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Napa Area Restaurants: Reviews & Recommendations


Aurora
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Its hard to do trips with a large group, everyone has an agenda. I just found out one of the group people wants to do silver oak! F**k! I guess I will just have to lay down on this one?

No! Fight for your right -- and tell them that a number of knowledgeable people have informed you that the Silver Oak tasting is more than a waste of time. Not enough wines to warrant stopping and those that are available are young, hot, and not the classic Silver Oak of days-gone-by!

Send 'em to this thread!

I was bitching about this with my wife and she said that we will just have to go back soon.

Another in the group seems to be on my side and said we will try and steer him away from Silver Oak.

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The entire area is so packed with wineries that there is always another one to check out no matter where you're at. You can check out this Interactive Napa Valley Map to see the clustering of wineries. Silverado Trail is very near Silver Oak and you can head either North or South on it and hit good wineries in both directions.

R. Jason Coulston

jason@popcling.com

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Packing up right now for my trip with wife and friends to Napa tomorrow. I would like to have skipped one or 2 tours and hit a couple other more tastingd but group travel presents some challenges. After having to hear me bitch and moan about hitting a few places we decided to try and squeze in a good place late tomorrow after arrival. Etude is expecting us at 3pm but said they will hang around a little longer if we give them a call if we are running late. That was really cool of them. Etude a solid place and althought the wine is available for those who look it is not completely on the radar like shramsburgh and Silver Oak. Thursday night looks like dining at Martini House. Looking forward to that, especially if the shroom crop is looking good.

Friday is our big tour day. We start off at Shramsburgh. Then we hit Ladera. Im looking forward to Ladera and having lunch at the picnic tables outside. The wine sounds great, Im looking forward to the Howell Mt Cab and the new syrah they have. After Ladera we hit De Dotto and its crazy expensive tour, despite that I am looking forward to the tour. My buddy is a big fan of this place so I am defering to him and his judgement. I like the wines, I have had a couple of the cabs from here and the tour itself with music going and cave sound great, I just hope the entertainment factor is worth the price of admission.

Not dinner plans friday night because the Del Dotto tour is supposed to wear us out. I bet I find a way to try and see if French Laundry has a cancellation? It will probably only be me so what the hell?

Sat is a drive up sonoma, hit a uick winery then Lunch at Market. Another couple wants to hit silver oak and although I am personally against it I think I will just go since many of the more interesting looking places either don't have tastings on sat or they are by appoint only and I don't have that luxury. After Silver Oak we are going to Ledsons. Pretty much done after that except for our meal at Pilar.

I'll be sure to let you folks know how it all went.

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Sat is a drive up sonoma, hit a uick winery then Lunch at Market. Another couple wants to hit silver oak and although I am personally against it I think I will just go since many of the more interesting looking places either don't have tastings on sat or they are by appoint only and I don't have that luxury. After Silver Oak we are going to Ledsons. Pretty much done after that except for our meal at Pilar.

I'll be sure to let you folks know how it all went.

Sounds like a great trip. If you see this before you leave, I think you have some logistics problems on Sat. Market is in St. Helena, a "fur piece" from Sonoma. Silver Oak has 2 wineries: one in Napa Valley off Oakville Cross, and another in Sonoma County on Canyon Road in Geyserville, almost to Cloverdale. Neither of those is REMOTELY close to Ledson, which is between Santa Rosa & Kenwood. Check your map, please!

"A census taker once tried to test me. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti."

- Dr. Hannibal Lecter

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Looks like we are going to be able to skip SO, however Ledson is a must stop(a lot of driving) for 1 couple.

Quickly, Shramsburgh tour was great. Tour guide was top notch and we poured some excellent Sparklers. Etude had some fine Pinots, Ladera's wines smoked all the others and the picnic was a great way to end tour there. Del Dotto was a great experience despite the big price tag.

Martini House very good, Bouchon Bakery great and La Toque a big downer.

More to come!

Edited by jscarbor (log)
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Looks like we are going to be able to skip SO, however Ledson is a must stop(a lot of driving) for 1 couple.

