Diners seated in what used to be the Frasinetti's east cellar sate themselves on handcrafted Italian lunch and dinner dishes, surrounded by huge vats evoking the 112-year-old winery’s storied past. Dinners commence with starters such as crostini slathered in grilled brie and red-pepper chutney ($10) or steamed clams in white-wine sauce ($9). Next, certified non-android servers bring out entrees such as seafood manicotti, a mix of salmon, scallops, and crab packed in pasta ($15). Pine-nut-gorgonzola butter adds a zesty twist to the 12-ounce center-cut prime rib ($25), and the regal Atlantic salmon rests on a bed of mushroom risotto ($19), like an eccentric rice baron.
The cooks at Sips Bistro and Wine Shop use locally acquired and organic ingredients where possible in their classic menu of small plates, varietals, and espresso drinks. The intimate bistro setting—rendered warm by colorful murals of pastoral settings and elegant wood wine racks—hosts guests as they try refined eats such as a chicken, brie, and caramelized onion quesadilla, or a brined and herb-crusted bone-in pork chop. During wine flights, vino sippers may choose their own drinks from a temperature-controlled wine bar or the frigid palms of a grape-eating sprite. The company also occasionally hosts events such as champagne Sundays and special tastings.
Now that eating on an ordinary table or atop a stack of Chinese acrobats seem horribly passé, adventurous foodies are seeking the next unconventional dining experience. Today's Groupon puts a little motion under your meal with two gourmet dinners on the Napa Valley Wine Train for $99 (a $198 value for dinner, $188 value for lunch). Treat yourself and a loved one to a three-hour ride through Napa Valley on an antique locomotive engine, accompanied by a delicious gourmet meal in lieu of the traditional mysterious murder.
The history of Ceja Vineyards dates back the 1950s, when Pablo Ceja, then working in St. Helena vineyards, dreamed of owning his own land where his ever-expanding family could grow their own grapes and make their own wine. Fueled by this dream for a better life for his children, Pablo moved his family from Mexico to the Napa Valley in 1967. Fortunately, 2 of his 10 children, Pedro and Armando, inherited his passion for wine and belief in hard work. When they were old enough, Pedro and Armando planted their first pinot-noir grapes in 1986 and, 13 years later, officially founded Ceja Vineyards with their wives and children. Today, the Cejas' operation boasts 113 producing acres and a chic wine-tasting salon where guests can enjoy sips of the vineyard’s red and white varietals, artisan cheeses, gourmet food items, and featured works from local artists.
In good Ceja tradition, Pedro and Armando’s kids are now beginning to purple their feet in the family business as well. Pablo’s family has undoubtedly made him proud; they’ve done much since their humble beginnings in St. Helena. The family hopes their story of hope and determination surfaces in every sip of their lovingly cultivated wines.
In high school, Scott Harvey—an exchange student from California living in the Rheinland-Pfalz region of Germany—discovered a new passion: winemaking. The interest soon led him back to Germany to serve as an apprentice, and at the tender age of 23, Scott took over as head winemaker for a vineyard back home. After working at several Californian wineries honing and perfecting his skills, the vintner wunderkind began to craft his own vintages alongside his wife, Jana, also a wine-industry vet. Since 2004, the couple has expanded its portfolio into three collections of namesake wines: Scott Harvey, reflecting the fertile terroir of Amador County; Jana, bottled amid Napa Valley's grape-juice rivers; and InZINerator and One Last Kiss, blends of red and white varietals, respectively.
Cuisine Type: Wine
Handicap Accessible: Yes
Number of Tables: 1?5
Parking: Parking lot
Most popular offering: Red Wine
Alcohol: Wine Only
Outdoor Seating: Yes
Pro Tip: We have bar stools made from used wine barrels for tasters to sit and enjoy their tastings
Sue Rueger owns renegade winery, but she describes at least half of her duties as pouring. "We don't close at 5 like most wineries," she says. "If we have tasters there enjoying their wine, we stay open until the last person leaves." She takes a very casual, New World attitude to wine tasting, making the experience fun and accessible.
When it comes to wine-making, though, she and her husband Mark are decidedly old-school. "We make our wine the old fashioned way, never filtered, never fined," she says. They hold every wine to high standards, choosing quality over quantity in production, a standard which holds true for the lone white wine they produce as well as the myriad reds.