Many new to wine will hear “Napa” and perhaps say to themselves, “Maybe when I get a little more refined with my palate, that’s for the experts.” They may also balk at the prospect of a Napa mission because of the vast, expansive geographic reality that truly is Napa. On Highway 29 alone, countless tasting rooms. But, in the condensed, colorful, and cute downtown of the heralded Napa, visitors find relatable spots, inviting rooms, hosts, offerings. And not to forget, the wine knowledge’s pervading persistence. If you want to learn more about wine, “refine your palate,” these manageable streets, all illustrating their tasty cache, with approachable and Human surfaces, serve as more than an optimal starting point. Shall we begin? … Did you bring your camera?
One spot I’d be remiss to pitch, Bounty Hunter Rare Wine & Provisions. The wine selection, so plentiful it’s almost daunting. Don’t even think about stressing within their walls, as the staff is not just patient and fun, but enviably astute with wine’s mysteries and knowns. The cuisine, inviting a wine mate, and the hosts, hostesses, leap at the prospect of pairing suggestions, in addition to some oeno-culinary harmonies already stamped on the menu. The atmosphere, emphatic and withheld, historic and modern. Truly eclectic, not to mention artistically animated, with all efforts. One often-preferred wine, the 2007 Ridge Runner Napa Valley Cab, paired with the pulled pork sandwich. Supernal, paradisiacal. This spot demands return, the regular.
Another, Carpe Diem Wine Bar. Owner Steve Distler has made sure this flavorful fort forwards in balance, variety, tranquility. A true wine location, with one of the most distinguished and focused wine selections, dishes for union, that you find in Napa’s center. Around your table, you’re enveloped by eased elements, no frenzy, which is precisely what Mr. Distler intended when the doors were opened not that long ago. Some of the favorites of those interviewed: the 2008 La Follette Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir and the 2009 Brown Napa Zinfandel. Dishes, you’d be “delusional” to not order a flatbread, one tourist from Iowa told me. The flavor profile of these scrumptious separatist pizzas co-mingle with almost any wine on Steve’s menu, especially the aforementioned bottles. And, more than likely, Distler will pour you something he likes.
A Bistro con Sabor. Bistro Sabor–catty-corner to Zins Valley Restaurant and Ristorante Allegria, two other wine beaconing eateries on 1st Street–offers not just whirling wines by Ceja Vineyards, but dauntingly delectable Latin cuisine. Owner Ariel Ceja welcomes locals, tourists, even wine blogging Mutineers, to pass through the doors, place an order. Every one of Ceja’s wines push with pristine palate presence. Especially the Syrah, when paired with skirt steak tacos. Family-lamented surroundings, smattered with positive energy, music motifs, genuinely pleasant homeliness. Be sure to check out the night where salsa dancing controls the floor. “Wine paired with music, salsa especially,” one local exclaimed, “How is that not awesome?”
There are more than a cluster of other corners that didn’t fit into this piece. But all the more reason to just go visit, explore. You don’t have to have an elevated wine, or cuisine, barometer about your person. Just walked around, and stop to taste. Especially the spots above cited. And don’t forget to bring your camera. You’ll want to hold on to such scenes. Sip, sip …