Quickly, Shramsburgh tour was great. Tour guide was top notch and we poured some excellent Sparklers. Etude had some fine Pinots, Ladera's wines smoked all the others and the picnic was a great way to end tour there. Del Dotto was a great experience despite the big price tag.

Martini House very good, Bouchon Bakery great and La Toque a big downer.

More to come!

First day was travel and 1 winery. Etude was a nice first stop even if they forgot we were coming. They I guess double booked the tasting room so we had to taste at the front desk. We tried 5 different wines, 2 pinots and 3 cabs. I liked the Heirloom pinot and the Napa cab the most. One interesting thing about this winery was the fact that it is part of Fosters? I was surprised that this relatively small winery was owned by a big conglomerate. Wines were good, tasting was free and we bought a case between the 2 couples here. After Etude we met the rest of the group at the hotel and got ready for dinner at Martini House.

Martini House was a really cool Napish looking place. One person described it as being very Tolstoyish. I was going to have the chefs winter tasting menu but opted to make up my own tasting. Ordered a glass of Champagne to start off then an excellent bottle of Skewis Pinot and a buddy had the John Duvall Plexus shiraz. We kinf of shared these. My first appetizer was the mushroom salad and I have to be honest here. I drank a lot so can not comment on details much but the salad was great. Earthy shrooms that really taste like, well, like good mushrooms. My next dish was sweetbreads. I remember liking them but the rest is a little foggy=). Then an ok monkfish in a zinfadel sauce with bacon. I should have gone elsewhere like the outrageously good quail stuffed with fois gras or the perfectyl executed salmon dish my wife had. The skewis and the salmon were a perfect match!

I woke up friday with a raging hangover. Not looking good for me. I was really feeling bad. I was thinking (so was everyone else) what an ameteur! I drank water, coffee, more water, more coffee, aspirin, mimosa, emergan C and then one other potion. All the sudden we started talking business and I started feeling better? Was it the business adrenaline? Or was it the thousands of chemicals in my body working? Doesn't really matter, I was feeling...ok! Oh yeah, I also hit Bouchon bakery which was AMAZING! Cheese danish, criosants, chocalate dealies...All great!

Driver picked us up and we started our little excursion to Shramsberg winery. I was a little skeptical of going to a winery that sells wines to my local grocery store! About 2/3 the way to Shramsburgh the driver decided to take us to the nearly complete Villa Amarossa winery which is the sister winery I guess to Villa Satui. Not the best of wines but a nice tourist spot to look and marvel at. Anyway, Villa Amarossa is an incredible building. Reproductions usually are not REALLY that imrpessive but this one is! This building was amazing, intricate stone detail, arches and much more are hear. I think it iopens in 6 months? Its probably going to be worth it to see the building?

We finally hit Shramsberg which was great because I was getting parched. The $20 fee per person wasn't really fun but I was a good soldier and went along. I was glad I did. Tony a part time comedian and full time wine/sparkling drinker was our guide. The winery tour is great and if you can get Tony (I am pretty sure that is his name) then go. He is funny and very knowledgeable. He's a great guy(so important in this job) whos been in coast guard, financial world, comedian and hospitality. The tour takes you through the history of the ocation and the wine then through their amazing caves. The caves were built pre building code and do not have the gunite material, its just roack and algae. We went through the obligatoiry fermenting process then hit the tasting the was set up in the cave adorned with lit candleobras. We tried 6 full glass pours of sparkling wine. The J Shram was my favorite! Tony was fun and we all started hanging out like it was happy hour and we almost let the time slip by to where getting to our next stop, Ladera, might be tough. I ended up joining the cliub so I could aviod having to carry around my loot all weekend. I won't get exactly what I want but I have to say that all the wines we tried here were good to very good. We hit the road and made it to Ladera on time. The road up the mountain was gorgeous, and the winery itself was fantastic looking.

