Wine tasting in Napa can be deceptively tricky. Not the drinking part, of course, which awaits you around every vineyard-strewn curve of Highway 29, at peach-hued palatial estates. The art is in planning a day in which you can drink all the velvety cabs and brut sparkling wines you want, without getting sloshed.
This means you need a good lunch in the middle of the day. Preferably one with food as good as the wines, that doesn’t cut into your precious imbibing time with a lengthy formal service. We’re ahead of you—and have already created the perfect such list.
Related: Insider’s Guide to Napa Valley
Those who worship at the altar of French Laundry chef Thomas Keller can taste his famous cooking without the equally famous wait, at Addendum. This is about as casual as it gets in Wine Country. A single take-out window behind his Ad Hoc restaurant serves crispy thyme-and-bay-leaf-infused buttermilk fried chicken with a slice of corn bread, best consumed at a picnic table next to the restaurant’s herb garden.
This newcomer is bringing a French bistro vibe to wine country, but with a noted Napa Valley spin—seen in the “croque Marin,” a croque madame made with millionaire’s bacon. The chef hails from nearby Solage Calistoga, at the property’s Michelin-starred Solbar restaurant. Evangeline is landscaped with rosemary, lavender, and lime trees, with a bit of French Quarter flair and offers mostly patio seating in the garden.
Goose & Gander, St. Helena
The lush garden patio at this public house has been a popular mellow lunch spot for day trippers since it opened a few years ago. But it got another boost this summer, when it lured a Meadowood and French Laundry alum to head the kitchen. Dishes here reflect the surrounding bounty of good, seasonal produce, like shaved and grilled asparagus with salt cod fritters, a poached egg, and trout roe.
Ca’ Momi, Downtown Napa
By harvest season, the doors to Napa’s new Italian osteria will be open and serving perfectly blistered Neapolitan pizzas from the wood-burning oven, imported from Italy. Expect traditional Italian dishes, like fried ox tongue cutlets with balsamic glaze, and antipasti platters with house-made burrata.
More good reads from T+L:
• Worlds Top 50 Hotels
• Food Worth Traveling For: What to Eat and Where to Eat It
• Best Places to Travel in 2015