Passion Points: Food/Wine
Beth Nickel has been based in the Napa Valley since 1976, when she and her husband, Gil, moved to California from Oklahoma. In 1979, they bought a vineyard and restored it; it’s now the acclaimed Far Niente winery. In her more than three decades of living in Napa, Nickel has gathered a long list of favorites.
“I love Cole’s Chop House, which serves the best steak in Napa Valley and Angèle, run by the Rouas family, which also owns the Auberge du Soleil. With its genuine Italian hospitality, Bistro Don Giovanni never fails to please. It’s great for lunch or dinner. Napa isn’t a late-night scene, but Bouchon, in Yountville, is open until 12:30 a.m. It has an incredible wine list and a beautiful fresh-seafood bar. Bouchon Bakery, next door, is a great place to pick up pastries and coffee in the morning. I also love Brix and Redd, headed by our own super-star chef Richard Reddington. Napa icon Cindy Pawlcyn owns three fabulous restaurants. Her first, Mustards Grill, opened twenty-four years ago, followed by Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen. The newest, Go Fish in St. Helena, has a fantastic raw bar for sushi and sashimi. Kids all love the nostalgic ice cream shop Big Dipper Ice Cream Parlor, locals gravitate to the Model Bakery for breakfast and delicious gelato; and Taylor’s Automatic Refresher has amazing fish tacos and veggie burgers.”
“In the city of Napa, one of the greatest additions is the newly restored Napa Valley Opera House, a gorgeous jewel-box of a theater. Another recently completed restoration is the Hatt Building on Main St., home to Angèle restaurant, the Napa River Inn and a bakery called Sweetie Pies, a great place to hang out in the morning. And of course there’s the restored Cameo Cinema, an old-time movie theater that sells gourmet items at the concession stand and real buttered popcorn.”
“Wine aficionados should visit Copia, in Napa, which opened six years ago and offers cooking classes, a restaurant and interesting wine exhibits. This fall a wonderful farmer’s market called Oxbow Public Market is scheduled to open next door. If you’re looking to buy a rare bottle of wine, try the Bounty Hunter, in St. Helena, a store that specializes in hard-to-find, reasonably priced wines. They have the best inventory of international wines in town.
“Also, when it comes to buying wine, sometimes you can find amazing treasures at smaller fund raisers and auctions. Find out about these events in the local papers—even big-time collectors and spenders send their scouts to get deals on unusual bottles. Check the events listings in the Napa Valley Register, which publishes a weekly calendar every Friday.”
“Getting into nature is key in Napa and one of the best-kept secrets is Skyline Wilderness Park in South Napa, where we like to walk up a trail and get the most beautiful view of San Francisco. Also, I love to hike to the top of Mount Saint Helena. It’s a five-mile hike that offers amazing views of the valley.”
“When friends ask for a recommendation for one of the many B&Bs, I point them to the 1801 First Inn, the McClelland-Priest Bed & Breakfast Inn and the Milliken Creek Inn & Spa. For pure pampering, the Auberge du Soleil is a beautiful resort tucked into the mountainside hillside olive grove with splendid vineyard views and a lovely outdoor deck for dining.”
“For shopping, I like Woodhouse Chocolates, an old-world chocolatier in St. Helena; the Whitings Nursery owned by Kevin Towhey, which has garden supplies, outdoor furniture and decorative items and books; Fideaux, a charming shop for pet toys; the St. Helena Wine Center, which has a wonderful inventory of local vintages; and Findings, which carries an eclectic mix of items—both antique and new—for the home. For interesting jewelry, I love David’s, Patina and Palladium.
Read our insider guides to Napa and Sonoma
Read a postcard from Beth Nickel on a private jet trip around the world
Read about blending your own wines in Napa
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