Angie, our tour guide and the person I had been communicating with met us outside. She spead us thru the tour stuff and got us to the tasting. Background here, with the advise of Carol Tillie I really pushed for this place so I was a little scared after we had so much fun at Shramberg. No fear, Angie was great and the wine was better! I loved the lone canyon cab and the limited release syrah. One person in our group was nice enough to tell Angie that she would write a testimonial for Ladera that the Syrah was the best syrah/shiraz she had EVER had. One group buoght a case of Syrah, I joined a club and also sent a magnum of Lone Canyon to a friend, and I beilieve another couple bought 6 syrah and 6 lone canyon and then another couple bought 6-8 more? For us that was a good haul. Angie had set up a spread from Dean and Deluca of sandwiches, salad and roasted potatoes. We opened a couple of our bottles and had an amazing lunch on the ground of ladera. I want to thank Carol Tillie for insisting that I insist on this place. The tour, tasting and the food cost $20 per person. The only reason it was $20 is because of the lunch! I really believe that the free tasting is the way for these wineries to go. I am much more interested in buying a lot of wine if you don't make me pay for a taste. That being said, noone in the group knew that the tasting was free yet, Ladera had the biggest purchase from the people in our group.

Edited by jscarbor (log)
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So glad to know this worked out for you! When I worked there, I was the one who suggested they implement the lunch thing. Up until then, we just did the wine tasting and let people go on their merry way but with the great picnic location under that 100-year old chestnut tree, it seemed a natural and the Dean & Deluca thing is so easy and great to provide. I am pleased they are finally doing it.

Ladera's winemaker is Karen Culler and she is a MASTER of syrah! If you ever see her own label, Culler Syrah, on a wine list, buy it - no questions asked - you will not be disappointed. The Ladera owners realized they should utilize her talents and their syrah is a new one in their offering (I bought a case and it is stunning).

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So glad to know this worked out for you! When I worked there, I was the one who suggested they implement the lunch thing. Up until then, we just did the wine tasting and let people go on their merry way but with the great picnic location under that 100-year old chestnut tree, it seemed a natural and the Dean & Deluca thing is so easy and great to provide. I am pleased they are finally doing it.

Ladera's winemaker is Karen Culler and she is a MASTER of syrah! If you ever see her own label, Culler Syrah, on a wine list, buy it - no questions asked - you will not be disappointed. The Ladera owners realized they should utilize her talents and their syrah is a new one in their offering (I bought a case and it is stunning).

If I could afford it I would buy a case of the Syrah and the Lone Canyon! They are great wines.

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Next tour was to De Dotto or Del Blotto as many people said because of the copius amounts of wine they produce. So we all were a little excited to see just how much wine is poured here. The tasting is $40 per person! However you probably get that and much more in how much wine you drink. This is a drinking place not really a wine place, you go here for the experience. The tour starts off with our pompous little condescending tasting guide who was in his mind the best most knowledgeable guide we could get. I don't think there was one person in our group that liked him. That being said, we decided to take his abuse and condesending attitude and have a good time. We talked about barrells and toasting them. Then we proceeded to go through the candlelit caves with Josh Grobin music and tasted out of 15-16 different barrells. I poured 1/2 out because enough is enough already. About 2/3 the way through the tasting, the guides girlfriend shows up and joins us. Later she mentioned that this guy was acting, he's just an ahole. My wife gave her some advise. Anyway, look, even if he seemed like a prick, you can't let that stop you from having a good time. We all had a blast and we were blasted! We bought a few wines after the tour while drinking more and listening, at that time, to some Doors.

The whole day we had mentioned where we were eating during the trip and EVERY person said that we should go to La Toque. The place was held in high regard with everyone. I felt bad because I had heard many things about the place earlier then something bad from a good source so I dropped our reservation. Anyway, I call that night and got a reservation for party of 8! That should have been a red flag. To say that the meal was a disaster would be innacurate. To say that the place was merely avg and that the bill was about $200 per person is really bad. I had the truffle tasting and those were the most lifeless truffles I have ever had and at $150 it was a complete ripoff! The food was good enough from what the others in the group said but I can say that Martini House and the next nights meal at Pilar were better regardless of price. The night ened with 8 very tired, wine logged people.

More on day 3 later

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FYI - regarding Silver Oak - sounds like you dodged that bullet! For others not so lucky - just know that they don't have a tasting room right now... their normal tasting room is being renovated. They have a fancy trailer for you now (well, not fancy - VERY much a trailer).

