Virtuoso Life - July/August 2017 - 100
Clockwise from left: The CIA
at Copia, JaM cellars,and
downtown's dining scene.
"Celadon is one of my favorite
Oxbow District restaurants; I
typically order the macadamiacrusted goat cheese appetizer
and a roasted-beet salad.
They also serve a great weekend brunch - who wouldn't
want to try strawberry
cheesecake French toast? Not
the best diet food, though."
- Alyse Cori, Virtuoso travel
agency owner, Sonoma
colonial buildings lining the streets. The
historic Napa Valley Opera House, originally opened in 1880, was recently revamped
as a Blue Note jazz and supper club booking some of the country's best crooners.
There are some two dozen (and counting)
winetasting rooms in town - among them,
JaM Cellars. Unlike many that shutter by
late afternoon, JaM, with an aesthetic that
skews more hangout-for-the-cool-kids than
V I RT U O S O L I F E
oenophile salon, pours free glasses of sparkling wine at 4 pm and fills up for its Thursday- and Friday-night live-music sessions.
Napa natives John and Michele Truchard
opened the music-themed space, complete
with a recording booth, to show off their
Butter chardonnay - a success story that
grew from producing 1,000 cases in 2009
to more than 840,000 cases in the 2016
vintage. They also serve their Toast sparkling wine and JaM cabernet sauvignon.
This whimsical wordplay hints at a larger
vibe bubbling up around Napa: fun, youthful, and big on entertaining.
Fifteen years ago, there were about 200
members of Napa Valley Vintners (the trade
group for area wineries), but that number
has more than doubled. With roughly 3.5
million visitors descending on the valley
last year, entertainment and activities have
become key for businesses and wineries.
Whether you're touring by train or packing
a picnic and two-wheeling it on the recently
inaugurated Napa Valley Vine Trail, a 12.5mile paved bike path connecting downtown Napa to food-centric Yountville (the
first phase of a proposed 47-mile path), a
visit here is no longer only about the wine.
Rather, it's as much about the experience
surrounding the wine.
"You can only do so much in the bottle or
with a label," says Michael Polenske, founder
of Blackbird Vineyards, which opened its
flagship tasting room, RiverHouse by Bespoke Collection, last September on Napa's
pedestrian-friendly river walk. Visitors can
taste Blackbird's full portfolio on a shaded
riverfront patio or in semiprivate and private
rooms decked out in handpicked European
antiques, books, and local artwork - as well
as museum-quality pieces from the likes of
Nearby, the immaculate, upscale Kenzo
restaurant opened recently on Pearl Street.
It's a sophisticated ambassador for Kenzo
Estate wines, which are served alongside a
traditional Japanese kaiseki-style menu of
artfully prepared small dishes presented
in painted bowls and lacquered boxes. The
winery produces just 20,000 cases a year,
nearly 80 percent of which are shipped to
Japan. Outside of its new restaurant, one of
the only spots you'll find Kenzo wine in the
U.S. is at its vineyard's appointment-only
tasting room, set on 3,800 lake-speckled
acres 15 minutes east of downtown.
A short stroll across the river, the Napa
Valley Wine Train has chugged visitors up
and down the valley since opening in 1989.
This summer, its popular Quattro Vino tour
will expand into four different trips that
take wine lovers to wineries such as Domaine Chandon, Charles Krug, and Robert
Mondavi, with chef-prepared four-course
meals on board between whistle stops.
The train depot's by-appointment tasting
room, also new this summer, will rotate
wines from around the region, including
Opus One, created by Mondavi in partnership with Château Mouton Rothschild.