When you think about Napa Valley—a 30-mile long stretch of temptation roughly 60 miles north of San Francisco—wine naturally comes to mind. But there’s more for oenophiles to taste from this vine-ribbed landscape. From olive oil to organic honey and vinegar, California’s locally grown goods are rich in both flavor and history. Here are some top Napa bites.
Fruits & Nuts
Clif Family Winery co-owners and founders, Gary Erickson and Kit Crawford, launched Gary & Kit’s Napa Valley—locally grown snacks, like fruit and nut blends, that are packaged and available at the winery’s tasting room, Velo Vino, in St. Helena. Unique blends include Sundried Berry & Cherries, Toasted Coconut & Cashews, Smoked Paprika Almonds, and Roasted Pistachio & Almonds ($7). Other visitor favorites include the chocolate-covered almonds.
In St. Helena, the family-run Gott’s Roadside fast food joint (previously called Taylor’s Automatic Refresher) has been serving up mighty meats and shakes to locals for more than half a century. (They also have a location in Napa.) Try its delicious ahi poke crispy tacos ($14)—Hawaiian-style, raw ahi tuna dressed with avocado, cabbage, sesame seeds and spicy mayo—served with a draft beer. The killer onion rings (they’re thick and beer-battered) are a must-have side dish.
With its freshly baked cookies, croissants and macaroons, what’s not to love about the Parisian-style dessert haven Bouchon Bakery in Yountville? Delectable doughnuts are exclusively offered on weekend mornings ($3), as are the chocolate bouchons ($2)—small brownie-like moist treats baked with chocolate chips and dusted with confectioners’ sugar—named for their cork shape.
The Anderson family makes mouthwatering candy at St. Helena’s Woodhouse Chocolate, and they’ve perfected the sweet-and-salty combination. Their rich-and-creamy salted caramels are made with Straus Family Creamery butter from nearby Sonoma, dipped in dark chocolate and then topped, French style, with Fleur de Sel ($10/6 pack). If caramel is not your favorite flavor, there are a slew of other sweet and savory offerings.
Taste some of the best extra-virgin olive oil Napa Valley has to offer in the stunning stone vault of the St. Helena Olive Oil Co.. Must-try options include Pedregal ($16/100 ml), which is mildly bitter, with strong grassy aromas and a peppery finish; Husic Family ($42/375 ml), which smells of fresh-cut grass and parsley; Harris Estate ($16/100 ml), featuring a blast of summer garden aromas, with a creamy, herbaceous flavor; and Stagecoach Italian Blend ($16/100 ml), fruit flavored, with mild bitterness on the finish.
At Round Pond Estate in Rutherford, the team crafts gourmet red wine vinegars using estate-grown grapes. A notable option is the Cabernet-Merlot Blend Vinegar ($18/250 ml), which features robust flavors of dark fruit and a touch of oak, with residual sugar, yet a dry finish.
Goat’s Leap Napa Valley Goat Cheese, richly and carefully crafted from the milk of LaMancha goats, is sold at stores such as Oxbow Cheese Merchant in Napa, Sunshine Market in St. Helena and Cal Mart in Calistoga. In summer months, look for the rare Goat’s Leap Kiku variety, wrapped in a fig leaf macerated in Savignon Blanc, which surprisingly imparts a hint of coconut (approximately $34/lb).
Organic Ice Cream
Find organic Three Twins Ice Cream (pints $5, cones $3.25), made with cream and milk sourced within 17 miles of the company’s stand in Napa’s Oxbow Public Market—the epicenter of Napa’s homegrown, seasonal and sustainable cuisine. Try the Strawberry Je Ne Sais Quoi, made with organic strawberries and balsamic vinegar. Or simply grab a scoop of chocolate or vanilla at the landmark Oakville Grocery in St. Helena.
Marshall’s Farm’s Natural Honey in American Canyon makes honey from apiaries housed at the valley’s leading wineries, the Culinary Institute of America, and The French Laundry’s organic restaurant garden. Try the Napa Valley Wildflower ($12/12 oz) or Honey-So-Fresh ($12.50/8 oz), which is indeed so fresh that it only sells during the week it’s harvested.
Elegant Comfort Food
For the most coveted taste of Napa, head to The French Laundry, Chef Thomas Keller’s three-Michelin-starred restaurant in Yountville. It’s so popular that reservations are taken two months in advance. The daily nine-course chef’s tasting menu ($270) might include Keller’s signature dish, oysters and pearls, or if you’re especially lucky, macaroni and cheese, made with poached lobster and mascarpone cheese.