from the City by the Bay has not been wasted on restaurateurs in the burgeoning wine country hub. Basalt, which opened in April this year, brought in several San Francisco alumni for both the front and back of house to execute a modern California menu, along with something else that’s becoming increasingly important in such a wine-saturated region: a strong cocktail programme.
790 Main Street
+1 707 927 5265
Visit Basalt Napa’s website
Written by Courtney Humiston and edited by Laura Seal for Decanter.com