Yountville, thanks to its fabulous “restaurant row,” is a tourist magnet, especially during the summer months when visitors flock to Napa Valley to enjoy the region’s food, cultural offerings, scenery and, of course, the wine. To help ensure you’ll have a haute time when you visit Napa’s culinary capital, we’ve rounded up 15 secrets from Yountville insiders to give some in ho, the scenery and the food. If you want to do Yountville like a local, here are a few insider tips.
Hill Family Estate Winery’s Secret Garden tour is an exploration of Jacobsen Orchards, an idyllic, 1.3 acre oasis hidden smack in the middle of a residential community, about 5 minutes from the Hill Family Estate tasting room in downtown Yountville. The verdant plot brims with more than 120 different kinds of fruit trees and dozens of other unusual fruits, plus hundreds of vegetables, herbs and culinary flowers. You’ll also discover pineapple guava blossoms, miniature white strawberries and of course free-range, farm raised certified organic snails that are used by The French Laundry restaurant for escargot.
Kick back: Taste wine with whoever’s gathered around the fire pit at Ma(i)sonry, an art, design and wine gallery. If you’d like, Ma(i)sonry’s personal shopping assistants will help you select art, objets curieux or a very special wine to take home.
Work out, then indulge: Bike through the vineyards then spread out a picnic in The French Laundry garden (it’s open to the public!) and dig into the world’s best jelly donut from Bouchon Bakery for dessert.
After your spa treatment at Spa Villagio, savor a creamy, dreamy Meyer lemon curd tart at afternoon tea. Chefs on the Estate harvest Meyer lemons in winter and stir up fresh, house-made batches of lemon curd to enjoy all year long.
Join a small, intrepid group to train your minds and palates with the help of fresh fruit, herbs, and other delectables and guided by the winemaker at Bell Cellars. You are guaranteed to savor the preferred drink of Bacchus in a way that you never have before.
Chef Richard Reddington of Redd and Redd-Wood is mad for fermentation! He house-ferments vegetables from the garden, cures his own meats and makes more than a dozen kinds of sausages and charcuterie, including breakfast sausage spiked with maple syrup, and his own, mouth-watering Italian-style cotechino.
Pictures of Chef Victor Scargle’s Brussels sprout plants could very well be the most-Tweeted image from Lucy’s Restaurant. Take a saunter through the Romanesco, broccoli cheddar cauliflower and violet broccaflower. If you book a garden party at Lucy, Chef Scargle himself will be your host.
Michelin starred chef-spottings: Pancha’s is Yountville’s only true dive bar, family-owned and operated for decades, offering cheap drinks and pool tables. It’s a great spot to rub elbows with local chefs and vintners after hours. Just head through the vintage hitching posts out front.
Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc restaurant offers visitors a four-course fixed-price menu that changes daily ($52). Those in the know sit at the bar and can order the dishes they desire—one or all–a la carte.
Photo Credit: Tubay Yabut Photography
Sweet! Marvel at the “chocolate bar wall” at Kollar Chocolates while nibbling on a signature Fennel Pollen truffle—a confection inspired by chocolatier Kollar’s passion for cycling. To help bolster flagging muscles, Kollar has been known to chew on fennel pollen that grows wild along the backroads. The idea for fennel pollen truffles was not far behind. Or try locally grown cape gooseberries dipped in dark chocolate–another only-in-Yountville sweet and tangy bite.
The owner of Hestan Vineyards is also the CEO of the second largest cookware producer in the world, including the artisanal Ruffoni factory outside of Milan. In the tasting room, Hestan showcases the largest selection of the Ruffoni copper cookware in the US, including a gorgeous copper and porcelain Fondue Set.
When enjoying the five-course tasting menu at Redd Napa Valley—surprise! Half the diners at the table will be served one fabulous dish and the others receives something different, so you actually get to taste 10 courses over the course of the meal. This makes for great table conversation.
Sip North Block Hotel’s traditional welcome drink from the vintage bar cart in the lobby. We love the irreverent “Betty Ford Clinic” cocktail napkins.
Cool Americana tidbits from Goosecross Winery: The winery’s owner is a fifth-generation Coors Brewing Company family member; Marketing guru Seth Godin is a Goosecross wine club member; check out the shadowbox display of Wappo Indian arrowheads, spears and an ax head that were unearthed when the estate vineyard was planted.
Last but not least is the new year-long “Taste Life Here” Wine Tasting Passport Program that allows you to save money when you go wine tasting in Yountville. The program, which began July 1, allows oenophiles to pay $59 to receive one tasting at each of the six participating Yountville wineries:
Jessup Cellars, Priest Ranch, Cornerstone Cellars, Hill Family Estate, Hope & Grace and Hestan Vineyards. Tasters who visit all six Yountville wineries will be automatically entered into a drawing for a chance to win a two-night stay at Yountville’s Napa Valley Lodge or the Napa Hilton Garden Inn. The $59 price represents a significant discount — roughly saving passport holders 55% off regular tasting room prices. If you buy a passport before Aug. 1, you’ll qualify for the Early Bird Special and receive an additional $10 off the Passport Program. To purchase tickets, visit www.yountville.com/passport.