It is no secret that one of the best ways to enjoy a great bottle of wine is with an equally wonderful food pairing. Fortunately, Napa Valley not only boasts award-winning wines, but a diverse assortment of food experiences to titillate not only the palate, but the mind and curiosity as well. Whether you’re a passionate food lover visiting to experience the likes of The French Laundry or are seeking out delicious local produce that makes your mouth water and gives a true taste of place, we’ve got you covered.
Our Food Lover’s Guide highlights ten Napa Valley food experiences not to miss. From decadent Michelin-rated dinners to the simple pleasure of sinking your teeth into a perfectly ripe strawberry on the side of the road, your taste buds won’t be disappointed. Whatever you do, come hungry.
- The French Laundry in Yountville
- Oxbow Public Market in downtown Napa
- Winery tasting experiences with culinary offerings
- Napa Farmers Market in downtown Napa
- The Strawberry Patch on Silverado Trail
- Wine Country General Stores
- The CIA at Copia in downtown Napa
- Gotts Roadside in St. Helena and Napa
- Model Bakery in St. Helena and Napa
- Bistro Don Giovanni in Napa
Perhaps the most famous dining experience in Napa Valley, this three-star Michelin restaurant situated in the heart of Yountville has been touted for sparking Napa Valley’s food revolution when it first opened back in 1978. The legend is still going strong almost 50 years later. Chef Thomas Keller's French-inspired restaurant continues to maintain its meticulous attention to detail in every bite and pairing. If dining here isn’t in your budget, don’t miss the chance to drive by the iconic stone cottage or stop to stroll the culinary gardens located across the street. Many of the herbs and vegetables grown here end up on the restaurant's artful plates.
A food lover's amusement park, Oxbow Public Market is over 40,000 square feet of culinary delights. Brimming with local food makers, restaurants, and shops, you can grab a beer from Fieldwork Brewing Company to enjoy on their balcony, find a new spice to try at Whole Spice Company, or pick up a bottle of wine from the Oxbow Cheese & Wine Merchant to uncork on the back deck.
It’s a great place to explore, shop, and relax. The market is a smaller iteration of the San Francisco Ferry Building Marketplace and a fun way to explore local eats all in one place.
Winery Tasting Experiences
In 2017, strict agricultural laws that dictated the legality of wineries serving food was loosened a bit, but it was enough to allow innovative wineries the opportunity to expand their culinary offerings and create dishes aimed at elevating the wines being poured. Talented chefs with pedigrees lined with fine dining experience from around the world have quietly traded in fast-paced restaurant hours for wine country hospitality and are letting their creative minds flourish. Fruit, herbs, and vegetables are clipped fresh daily and used to craft seasonally focused, terroir-driven tasting experiences you don’t want to miss.
Today you can find some of the best food experiences in the valley being served up at iconic Napa Valley wineries such as (to name just a few):
- Joseph Phelps Vineyards
- Trefethen Family Vineyards
- Robert Mondavi Winery
- Stag's Leap Wine Cellars
- Cakebread Cellars
- Silver Oak Cellars
If a morning spent meandering through mountains of colorful produce with a freshly picked bouquet of flowers slung over one arm while gripping a steaming cup of artisan coffee in the other is your idea of a good Saturday, make sure not to miss a trip to the Farmers’ Market in downtown Napa. Founded in 1986 and offering locally sourced food and handcrafted goods all year long, this local market is the best way to get some face time with the farmers cultivating bountiful produce and local food items. Every vendor at this market is from within an 80-mile radius and offers seasonal produce, eggs, locally grown and harvested meat, seafood, freshly baked bread, food products, flowers, and more. Pick up some snacks for your trip, find a new favorite piece of jewelry, or just grab an empanada for breakfast.
Open year-round every Saturday from 8am – 12pm. Also open on Tuesdays from April – October.