Hey, I'm all about the wine - but if I'm paying $20 for a taste, I will NOT taste in a trailer. :laugh:

I love Pride Mountain - great tasting, great location, great wine & one of the best picnic spots in Napa.

One question - I like a little nibble with my tasting. Any great wineries in the Napa/St. Helena/Yountville general region that offer a little nibble with the wine?

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One question - I like a little nibble with my tasting.    Any great wineries in the Napa/St. Helena/Yountville general region that offer a little nibble with the wine?

Peju Province on Hwy 29 between Oakville and Rutherford does food & wine pairings. Also, Swanson Vineyards (website under construction) in Rutherford has a nice sit-down tasting with some cheeses and such. Probably the best one I've had wasn't in the Napa Valley, but over in Healdsburg at J Wiines. Chef Mark Caldwell does a superb job on pairing really creative food with their still and sparkling wines. Also, the salon at Domaine Chandon in Yountville offers appetizers and other goodies with their tastings (for a fee, of course!)

"A census taker once tried to test me. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti."

- Dr. Hannibal Lecter

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FYI - regarding Silver Oak - sounds like you dodged that bullet!  For others not so lucky - just know that they don't have a tasting room right now... their normal tasting room is being renovated.  They have a fancy trailer for you now (well, not fancy - VERY much a trailer). 

Hey, I'm all about the wine - but if I'm paying $20 for a taste, I will NOT taste in a trailer. :laugh:

I love Pride Mountain - great tasting, great location, great wine & one of the best picnic spots in Napa.

One question - I like a little nibble with my tasting.    Any great wineries in the Napa/St. Helena/Yountville general region that offer a little nibble with the wine?

paradux has some nice "nibbles" with their tasting

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Interesting, I go to Peju often (I like their Provence wine) and haven't ever been offered food there. I know they sell an AWESOME cabernet chocolate. Oh my - if you haven't tried it before - please do.

What about Quintessa? I heard that is a good tasting.

I am a club member at Chandon - just tried Etoile restaurant for the first time a couple of weeks ago. I haven't tasted there in a long time though - thanks for the reminder.

I haven't done J Wines yet - although I have a few bottles here now. I will have to check that out. Healdsburg is a simple drive from Napa. I'm going back in March.

I've done Duckhorn (decent wine, horrid experience), but not Paraduxx... thanks for the info.

I'm going to check out Nickel, Etude, Pina, and a few others. Does anyone know if Pahlmeyer does tastings? I had an EXCELLENT bottle of Pahlmeyer Red the other day...

Edited by knoxy (log)
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i will second the j recommendation. . .it's a $20 tasting, but it does come with food, and no appointment or reservation needed (unless you wanted to do the bubble room).

i think you have to make an appointment to do the peju food and wine tasting. i think making an appointment is pretty normal, if i'm correct, for most places that would do a food and wine pairing.

Edited by VenerableBede (log)
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Robert Sinskey (off Silverado Trail) has a full kitchen in the tasting room with a staff chef. Unless the chef has the day off, an array of snacks are served along with their biodynamically produced wines. As for Quintessa, I have a feeling you're paying an extra tax on that tasting to pay for that huge rock wall structure in their driveway. I love the wines of Philippe Melka but Quintessa has never really been on our radar. Search out Seavey for better wines and a much more interesting experience featuring wines from the same maker.

R. Jason Coulston

jason@popcling.com

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Robert Sinskey (off Silverado Trail) has a full kitchen in the tasting room with a staff chef.  Unless the chef has the day off, an array of snacks are served along with their biodynamically produced wines.  As for Quintessa, I have a feeling you're paying an extra tax on that tasting to pay for that huge rock wall structure in their driveway.  I love the wines of Philippe Melka but Quintessa has never really been on our radar.  Search out Seavey for better wines and a much more interesting experience featuring wines from the same maker.

Thanks for the tip.

Sounds like Darioush - who used to have a small shack off Silverado Trail - Cabs were in the low to mid forties at tops - now they are up to $70 a bottle to pay for the tacky ornate building they are in today!

