Desmond Echavarrie’s Napa Valley
Napa can be hard for novices to navigate. So Charlotte Steinway called upon Master Sommelier and French Laundry alum Desmond Echavarrie to get his guide to a perfect wine-soaked Saturday
“My perfect Saturday in Napa would involve getting up around 9 a.m. and heading to Yountville, which is an incredibly quaint town where I spent a lot of my time when I was working at the French Laundry. Yountville is one of the greatest places in the morning because it’s a mecca for pastries and coffee, so Bouchon Bakery would be my first stop. My all-time favorite pastries are bearclaws and chocolate croissants, and Bouchon actually makes an almond chocolate croissant — which is the best of both worlds. They have a little outdoor area where you can sit just outside the bakery (which sources all of the bread and pastries for Bouchon Restaurant), so it’s also a great spot for people watching.
Next, I’d head up-valley to Calistoga and hit the Saturday Farmer’s Market, where I’d buy ingredients for Sunday’s lunch. We’re really lucky here in Napa that we have so many great local producers of such incredible produce and organic vegetables. I tend to cook with a lot of herbs and seasonings, so I love a lot of the peppers and spices that they sell there. Then, it’s kind of fun to stroll around in Calistoga, and browse in some of the neat little antique stores there — try Brandon’s of Napa Valley on Lincoln Ave. and C.E. Estate Furnishings just down the road.
Next, I’d probably head over to Solbar in the Solage Calistoga Resort for lunch, where I would sit out and eat by the pool. They have a lot of great dishes, but I really love their pulled pork sandwich, which is served with coleslaw and sweet potato chips. Being right next to the pool is great when the weather is nice — and the food is consistently fantastic.
I like to get some exercise on Saturdays, and kayaking is always my workout of choice. One of the best spots is along the Russian River Valley in Sonoma County, but I also enjoy launching my 19-foot touring kayak right into the Napa River, close to my house. It’s such a good workout — sometimes I’ll paddle out almost all the way out to the San Pablo Bay, 15 miles away.
Later in the afternoon if the weather is nice, I’ll have a glass of champagne on the patio at Auberge du Soleil. It’s an amazing spot that looks out onto the valley from the eastern hills, giving you this beautiful panoramic view of the vineyards, and there’s always a light breeze coming up the hill. It doesn’t get much better than sitting there with a glass of Krug.
For dinner, if I couldn’t get into the French Laundry, I’d probably head to Redd, where the food is phenomenal and many of the sommeliers are great friends of mine. Redd has a minimalist look and a sophisticated feel, but it’s also very welcoming. My wife and I often eat at the bar, and instead of ordering main courses, we just have a bunch of small plates. I always get the sole, which is served with littleneck clams, chorizo and a saffron curry emulsion and is reminiscent of paella, one of my favorite foods in the world, and a cocktail — they also make one of the best Negronis in Napa Valley."
Colgin Winery, St. Helena
Colgin Winery is a spot in Pritchard Hill with an incredible view overlooking the mountains and the valley. The winery, which is located in the northern end of the hillside IX Estate, is gorgeous and their red varieties are also really compelling.
Chappelet Winery, St. Helena
This winery is near and dear to my heart because it’s been family-owned since the 1960’s. It’s above Prichard Hill, with wonderful views over Lake Hennessey. They make amazing Cabernet Sauvignons; it’s a great spot to hit up on a beautiful day.
Ovid Vineyard, Napa Valley
A much smaller winery and a fun, boutiquey place to visit. Their Bordeaux, made by Andy Erikson, a phenomenal winemaker, are incredibly complex but what makes them unique is that half of their wine is fermented in stainless steel, the other half is in large concrete tanks built by a stonemason in Bordeaux.
Larkmead Vineyards, Calistoga
This historic winery was established in 1885 by Lillie Coit, a San Franciscan socialite. One of the winemakers there, Dan Petroski, is a good friend for mine, and he’s always there with his dog Sophie, who loves wine — she’ll run up and drink it before it’s had a chance to go down the drain, which is fun to watch.
Failla Wines, St. Helena
Right off the Silverado Trail, Failla Wines specializes in Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, which come from different areas within Sonoma county, but are vinified (i.e. turned into wine) in a cave in Napa at their winery. It’s great to be able to enjoy Pinot Noir and Chardonnay right in the middle of Napa, and it makes a nice change from Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon.
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