Eat + Drink: St. Helena

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Napa Valley’s St. Helena is a food and drink mecca. Here’s 7 of our favorite ways to indulge when we’re in town:

#1: Small Winery Haven at Acme Fine Wines

Karen at Acme Fine Wines has assembled a veritable Justice League of small production and hard-to-find wine labels in a stylish downtown showroom. Let her play matchmaker as she scans her wall of wines for something to fit your taste. Prices range from everyday friendly to once-in-a-lifetime splurge. It’s not a tasting room, but she’ll happily pour you a sip of whatever is open. Our favorite detail? The vintage Coke machine secretly stocked with beers & Pellegrino.

#2: Wine + Cheese Pairing at Terra Valentine

Wine tasting in Napa sometimes feels as if it’s lost its way. Exorbitant tasting fees, tacky logo glasses, and wine club pitches can weigh on the soul. Yet, there still exist tasting rooms that will restore your faith in the experience. Small-production Terra Valentine is one of them. After winding 2000 feet up scenic Spring Mountain Road, you’ll arrive at a monastic stone structure replete with stained glass windows and towering copper-clad doors. You are welcomed not by monks, but by a host with a genuine smile and a glass of Sauvignon Blanc. You’ll be seated around a dining table in a room that resembles Colonel Mustard’s study as you are guided through a proper tasting. Cabs are king in Napa, and these estate mountain-grown samples are excellent primers. A fresh cheese plate and warm hosts compliment the experience perfectly.

#3: The Burger at Farmstead

Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch is Wine Country distilled. It sits on picturesque grounds that include a wine and olive oil tasting room, farmers’ market, and vegetable garden. The style is modern but the vibe is as relaxed as the organic kale swaying in the breeze. Choose from numerous spots to lounge al fresco or dine inside the gorgeous dining room with its barn-meets-Dwell-magazine interior. Long Meadow Ranch raises its own grass-fed beef which may explain why their burger is so ridiculously good. A sneaky ras el hanout spice blend gives it a smoky, succulent beefiness that is utterly addicting.

#4: Giugni Sauce on a sandwich at Giugni WF & Son Grocery Co

Giugni W F & Son Grocery Co is the perfect antidote to the chi-chi. Suspended packs of salami, a large USA flag and faded posters from pop culture’s past set the stage for classic Italian-American deli fare. Sandwiches come on a variety of breads and are enlivened by their rightfully famous vinaigrette, Giungi Sauce. Pack it up for your next winery stop or grab one of the benches that line lively Main Street.

#5: Retro Elegance at Cook

Cook is a chic bolt-hole that retains the soul and simplicity of the former diner it’s housed in. A vintage counter that’s been refurbished and topped with marble lends style and charm. Modern ceiling fans sway overhead. The Cal-Italian cuisine echoes the interior: clean, rich and refined. Petite and sophisticated, it’s the Audrey Tautou of downtown restaurants.

#6: Transcendant Cocktails at Goose & Gander

When they successfully clone the human genome, Scott Beattie at Goose and Gander should be on the shortlist of folks that gets the call. Yep, he’s a gifted mixologist but he’s also a damn good bartender. That means he keeps the cozy downstairs bar humming, making sure everyone is taken care of and is having a good time. On our visit, we saw him pour a glass of wine 5 seconds before the intended regular even walked through the door. His cocktails are seasonal, fragrant and transcendent. The bar top resembles a mini florist stand from which he plucks tiny blooms to adorn your drink. Just outside is a secluded garden that offers dreamy al fresco dining under strewn lights.

#7: Tacos + Tequila at La Condesa

La Condesa adds a dose of fashion and swagger to Main Street. We love the decor: a hip mix of kitsch and modernism that sets a festive tone for the contemporary Mexican take on Wine Country cuisine. Dinner wows with smoky oak-grilled squash tacos, luscious yellowfin tostaditos, and an artful watermelon salad spiked with agave-mescal tomatillos and peach-chile puree. Sample their awesome tequila and mezcal collection with a flight or a pitch-perfect margarita that refreshes the palate after a day of wine tasting. Just save room for their selection of blissful housemade ice cream. Your best bet: pick two, then order three.

This post is a modified version of an article that was originally published in Marina Times, September 2013.
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  1. Super great coverage of St. Helena, Garrick! I’m due for a trip myself. I’m going to check out your article now:)

    • Thanks, Leslie. I really appreciate that. It was a quick trip, but staying downtown made it easy to check out a number of places…and indulge in wine and not worry about driving!

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