I recently spent a couple of days in the Napa Valley. As one who doesn’t drink much I turned to other vices to fill my time, shopping and eating — mostly eating. One thing I discovered, there are two sides to the Napa experience — a low end and a high end. I recommend sampling a bit of both.
Eat & Drink:
Oxbow Public Market, 610 & 644 First Street Napa, CA
Thanks to the Oxbow Public Market, it’s easy to have great food at affordable prices in this, the land of very expensive restaurants. I should know, I ate 3 meals here — dinner at Kitchen Door, breakfast at Model Bakery, lunch at Gott’s Roadside — and could have gone back for more quite happily.
Shop: Napa’s second most popular crop . . . olives. There are many olive oil shops, all fancy and expensive but I recommend searching out the Napa Valley Olive Oil Company, 835 Charter Oak Avenue, St. Helena — it’s a little ramshackle of a place at the end of a residential road that will make you feel you have made a wrong turn.
But trust me, inside awaits liquid gold at great prices. They fill the bottles each day by hand (so mind that the caps are screwed on tight before putting in your suitcase). There are also all the fixin’s you need for a picnic and you can do so right outside their door.
The Westin Verasa Napa, 1314 McKinstry Street Napa, CA
With rooms in the mid $200 range it may not be cheap but by Napa standards it’s pretty affordable and offers up fine accommodations. Each room has a full kitchenette, modern bathrooms and comfy beds. There’s free wine tasting and tapas each night in the lobby, a beautiful saline pool and even a 1 star Michelin restaurant on site if you are so inclined. But why with the Oxbow Public Market just down the street within walking distance . . .
Eat & Drink:
The list of high end eating establishments in the Napa Valley is endless and I long to try a few. On this trip, I attend a private dinner party at The Farm. The restaurant is beautiful — rolling landscape, farm style pavilions for drinks and dining, bocce ball courts, a live band — you just want to move in and stay forever (luckily you can, keep reading).
The food was just as beautiful — artfully presented and mostly good. I say mostly because entrees were superb by all accounts (we had the choice of 3: prime filet, sole or duck, which I had and was wonderful) but the deconstructed dessert choices, while beautiful, were not a hit taste-wise. I”ll speak for the summer cherry s’more (shown lower right) that was an odd pairing of sweet and savory, unrecognizable tastes that was just best left uneaten.
I took a little stroll down Main Street, St. Helena – picturesque as can be. I found 3 stand out shops worth a mention:
Martin Showroom, 1350 Main Street
Designer Erin Martin has created an awe-inspiring shop showcasing a minimal assortment of oddities and beautiful things. I’m not sure how much she actually sells here with chandeliers priced at $30,000 (but believe me, it was love at first sight despite the price) and I assumed that her design business supports this showroom, mostly. But you can pick up a coffee table book or set of wine glasses that are beautiful and more affordable souvenirs of your Napa experience.
Flats, 1219-B Main Street — Aptly named for the shoes owner Jan Niemi has made in Tuscany, ballet flats are available in every color from black to tangerine with or without bows and embellishments. A small assortment of clothing and even more multi-hued scarves are also on display.
Woodhouse Chocolate, 1367 Main Street — a high end chocolatier that is elegant as any I have ever seen. In actuality, you can buy yourself a little treat or gift at a reasonable price but as chocolates go, they are on the high end of the spectrum. Even if you’re not in the mood for a chocolate or two, the smell is worthy of stop inside. But careful, it’s intoxicating.
The Carneros Inn, 4048 Sonoma Highway Napa, CA
Thanks to my host’s restaurant choice, I discovered this lovely hotel. A series of rustic farm-style buildings scattered across the grounds housing 3 restaurants (including The Farm), 86 luxury cottages, a spa, pool, market and a rolling landscape that is everything you imagine wine country to possess. The perfect spot for a romantic weekend or I imagine a permanent stay, even, with 2 & 3 bedroom homes on the property as well. Rates from $450.
some photos (4) courtesy The Carneros Inn