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Oct 3, 2013 06:32 PM

Opinions on Napa itinerary for late October- restaurants and smaller wineries

Hello Everyone!
I have been pouring over all of the various threads regarding Napa Valley trips, and would love to have your feedback. My winery choices are based upon the chowhound threads and recommendations from a good friend of ours who has spent a decent amount of time in the valley. Note: we will be there in conjunction with a conference, and so will not be free until the afternoon (I do have one day free without my husband). We will be staying in Napa.

Tues: get in in the late afternoon (probably not until around 5pm), so I'm not planning anything. Probably doing a few tasting salons in Napa as time allows and eating at Oxbow Market

Wed (finish around 5:30pm): will try and hit Vinters Collective and/or Back Room. Or maybe Trinitas since it's connected to our hotel and we are curious about their Amarone.
**Dinner at ZuZu (is this a waste of our time?)

Thurs (finish around 3:30): stop by Patz Hall for Pinots
**listen to music and taste at Uncorked at Oxbow
**9pm dinner at Press

Fri (finish at 12:30): 1.45pm tasting at Corison
**3pm tasting at Spring Mountain Vineyard
**7:30pm dinner at Goose and Gander

Sat (finish at noon): 2pm Terra Valentin short tasting
**3pm Smith-Madrone
**make our way back to SF for flight next morning.

Would love your opinions. I chose Press because my husband loves a good steak more than about anything else, and he rarely gets to indulge. I haven't really seen much about it on the boards. As far as wines go, we're all over the map: we like dry whites and bubblies, all the way to big cabs. Amarone is kind of an anomaly for us, as we tend to stay away from sweeter wines except for the occasional dessert wine (see below).

As an aside, on my free day, I'm planning on going to Schaumberg and Casa Nuestra (I love a dessert wine they make, and am curious about the rest of their portfolio). Do any of you have recommendations for breakfast/lunch places that are especially good for solo diners? I have no problems eating on my own.

Thanks in advance for your thoughts!

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  1. Wednesday - Zuzu is NOT a waste of time. It has been a locals and visitor's favorite for over a decade.

    Thursday - Okay, I get why you want a steak so I suppose Press will do. We don't talk about it much on the boards because most of us think there are far more interesting things to full our bellies with than just pure grilled meat (or, we can do that easily enough at home). But I get why he would want it, even if it will cost you a ton of money. ($60 to $70 just seems excessive to me and you still have order side dishes!)

    Friday - Goose & Gander is a great choice. And I love both Corison and Spring Mountain.

    Saturday - Consider eating in Napa on Saturday since your flight isn't until the next morning.

    Breakfasts: Boon Fly in Carneros is a consistent favorite. It offers more substantial breakfasts that will fill you until dinner. For something more interest and smaller, consider Napa Valley Biscuits on Main Street.

    I have eaten at every restaurant in the Napa valley as a solo diner and my favorites remain Grace's Table for their happy hour (lots of small plates at half price), Oxbow (specifically, the chowder and grilled cheese at Hog Island), Zuzu (again, small plates are nice for me), or the counter at Bouchon (I like the saffron mussels).

    I like Casa Nuestra for offering very different varietals and if you are a fan of sweet wines, you should also consider Praeger Portworks.

    7 Replies
    1. re: CarrieWas218

      Thanks, Carrie.

      Sorry- I was editing and meant to question Trinitas winery- not ZuZu. We are big fans of tapas, and their menu looks great.
      With regards to Press, I'm only set on it if it's a truly special experience for a meat eater. Ex: when we were in Italy a few years ago, one of my husband's most memorable meals was a florentine steak prepared perfectly at a locals trattoria. I realize that Press is far from that, but if it's of the same kind of quality, I'm willing to fork out the money. If, however, it's just a glorified Ruth's Chris, or something that we can easily create with a good steak on our grill at home, I'd pass.

      Thank you for your other recommendations- I'll check them out!

      1. re: mandafire

        I love Press. I love the cowboy steak, their spinach, potatoes roasted in duck fat, truffled mac 'n' cheese, and wine list. I love the ambience, the whole swanky experience. I was glad to see you mention it.

