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Long Napa Weekend

  • j

Philly Hound and wife coming to Napa. We're staying at Meadowood in St. Helena for 4 days, first weekend in September. On my radar right now are Cyrus and Zin for dinner, Taylor's Refresher for lunch. How about Bouchon? A previous post mentioned Cheese Shop in Healdsburg for creating a picnic.

Am I heading down a good path?

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  1. You are a pretty good drive from Healdsburg for dinners, it will be a long drive back to Meadowood so you'll have to be careful about wine consumption. We had friends who ate at Cyrus and thought it was outstanding. Have only had lunch at Zin but enjoyed it. Still, you might want to check it out on the map. Remember, there are no turnpikes, just roads with lots of curves between there and your lodging.

    Taylor's is great, especially this time of the year when it's so pretty outside. We always enjoy lunch at Bistro Jeanty in Yountville. Bouchon is also very good especially if you like raw oysters. They have a great raw bar and excellent pomme frites. I'm sure someone will mention the fois gras also.

    You might want to have dinner one night at Meadowood. They just reopened their dining room after being closed for 3 years. We ate there before it was closed, sat on the porch and had a delightful evening.

    If you deciide to not go to dinner in Healdsburg, there are a number of excellent places in Napa Valley.

    Do you have wineries picked out? If not, I'll be glad to give some fun, not touristy recommendations in Napa.

    Have a wonderful time. You picked an outstanding place to stay in Meadowood.

    2 Replies
    1. re: rtmonty

      I don't have any wineries picked out yet. Your suggestions are greatly appreciated!

      1. re: rtmonty

        Good news that the dining room at Meadowood is open again. What was the food like? I'm a big fan of the chef.

        I wouldn't drive to from Meadowood to Healdsburg when there are lots of great restaurants in the Napa Valley. Napa proper, Yountville and St. Helena all have a plethora of choices.

      2. I agree with being careful on the drive home from Healdsburg --Highway 128 is full of curves.

        Bouchon is a wonderful brasserie with an excellent raw bar
        and French country food. It's in Yountville, as is Bistro Jeanty -- very French and lovely, intimate, with one of the greatest tarte tatins I've ever had.

        The green pastoral Napa Valley doesn't really begin till Yountville, so you may want to concentrate on Yountville and north.

        Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen is very good in St. Helena, where
        Meadowood is, and I can't say enough good things about Terra -- probably my favorite all-time restaurant in Napa Valley.

        Sad to say, Market is not such a good idea anymore, though it used to be quite good. Ditto for Tra Vigne.

        Don Giovanni, the Italian restaurant at the north end of the city of Napa, is really good -- I've eaten there 30 times and have never had a bad meal.

        I don't know how good the new Meadowood restaurant will be -- they've always had problems with their food there -- surprising for a relais et chateau calibre of hotel.

        There are many posts about Napa Valley on Chowhound...check those out. Also, Meadowood can help you with your wine visits,
        and it has excellent hiking trails on the property to burn up some of those calories!

        have a lovely visit...

        1. Yes, it would be pretty ambitious, and perhaps not wise, to drive to Healdsburg for dinner from Meadowood, assuming you don't know the roads and are coming to enjoy the wine.

          Good Napa Co. recommendations from others and I'd add Martini House in St. Helena. Taylor's is fun - if overpriced - for lunch but also consider it for dinner on a warm night if you've had a long tiring day of wine tasting and can't bring yourselves to dress and eat a fancy meal. Try the sweet potato fries.

          For a picnic, you could get prepared food or sandwiches at Bouchon Bakery (warning - the pastries can be unacceptably inconsistant), or put together a marvelous picnic at Sunshine Market in St Helena. We had a great "picnic" a while back at Hall winery, which is on 29 near Press and Dean & Deluca. I think you'd have to call ahead to request it, maybe not - would have to buy a bottle. Popular with tourists, but they have a really pleasant gravel terrace/patio where you picnic at tables in the shade of plane trees.

          Edited to add: Oops, I'm sure Meadowood has a gazillion gorgeous spots to picnic. Enjoy your trip and please report back!

