Owners David and Monica Stevens think of themselves as wine matchmakers. “We love introducing clients to boutique labels they may not know,” says David, who ran the wine program at the acclaimed Tra Vigne restaurant for years, forging relationships with vintners and winemakers up and down the valley. In the sleek, loft-like space of the by-appointment shop, which opened in October 2009, the Stevenses host tastings, special wine events and private functions. Well-connected, innovative and charming, they are also known for arranging unique treats for clients, like surprise appearances by winemakers, tastings at private homes and visits to vineyards otherwise closed to the public. “I have a background in concierge services, so from conception, David and I wanted 750 to be more than just a boutique,” says Monica. “It’s all about creating special wine experiences and providing customized behind-the-scenes access.” You can also make an appointment to come by the boutique and tasting studio to purchase hard-to-find vintages and discover lesser-known labels. During my March visit, the shelves were lined with Kistler, Bevan Cellars, Casa Piena and the like (they only carry current vintages). The selection is exclusive and high-end, and overall, 750 is best for true connoisseurs who appreciate a more rarefied experience. As for the name, David explains that it’s a number found on most wine bottles: 750 ml. Call for an appointment.
Bounty Hunter Wine Bar & Bistro
Bounty Hunter displays more than 400 different bottles of wine from places including Napa, France, Italy and Australia, with more than forty to taste by the glass. Beth Nickel of Far Niente winery recommends it for rare wine purchases: “It specializes in hard-to-find, reasonably priced wines. They have the best inventory of international wines in town.” You can carry your purchase home, or have it shipped. There’s also a first come, first served wine bar open seven days a week, bent on dialing down pretention with its praiseworthy down-home food, such as beer-can chicken and ribs.
Cooks and gourmands will love the selection of kitchen tools, from French ceramic ware to sculptural wooden mustard spoons, and condiments. Go ahead and taste the jams, mustards, olive oils and tapenades, but be forewarned: you will end up buying. Highlights: the rosemary-infused olive oil and artichoke tapenade. And those who get addicted or crave Napa’s flavor without visiting can order online.
St. Helena Wine Center
Beth Nickel of Far Niente winery raves, “the St. Helena Wine Center has a wonderful inventory of local vintages.”
The Fig Pantry
If you’re busy wine tasting, pick up a gourmet salad and picnic for the road at the Fig Pantry.
The Oakville Grocery
This 126-year-old establishment is a favorite for specialty cheeses, charcuterie meats and excellent take-out sandwiches.
Reminiscent of an old-fashioned small-town American candy store, this boutique sells delicious chocolates handmade in the European style. The company was founded by a husband-and-wife team with impeccable gourmet credentials. John Anderson’s family ran a vineyard for decades, and his wife, Tracy Wood Anderson, studied at the California Culinary Institute before working as a pastry chef for a major Champagne company. Today, their family business revolves around creating dozens of unique chocolate flavors to complement the region’s best red wines. They ship their beautifully packaged baby blue boxes all over the country.