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The Best of California Wine Country

where to shop in napa valley

At her eponymous shop, Erika Hills (115 Main St., St. Helena; 707/963-0919) knows better than to tamper with the finish on an 18th-century Venetian mirror. But Hills is free with a brush and milk-based paints when it comes to Austrian-style armoires and Louis XV‚style armchairs in need of embellishment. The icing on the cake: Limoges, Dresden, and Capo di Monte porcelain that seduces decorators from San Francisco to New York.

The ladies who give luncheons load up on Italian ceramics, natural-fiber table linens-- and paper goods in imitation of both at Vanderbilt & Co. (1429 Main St., St. Helena; 707/963-1010).

You'll pay heavenward prices for the clothes in earthy hues at WilkesSport (1219 Main St., St. Helena; 707/963-4323), but the swath you cut through the vineyards will be strictly sophisticated, in that understated wine country way.

Calla Lily (1429 Main St., St. Helena; 707/ 963-8188) stocks ultrafine bed linens from Italy and Ireland. A great find for travelers: the fast-drying Aquis towel, made of a Japanese microfiber that feels like terry but is five times as absorbent.

Coveting the antique corkscrews on view in many a winery?Richard Larson has a good supply at St. Helena Antiques (1231 Main St., St. Helena; 707/963-5878), along with Provençal pottery and other mostly French objets.

At her shop Tapioca Tiger (1224A Adams St., St. Helena; 707/967-0608), Jamie Graff sells charming kids' clothing, handcrafted furniture, bedding, and toys. Her two-year-old son Jackson's favorites are the sand table filled with objects that can be moved by magnets, and the rocking tiger.

Hikers, bikers, and climbers who forget to pack the right layers will be grateful to Sportago (1224 Adams St., St. Helena; 707/963-9042) for stocking the perfect Patagonia shells and Royal Robbins shorts.

For the pet who barks or mews, "What did you bring me?" there is Fideaux (1400 Oak Ave., St. Helena; 707/967-9935). Come home with a rubber animal that quacks or croaks, or a Fideaux futon, made exclusively for the store.

Michael Coon was with Williams-Sonoma for 2 1/2 years; now he's in charge of the Campus Store & Marketplace at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone (2555 Main St., St. Helena; 888/ 424-2433 or 707/967-2309), the place to go for the latest gadgets, the sharpest knives, and the best selection of cookbooks in wine country.

Buried among the drippy, extravagantly sculpted oddities at Hurd Beeswax (707/963-7211) are all sizes of simple beeswax tapers and pillars that can't be beat.

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