          1. We like the following: Cliff Lede Winery, Miner Family, Robert Sinskey, Frank Family, Rutherford Grove, Laird Family.

            If you go north of Calistoga, there is Benett Family, Calistoga Cellars, Summers and Vincent Arroy, all of which are very good producers, small, not big tourist attractions. Head back down the Silverado Trail and you'll run into August Briggs, excellent small producer.

            Other good ones are Elyse, Haven's, Arger-Martucchi and Stelzner.

            That should get you started. Have a great time.

            1 Reply
            1. re: rtmonty

              Just a quick correction: It's Vincent Arroyo - this is a small winery on Silverado Trail right outside of Calistoga - if you're a big red fan, this is THE place.

            2. There's an intriguing thread in another food forum about Pilar in Napa. The restaurant website is http://www.pilarnapa.com/. I've never been, but I'd love to hear some chowhound opinions on it. I love tiny, chef-driven restaurants and Pilar sounds like the real deal.

              Edited to add that I heartily second the recommendations for Bouchon and Bistro Jeanty.

              2 Replies
              1. re: urseberry

                It is the real deal. Every visit we've made to Pilar has been excellent. The dining room is crowded, but once you settle in it feels comfortable. Only complaint is the service can be a bit cold. I still fondly remember the rabbit with spaetzle I had there over a year ago. Most recently, a week or so ago, we walked in around 8 on a Saturday night for a light, late dinner and were seated immediately. I had grilled radicchio salad which is just the perfect warm combination of bitter radicchio, sour balsamic, and sweet dried figs (other times it is dried cherries). I followed that with the sardine appetizer - two rich lemony fish with a side of refreshing shaved fennel with mint. Highly recommended.

                1. re: urseberry

                  Had a faultless grilled quail salad at Pilar in June, here's my post with a photo -

                2. Go to Terra!

                  You simply MUST go to Terra!

                  And if eel is anywhere on the menu I suggest you order it. Hiro Sone is a master.

                  1. I live in Napa, and would never consider driving to Healdsburg for dinner...at minimum 1 hour, likely more like 1.5-2 depending on how you go...also, frankly, there is really no reason to make a special trip when so much in napa local. Ill add a few more "local" spots. Zinsvalley, Angele, Uva Trattoria, General store for lunch (actually one of my favs for cheap good food), Boonefly Cafe at the carneros inn (again, a huge personal favorite..especially for breakfast), Rutherford grille (yeah, its houstons, but you cant beat it in the area for the $). Cindys is not bad as mentioned, recently though ive been diasppointed on several visits to Martini House, Tra Vigne is pretty much only for tourists these days...though their pizzaria a block down is quite good. Id also suggest the bar patio at Auberge...its a lot cheaper then the restaurant proper, has a nice lunch menu and killer views.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: naparover

                      Could you elaborate on what's been disappointing lately at Martini House?

                      1. re: RWCFoodie

                        forgot about Gordons...yumm.
                        Martini house, great room. First experience a few years ago was one of the best ever...anywhere. amazing wine program and director...great service, all wine was decanted..no bottles on tables. nice touch. food was simple, but really amazing. The last few times, service has been much less "slick", decanting no more, food has been OK, but nothing memorable (except mushrooms which seem to pervade every single thing there). Borderline rude service in the bar downstairs on a few occasions. Its still the prettiest place here to me...but I wish the service level matched the price level. The food is admittedly more my issue, as Chef Humphries menu and taste doesnt give with mine. If you go, go at night...there is a magic to the place that is completely missing at lunch. my POV anyway.

                    2. Gordon's Cafe and Wine Bar, 6770 Washington St. at Madison St, Yountville. 707-944-8246. Open for breakfast daily from 7:30 am. Love this place.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: judge dee

                        Gordon's chef has left to purchase and run Napa's Foothill Cafe.

                      2. Please do not attempt to drive to Healdsburg for dinner and back to Meadowood. If you must go to Healdsburg go mid-day!!!!

                        1. What about Redd in Yountville...

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: chr

                            I just went for lunch--The food was interesting-(Halibut saltimbocca)but the interior was FULL OF FLIES It was off-putting. The food wasn't good enough that I would recommend returning--Had terrific dinners at Martini House and Terra--Bouchon was a lot of fun--and they were very sweet in coming us with h'or d'oerves when they couldn't seat us on time.