The Strawberry Patch
If you needed an excuse to visit Napa Valley in the spring, this is it. Sitting almost flush with Silverado Trail – the scenic route that runs like a vein down the length of Napa Valley – is a small nondescript fruit stand painted with strawberries. From March through June, you’ll see cars pulled off at this little dirt patch along the highway, with visitors lined up at 10am to get the freshest strawberries in all the valley. The farm stand, run by the local Saetern family, has been in operation since 2008 and has gained a cult following for good reason. While they’re known primarily for their freshly picked strawberries, you’ll also find spring onions, garlic, apricots, walnuts, and other seasonal California produce. Buy the strawberries by the flat and eat them as is – warmed by the sun and perfectly sweet.
Wine Country General Stores
Many of the general stores that dotted and fed Northern California before larger grocery stores became prevalent are still around, and are an integral part of the wine country landscape. Locals and visitors intermingle as regulars swing by for lunch and tourists stock up on cheese and snacks for vineyard picnics and wine tasting fuel. From Napa to Calistoga, don’t miss the chance to pop into one of these historic, family-run operations for a bite. The shelves are lined with local and boutique food items such as aged vinegars, hand-pressed olive oils, artisan crackers, and more.
They’re a great place to grab a snack or pick up a piece of Napa Valley to take home with you. Check out some of our favorite spots:
Directly across the parking lot from Oxbow Public Market is the CIA at Copia, aptly described as “a culinary adventure for food lovers.” Presented by The Culinary Institute of America, the large, bright building houses a culinary art history museum from the personal collection of Chuck Williams (the Williams of Williams & Sonoma), a 7,000 square foot Hestan cooking kitchen, wine tastings, an onsite restaurant, and an outdoor lounge area in an olive grove.
The 32-bed culinary gardens out front of the building produce year-round and feature a constantly rotating assortment of fruit, produce, and herbs. Sign up for a cooking class, grab a cocktail at their outdoor bar, The Grove, and meander through the gardens. It’s a perfect day for the ardent foodie.
We love both of Gott’s locations in Napa Valley, but the original location in St. Helena has that extra local flavor. Situated off Highway 29 outside St. Helena is a roadside burger stand that may have you questioning what decade it is. Originally built in 1949 under the name Taylor’s Refresher (the original sign still stands), this 1950s-inspired burger joint was taken over by the Gott brothers in 1999 and elevated to feature California-fresh burgers, fries, and sides. The diner earned a James Beard Award in 2006 and has expanded to multiple locations throughout Northern California, including downtown Napa.
The outdoor, drive-in aesthetic of the original location is still one of our favorites – with a walk-up window and outdoor picnic tables perfect for feeding a hungry belly after a day of wine tasting. The burgers are hefty, the fries hot, and their seasonal milkshakes are the perfect way to wash everything down.
Another Napa Valley classic that’s been around for almost 90 years, Model Bakery started in a small, brick shop front on St. Helena’s Main Street in the 1930s as St. Helena Bakery. It has changed ownership and names since then, but the same ovens that were pumping out baked goods then are still producing today.
These days, the bakery is known for their English muffins (Oprah loves them), freshly baked pastries, and opulent cakes touted by celebrities, and has expanded to multiple locations (including a Model Bakery next to Oxbow Public Market in Napa). While you can order their products to be shipped nationwide, don’t miss the chance to experience the place that started it all. Quaint and cozy, the original location’s brick walls are steeped in history, with bistro tables shoved close together, and overflowing counters of baked goods offering a nostalgic, delicious food experience to immerse yourself in before a day of wine tasting.
A standalone building along Highway 29 between Napa and Yountville is not where you’d expect to find some of the best Italian cuisine in the valley, but its location is part of the charm. Walking up to Don Giovanni, the classic Italian restaurant that’s been running continuously for over 20 years, feels like entering an Italian grandmother's villa. A large veranda porch holding tables clothed in white linen opens into an equally spacious yard with a water fountain at its center. Inside, the bar is usually lined with regulars reaching for perfectly made Negronis or espresso martinis, and the dining room is a constant clatter of silverware and conversation. They make all their pasta in-house, and those in the know order the off-menu fried olives to start.