The Napa Valley is the great epicurean destination of California. Alice Waters and Thomas Keller are the gastronomic celebrities of the state, and the résumés of many Napa chefs include stints at Keller’s French Laundry in Yountville and Waters’ Chez Panisse in Berkeley. Nowadays, a farm-to-table culinary ethos is not a selling point, it is a prerequisite.
All the restaurants we visited on this trip offered sophisticated cuisine, hospitable service and stylish dining rooms with a strong sense of place.
Opened in 2005 by late vintner Leslie Rudd, this timeless brasserie-style restaurant has long been a favorite with the area’s winemakers, sommeliers and other locals, as it boasts an 85-page Napa Valley-only wine list with vintages dating back to the 1960s. Press’ 10,000-bottle cellar is apparently the largest collection of Napa wines in the world. The dining room reflects its former incarnation as a steakhouse, with a dark wood décor, romantically lit booths and a grand emerald-green terra-cotta clock sourced from a bygone New York train station set above an imposing hearth. When Bocuse d’Or medal-winning chef Philip Tessier came on board in 2020, the meat-oriented menu transitioned into a more varied one offering additional vegetarian and seafood dishes. Highlights of our meal included the soufflé-like ricotta gnudi in flavorful Mangalitsa pork consommé, charred octopus topped with an earthy black truffle mole and king salmon wrapped in paper-thin slices of butternut squash and paired with a smoked lovage cream. Tessier has created a menu that does justice to the restaurant’s remarkable wine cellar.