        1. re: maria lorraine

          Thanks for the input, Maria. We'll stick with it then, and can glory in the beef for a night. Do y'all think I have any misses with the vineyards? I tried to get into Shafer, and they were already booked out. Any no-miss tasting rooms/salons in Napa? I realize we don't have much time for on-vineyard tastings.

          1. re: mandafire

            Sorry to be so late to report back!
            Restaurants we went to:
            Press: My husband had the mixed grill where they did three different filets- american prime, wagu, and piedmont-style. While it was crazy expensive (and, in all honesty, overpriced), it was a unique opportunity to taste them back to back. My food was very good as well. Glad we went, but we don't feel the need to go back. The ambience was indeed swanky yet comfortable. Good service overall, including a very helpful sommelier.
            Goose and Gander: good cocktails and food. Didn't "wow" us, but we enjoyed it. Wouldn't feel the need to go back.
            ZuZu: we loved our meal here. Would return.
            Gott's Roadside: tasty burgers, good in-between tastings in the St. Helena area. Would return
            Oxbow Market: Ate lunch at C Casa. Tacos and salads were great. Would return. Model Bakery was good, but what I had was not particularly special.
            Bouchon: had a nice light lunch here, and was really, really good. Would return.
            I tried to go to Napa Valley Biscuits, but it was unfortunately closed. Argh!

            For winery tastings, we ended up at
            Casa Nuestra: great. Tasting was informative, enjoyable, and very relaxed.
            Corison: did the library tasting. Very good wines and knowledgeable staff.
            Terra Valentine: Beautiful grounds, but so-so wines and not terribly informative wine tasting.
            Smith-Madrone: We really liked the wines and the overall experience with Stu- he was a hoot.
            Spring Mountain Vineyard: hit all the notes- beautiful grounds, knowledgeable and friendly staff. Very fun tasting.

            Thanks for the recommendations. We are eagerly awaiting our next trip to the valley- there were too many things to see during this short trip!

            1. re: mandafire

              I was in a bit of a rush when I wrote my update. I'll give more information so the review can be of more help to others.

              Press: Cocktails were great, and, as mentioned above, the sommelier was very helpful. I had oysters to begin (both raw and Rockefeller), and both were good. My husband and I then both had a salad, and they were excellent. Very fresh, not overdressed, and quite large (but not heavy). I followed it with their soup of the day, which was a carrot and chestnut, I believe. It was very good, and not too heavy. My husband's mixed grill is detailed above. All in all, we were glad we went there once for the whole experience, but won't feel the need to return upon our next trip.

              Goose and Gander: I think part of our experience was colored by being seated next to the entrance- constant cold air and loud people coming in. The cocktail list was interesting and extensive, but the food wasn't anything special by my memory (I actually don't remember what I had), but my husband did enjoy his bone marrow dish. We could stop by for drinks and/or desserts (we didn't try them when we went in), but won't have a full meal there.

              Gotts: I had the turkey burger, and my husband had a cheeseburger. Really good and convenient location (we went to the St. Helena location)- and great to soak up the alcohol in-between tastings.

              ZuZu- we had too many tapas to remember, but everything was great. Service was also very good, and they had some interesting wines by the glass. We'll be back.

              Bouchon: I had a solo lunch here. Special soup and seafood of the day. Service was friendly, and food was great. Recommended white went beautifully with my meal. I'll be back with husband in tow.

              C Casa in Oxbow- we really enjoyed the tacos and salads- but they were big! Fresh, simple and tasty. I also enjoyed their granola and Mexican coffee for breakfast. Will return.
              We'd love to try more things in the market- just didn't have time this trip.

              Thanks again for your help, Maria and Carrie!

              1. re: mandafire

                Thank you for reporting back! It's really helpful.

                1. re: mandafire

                  I totally get what you are saying about Goose & Gander. My best meals there have been in the bar, alone, and with a cocktail; just a quick bite or two without the prevention of a full waiter or the bustle of a door.