Napa Valley, California
The newest incarnation of the pioneering 30-year-old restaurant at Domaine Chandon is Étoile. Executive chef Christopher Manning cooks with a robust American sensibility, and the occasional French accent. The recently redesigned dining room is formal for the region: jackets and ties are common (though certainly not required). But service is friendly and unintimidating, and the bucolic setting is quintessential Napa.
Manning's pitch-perfect rendition of roast quail with applewood-smoked bacon ($23) is listed as an appetizer, but sized as an entrée.
Few restaurants at Napa wineries feature wines other than their own, but Domaine Chandon is an exception. Still, the best values are Chandon's own releases, notably a smoky Pinot Meunier 2005 ($35), which tastes like a California Pinot Noir that somehow found its way to the Rhône. 1 California Dr., Yountville; 707/204-7529; chandon.com; dinner for two $100.
Okanagan Valley, Canada
It wouldn't be an exaggeration to call the sleek, dramatically located, $35 million palace at the Mission Hill Family Estate—which includes a Chagall tapestry, a 12-story bell tower, and a state-of-the-art kitchen that doubles as a television studio—the centerpiece of the Canadian wine tourism industry. Mission Hill's understated wines rank among the country's best, and the Terrace restaurant (open for lunch May–October and dinner June–August) on the estate's front lawn is one of the most glorious dining experiences around.
Venison carpaccio with arugula, anchovy, and creamy Salt Spring Island cheese ($12)—a finely executed balancing act of singular ingredients, all locally sourced.
Refreshingly crisp Mission Hill Pinot Gris Reserve 2006 ($22). 1730 Mission Hill Rd., Westbank, British Columbia; 250/768-6467; missionhillwinery.com; dinner for two $120.
Palazzo Antinori, the Renaissance palace that has served as headquarters for the Marchesi Antinori winery since the 1500's, shares space on Via Tornabuoni with Prada, Versace, and Armani. So it's no surprise that the upscale Cantinetta Antinori serves elaborate regional dishes and some of Tuscany's best biscotti. But the real gem of the compound is Buca Lapi, an unpretentious restaurant with a vague connection to the winery and the finest steak in Florence. Located in the basement of the same building, the vaulted room was once used to age Antinori wines.
The bistecca chianina ($102 for two, at Buca Lapi), a cut of exquisite Italian grass-fed beef, grilled rare.
Solaia 2004 ($165), a Cabernet-Sangiovese blend built on a grand scale and sold at prices lower than in the United States. Cantinetta Antinori, 3 Piazza Antinori; 39-055/292-234, dinner for two $104. Buca Lapi, 1R Via del Trebbio; 39-055/213-768, dinner for two $132.