This new venue from the team at The Restaurant at Meadowood brings more accessibility without sacrificing the quality for which the original is known. Like the food, the wine program pays homage to Napa’s diverse agricultural community, and is organized by the area’s 16 AVAs. One additional “guest region” is also featured each month.
From the Sommelier: “Our current focus is the appreciation of the Napa Valley and those who work in it. To share the beauty of our land and its microclimates, elevation variances, soil, water, etc. We want people to choose where they want to drink from, rather than just a specific wine. We think this allows us to showcase the geography characteristics of the Napa Valley, which ultimately creates a better understanding and appreciation for our viticulturists, farmers, winemakers and vintners.” —Nathaniel Dorn, The Charter Oak
Dish We Loved: Grilled buttermilk-brined chicken, Napa grape leaves, fresh and dried grapes
What was your vision for Charter Oak?
Hong: At [sister restaurant] Meadowood, it’s three-Michelin-starred, tasting menu only, everything very detailed. Here we wanted to keep that same ethos and integrity, but make it so everybody can enjoy it. It’s hopefully an eating destination, but also a place locals can come back to several times a week with their families. We focus on our garden. We share it with Meadowood, and the goal is taking local, seasonal product and not doing too much to it, getting back to the basics—like cooking over live fire.
What’s your voice on the wine side?
Kasper: The emphasis from day one was to highlight and celebrate Napa Valley as a wine region, where it is, where it’s been and where it’s going. We have a lot of older vintages, a lot by the glass. There are conversations between me and the guests and service staff happening throughout the day.
How do you think about integrating wine into your menu?
Hong: We smoke a lot of our food over wine-soaked Cabernet barrels. Older vines are bundled and used for smoking as well. Everything has a purpose; everything makes sense to where we are. Using something that grows alongside everything else we use from the area makes sense in that way.
What do you see trending in wine?
Kasper: Esoteric, non-interventionist, lighter-bodied reds that aren’t Pinot Noir or Cabernet Sauvignon. We’re having fun playing with different varieties and establishing relationships with vintners like Dirty & Rowdy, Ashes & Diamonds and Keep, who are making fresher, less oaky wines with an emphasis on farming. Keep makes a carbonic Counoise from El Dorado County that’s one of the best riffs on Beaujolais I’ve found. It pairs well with anything we smoke over live fire.
Do you find a difference between what tourists expect and locals expect?
Hong: People just want to be comfortable. They want a restaurant to feel approachable. We’re finding our voice and rhythm alongside the diners. At Meadowood, we’d write interesting and unique verbiage on the menu. There we would say, “freshly dried grapes.” Here, our customers just want to know they’re raisins.