                            1. re: lparis

                              It's so interesting to me to read such lovely things about Bouchon - last year we spent a couple of days in the Napa Valley and one of the dinners was at Bouchon. From the minute we walked in the door we got nothing but major negative ATTITUDE - from the "hostess" who looked down her nose at us and did us a favor by seating us (we had an Open Table res) to the server who was so impressed with himself that he acted as though he could barely stand to lower himself to "serve" us... The food we were served was lovely and delicious but the vibe was so bad that I vowed never to return... The night before dinner was at Martini House and it couldn't have been lovelier. Apparently something has changed there which disappoints me...

                            2. re: chr

                              I read the below reply - how disappointing! I actually had one of the best meals I have EVER had at Redd. It was awesome!

                            3. If you insist on going to Cyrus, maybe you can hire a car service? The concierge at Meadowood should be able to set you up. That is a pretty harrowing drive at night - add a few glasses of wine AND the deer, and you're asking for trouble. With someone else driving you can enjoy your meal and your ride in safety.

                              1. I am a bit out of date on restaurant recommendations, but I can recommend some wineries. Most of the good "nontouristy" ones are on the Silverado Trail, rather than 29. I like Pine Ridge, Rombauer, Robert Sinskey, Conn Creek and Dutch Henry - napavinters.com has a map on their website.

                                Some of the touristy ones are also worth a stop. If it's your first trip to Napa you might consider Mondavi, Coppola, Opus One, Silver Oak, Domaine Chandon and Silverado (you ride a sky car to get there). If you have time you might also check out Schramsberg and Duckhorn - which require appts for tastings.

                                As far as eating, I am surprised no-one recommended the Oakville Grocery or Dean and Deluca for picnic stuff - both are right on 29 and have good snacks, etc. I also used to really like to stay at the Mt. View Hotel in Calistoga and eat at their restaurant - Catahoula, but it has been replaced by Stomp. The new restaurant has good reviews and might be worth looking into - maybe someone else can comment. I like the atmophere in Calistoga because it's a little more laid back than fancy schmancy St. Helena. I have eaten at Bouchon and it was ok, but nothing exciting. You might want to try for a last minute cancellation at the French Laundry. I would also try the Martini House if I were going, for what that's worth. Avoid Tra Vigne, but Tomatina (it's little sister) is good for lunch or a casual dinner (it's cheap). I'm also not a fan of Rutherford Grill or Mustards.

                                The mud baths in Calistoga are also fun if you have time (go to the Indian Springs spa.) Just north of Calistoga is a geyser which is sort of a quirky tourist attraction. There's also the Copia Wine and Food Center in Napa proper, which I have not been to - maybe someone else can say whether it's worth a visit. You might want to stop at the Culinary Institute at Greystone. I used to like their restaurant, but I have heard it has gone down hill. They have a gift shop with CIA merhandise, etc. (Culinary Institute of America). Needless to say, do not go on the wine train. I went with a friend on a freebie and it was terrible.

                                Healdsburg is a good day trip, but it's too far for dinner. You could drive up 128 and come back down through Sonoma - then across 12, making a loop. You can also come across the Oakville Grade as long as your companions don't get carsick.

                                If you are going on Labor Day weekend, be prepared to fight the crowds. The valley is busy anytime during the summer, but that weekend will be terrible. Make sure you have reservations for everywhere you want to eat (even for lunch) and avoid driving through St. Helena on 29 as the traffic will be extremely slow. Also, remember that wineries close about 4 PM - you will probably only make it to about three or four per day, even if you hustle.

                                Have fun!


                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Alice Q

                                  Update to my post above - Stomp has closed, and I highly highly recommend Taylor's Refresher on 29 for a good but low key low stress meal. We also really enjoyed Domaine Carneros Taittinger on a recent trip, so much so we joined their wine club. They have a nice terrace for tasting where you can sit and order snacks with your champagne or pinot tasting.

