Enjoy a visit to the New Napa with guest contributor Margaret Ryan, a San Francisco-based marketing strategist. Follow Margaret on Twitter: twitter.com/MargaretRyan
If you haven’t visited Napa recently, prepare to be delighted. The city’s downtown district is experiencing a renaissance, boasting many exquisite new restaurants and specialty food and wine retailers and an under-the-radar winery district ripe for discovery. In the December issue of WOW Travel, the online luxury and lifestyle magazine, wine sommelier and Meteor Vineyard Manager Jason Alexander shares his favorites spots in the new Napa.
Begin your day at Ritual Coffee Roasters in the Oxbow Public Market (610 and 644 First Street, Napa; www.oxbowpublicmarket.com). Napa’s Oxbow Market, patterned after San Francisco’s famed Ferry Building food hall, is home to half a dozen restaurants and dozens of specialty food and wine retailers including an outpost of the Hog Island Oyster Company, the just-opened C’a Momi Winery and Enoteca and the heralded Fatted Calf charcuterie.
Grab lunch at Azzurro Pizzeria E Enoteca (1260 Main Street, Napa; www.azzurropizzeria.com), a thin crust Southern Italian pizza place beloved by locals and tourists if they discover it. It’s casual, inexpensive and sophisticated all at once, with great pizzas, bruschette, antipasti and manciata (“handful” of just-baked dough with a salad on top, to fold and eat sandwich-style); owner Michael Gyetvan was well-trained by Northern California chefs Bradley Ogden of One Market/The Lark Creek Inn, and Michael Chiarello of Tra Vigne and the NapaStyle empire.
Continue your Napa exploration by visiting Coombsville, a small grape growing region on the cusp of discovery, just five minutes up the road from downtown Napa and home to Meteor Vineyard (Napa; 707-258-2900; www.meteorvineyard.com. Tastings are by appointment only). Sitting on a plateau under the imposing Mount George, Coombsville has a microclimate that features a unique combination of cool air, consistent temperatures, varied elevations and well-drained, mineral-rich soils. The wineries situated in this cool corner of Napa Valley – around 20 in all – are rapidly gaining recognition for producing some of the world’s best Cabernet Sauvignon.
What makes Coombsville wines so hot? In a word, balance – the fruit here turns out red wines that are very dark and intense in color with flavors of blackberries, black plums, mulberries, dried herbs and black olives. They at once couple textural smoothness and richness with vibrant acidities and fine-grained tannins, producing exquisite and elegant wines.
Unique within Coombsville is Meteor Vineyard because of its pebbly volcanic soil, rolling slopes and San Pablo Bay breezes – and the refined style of its winemaking, which Jason describes as “intense, luscious fruit found in modern Napa wines, along with a unique minerality imparted by the volcanic stones, which provides a structural complexity found in traditional Bordeaux styles.” Meteor Vineyard produces two Cabernet Sauvignon wines: Meteor Vineyard Perseid and Meteor Vineyard Special Family Reserve
Enjoy dinner paired with extraordinary wine at La Toque (1314 McKinstry Street,
Napa; www.latoque.com). The landmark Wine Country restaurant recently re-opened in a new location in the Westin Verasa Napa, adjacent to the Oxbow Public Market. La Toque offers a constantly-evolving menu that highlights each season’s finest ingredients, which are supplied by a network of local farms and purveyors. “With its award-winning cellar and focus on creating dishes that harmonize with great wines, this is one of my favorite places to host a tasting with people in the wine business,” says Jason.
Finish your day at the Milliken Creek Inn and Spa (1815 Silverado Trail, Napa; www.millikencreekinn.com), hidden away on the Napa River yet adjacent to downtown Napa, with its many recently opened destination restaurants such as Morimoto Napa (the latest from Iron Chef/Iron Chef America’s Masahara Morimoto) and Tyler Florence’s Rotisserie & Wine, along with intriguing shops, wine bars and activities. Jason likes the combination of five-star luxury accommodations combined with its lush grounds, intimate ambiance and a full-service spa.