Top Winery Restaurants
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.
The opening of Frank Gehry's titanium-jacketed Hotel Marqués de Riscal in the middle of a centuries-old Rioja village put Herederos del Marqués de Riscal winery on the map two years ago. Eat at the starkly urbane restaurant—whitewashed walls, red molded plastic chairs—on the hotel's second floor. Francis Paniego, who earned the nearby Echaurren a Michelin star, has tempered his creative impulses here to cater to a broader clientele.
The nine-course gastronomic menu ($124), which includes delicious curiosities such as pineapple soup and jamón serrano ice cream.
Riojas from three different 1940's vintages (starting at about $718 a bottle) adorn the hefty wine list. Or focus your attention on Riscal's own Barón de Chirel 2001 ($190), a full-throttle red that retains its equilibrium and old-world personality. 1 Calle Torrea, Elciego; 34/94-518-0880; luxurycollection.com; dinner for two $250.
Stellenbosch, South Africa
Tokara Estate, an ultramodern stone- and-glass winery, sits on one of the most spectacular spots in South Africa's Winelands: the top of the mountain pass that separates Stellenbosch from Franschhoek. The wines, notably the flagship red blend, are accomplished and complex. Even better is the cooking of Belgian-trained Etienne Bonthuys at the restaurant, which is part South African, part French, and defiantly original.
Calamari and shredded oxtail braised in red wine with ginger ($14)—Bonthuys's signature dish.
Tokara's list includes nearly every important South African producer. Try the Meerlust Rubicon 1999 ($45), a fully mature Cabernet-based blend with a minerally edge. Helshoogte Pass; 27-21/808-5959; tokara.co.za; dinner for two $80.