                                2. One winery I would recommend for the "wow" factor and for premium cabs is Jarvis. Their entire operation is housed in these massive caves, and it's quite spectacular. An underground spring feeds a waterfall and stream that runs through the middle, and the tasting room is very elegant & special. It's up on Atlas Peak Rd. off of Silverado trail, and the crowds should not be an issue. Reservations are required, and the $20-30 tasting fee is steep, but it helps keeps the throngs at bay. IIRC, fees can be applied to purchases at the end of the tour.


                                  Other more off-the-beaten-path wineries I'd recommend:
                                  Hess Collection - extensive modern art gallery
                                  Stag's leap, Pine Ridge, Sinskey - all easily reached on Silverado Trail

                                  Napa Wine Co. - not a winery tour, but one of the best tasting rooms in the valley - they are a cooperative crush facility & tasting room for the smaller boutique & family wineries in the area. They bill themselves as "cult wine central," if you're into that kind of thing. Heidi Barrett (of Screaming Eagle fame) bottles her La Sirena there. They are in Oakville, just at the southeast corner on Highway 29. Beware traffic, though - access it by going up/down Silverado Trail and take the Oakville cross West to the intersection at highway 29.

                                  Have a great time!

                                  1. My wife and I are just back from our long weekend, we want to pack up the dog and head back out! We had a great time, thanks to everyone for your recommendations. Here's how it went:

                                    On the way out to Napa, In-n-Out burger. Not adventurous chow, but for an east coaster, it was great chain fast food. Fries have that snap/crunch, burger was also very good.
                                    Stayed first night in Sonoma, ate at Maya in the little downtown area. It was okay, butternut squash raviolis with brown butter and fried sage were pretty good.

                                    Next morning was a highlight, you all are blessed with GREAT bakeries. The boulangerie on the square (Basque?) had really good coffee and a cherry chocolate chip muffin that was awesome.
                                    Then off to Napa. Wineries day 1 included Pine Ridge, Sinskey, and Silver Oak. Pine Ridge and Sinskey were winners, Silver Oak seemed like a place you would like if you drive a hummer.
                                    Lunch was Taylor's. Let's just say I'm smitten. I had the patty melt (burger, grilled onions, sauce on rye) and garlic fries. The fries were a bit over the top on garlic, but they were good.
                                    Dinner was Bouchon. Probably the best thing I ate over the weekend was the heirloom tomato gazpacho- it wasn't jalapeno, it wasn't garlic, it was TOMATO. I paid $25 for mussels with a few flecks of saffron and fries. Hard to complain b/c I ordered them, but still ridiculous. Also, I think they have an issue with service, I've seen it in other posts and it hit us too, our meals delivered to the wrong table and a few other things, probably should have done Bistro Jeanty.

                                    Did breakfast at Model Bakery in St. Helena, again, really good pastries, pretty good coffee.
                                    Wineries-Chappelet, Cliff Lede, Doulerouche (I mangled that spelling).
                                    For lunch...Taylor's! Wife had the fish tacos, we also ate the calamari and a bacon cheeseburger. Like I said, smitten.
                                    Dinner was at Terra. Thank you for the recommendation, it was really wonderful. A seafood trio appetizer that included Sardines, strip steak, yummy cheese plate with Mt. Tam and a few others that were very good.
                                    We did a picnic at Joseph Phelps the next day, with goods from Oakville Grocery. A couple other wineries with really tasty stuff - Frank Family and Rombauer, both were alot of fun also.
                                    All in all, a great trip, with a huge thank you to the Bay area hounds!

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: JCap

                                      Sounds like a wonderful trip - thanks for the report!!

                                    2. Thanks for taking the time to report back, so few people do and it helps making recs on the board.

                                      You might just have pushed me into finally trying Taylors. It doesn't often get enthusiastic reports, nothing bad, but not enough to make it a high priority for me ... however, praise from an East Coaster for a patty melt ... that has me interested.

                                      I've never heard much positive about Maya and a while back there was talk they were going to close, but I guess that was just talk.

                                      Glad you enjoyed the trip.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: rworange

                                        Maya was decent, probably wouldn't go back, definitely not transcendent. As for Taylor's, if you're do a couple of morning tastings, there's not much better to soak up the wine.

                                      2. I always look forward to "reports back" on recs. Thanks! I will hit Taylor's the next time I am in Napa County.