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Sounds like Darioush - who used to have a small shack off Silverado Trail - Cabs were in the low to mid forties at tops - now they are up to $70 a bottle to pay for the tacky ornate building they are in today!

Yeah, the Darioush building is something to be seen for sure. I do love their wines but man are they pricey. The huge fireplaces, modernist furniture, and temple of glass and stainless steel have certainly added to that price tag. We were there in December and even though I love that Cab, they've really turned into a huge touristy kind of joint.

R. Jason Coulston

jason@popcling.com

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I'll third the J recommendation but throw in Mayo which has the BEST deal in town for food and wine tastings; for $20 you get a sit-down experience with seven bites of food and seven tastes. It honestly makes for a complete lunch or light dinner as it includes a sweet bite at the end.

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Saturday was a little lazy, nothing planned except a little shopping in St Helena. Guys decided it would be more fun to get a beer and surprisingly good margarita at a little mexican place on the main street (hwy 29). After a couple drinks the ladies showed up with some minor purchases. We decided to hit Taylors for a burger. Taylors was pretty crowded which isn't very surprising being that the weather was amazing. The menu here is really cool, lots of good sounding semi fast food. I decided to get a burger and some fries and wife decided at last minute to skip the tuna burger and went with a blue burger. The setting is kind of 50's outdoor casual fast food joint. We picked a bench and grabbed a couple beers, my buddy chose the thick stout and I went with a hefweisan, my pick seemed a little more appropriate being that it was nearly 80 degrees but my buddies stout was very good. We waited not long and recvd the food. The burgers here are good, not great but the setting and the company made this an excellent meal.

A couple of people in the group HAD to go to Ledsons so another couple and my wife decided to break off from that group. We didn't want to be antisocial but we also didn't want to sit in the car for gthe hour/hour and half for the trip to Ledson. Being a sat your choices for just stopping by a winery are limited to the ones that are open sat. So, we kind of had to go with what we knew? The sparkling at Shramsbergh got us craving a little bubbly since with the exception of shrams was Red wine. So we thought, chandon. The place looks great but the crowd was crazy, we made a quick uturn ans headed to Robert Sinskey. For some reason we did the tasting but decided to take it outside on the veranda. After we finished our first round a guy came by to pour our next flight and we started talking a little bit. He gave us the wine deal for Sinskey and then we asked about him and it was cool. He brought us a few extras which was nice and I ended up buying the late harvest zinfandel and one of the good pinots they produce.

We headed off to Dariush to check the place out and got sucked into the crap tasting these sorry crooks pour. The wine was avg and the people working were not the most friendly,we slammed our 2nd to pours right there and headed off. It was then I relaized we should just order a bottle at the next place that had a tasting fee. Reguschi is a good winery and the dogs are friendly so we wenbt there and picked up a Cab and went and drank with our friends at a picnic table. We decided to head back to the hotel so that we could get ready for dinner.

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Our last meal of the trip was at Pilar in downtown napa. Its a smallish restaurant next to a stir fry joint and a diner. Pleasent contemorary decor and about 15 tables inside. I brought 1 bottle of Robert Sinskey Pinot wine with me since it was the only wine I had and didn't want to take it on the plane. We ordered a couple more bottles as well and were treated with appropriate stemware for the wines. I started with some oysters with a mignenette on them and while good I really prefer our (texas oysters). I also enjoyed a chili crusted quail as a starter and my wife had an excellent dungeness crab cake wih a lemon aoili. for main I had a pork chop which I asked to be cooked medium but came out medium well. I also had some great roasted fingerlings with the dish. Although my mind is a little fuzzy I remember really liking the dish. My wife had bison steak that was really tasty.

In all everyone enjoyed the food tremendously and really thought that this was the best value of all the meals we had. Martini House meal and Pilar were neck and neck with La Toque falling short.

On the way home our flight was over booked so my wife and I took a bump on next plane and $400 vouchers! Nice. That pays for Park City later this month!

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  • 2 months later...

I'm giving this thread a bump. Good friends are heading to Napa and are wanting good food at decent prices. They're not out for the TFL's and Cyrus's of Napa, rather more casual and cozy bistro-types.

Recommendations?

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