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Our stay in Napa was really special, and for a short five day stay, we really packed our time there. So much so that we divide the Wine Country news into three distinct columns. Next week we’ll be covering reviews of some specific wines that we feel lucky to have enjoyed. Today we will talk about the stellar group of restaurants we visited. As we mentioned last week reservations are hard to come by in Napa and Sonoma, we started making ours three weeks in advance and found seats hard to find at that time we So encourage you if you are traveling to Napa to start your meal plans early. The challenges of getting a table seem to have more to do with labor shortages than actual crowds, as most of the people we dined at weren’t excited.

Bottega in Yountville developed and managed by Chef / Owner Michael Chiarello has long been one of our favorites. We have followed Chiarello’s extraordinary culinary talent from his first restaurant in Napa called Tra Vigne. Like Tra Vigne, Bottega is big, loud and alive! The food is a newer version of Italian and just plain fabulous. The wine list, as you would expect from an upscale restaurant in the heart of the wine country, has all the right notes, with a representation of the best of the best local wineries. Being an Italian themed restaurant, the Wine Manager has taken the extra step of having a deep, complete and fabulous selection of bottles from all over Italy covering all major appellations and grape varieties. With lovely outdoor areas, the restaurant is also great for lunch, although we had dinner there, and although it was a bit more expensive than what we are used to here at home, the wine and food were at reasonably priced for what we had. It was a great evening.

For some reason, we find that some restaurants are more geared towards lunch than dinner. And so, this is the case with Mustards Grill located on Hwy 29 in Oakville. Our friends we traveled with loved the first day so much that we went back the next day, a real benchmark on the quality of the food and wine. As it was lunch, we stuck to the wine list by the glass, although the bottle list was impressive, as you would expect. Their fried calamari “salad” is not to be missed. The calamari was cooked to perfection and topped with curried coleslaw, it was a meal in itself. Paired with one of the many dry rosés grown in Napa by the glass, it was spectacular. At the end of September, locally grown tomatoes were everywhere, at Moutardes they paired them with some of the creamiest Burrata we’ve ever had, it was one of those culinary moments that will be remembered forever. The Cade Sauvignon Blanc was perfect with it.

In all the years we lived in Northern California, we had never dined at Bistro Don Giovani located in the city of Napa. Don Giovani is an “institution” if there is one in Napa Valley, the place has always been there and now we know why. The outdoor dining area is lovely. The food is a more traditional and predictable version of Italian cuisine, but perfectly prepared. The veal parmesan is possibly the best I have ever had. The wine list leans more towards Italian selections than local vineyards, although all the local names you’d expect were well represented. The meal and wine were delicious and reasonably priced although a little more predictable.

Our last night we had dinner at Bistro Jeanty and were joined by Mary and Somm John’s brother. Needless to say, we left the wine order to his superb palate and he delivered with a wonderful Sancerre and a delicious Grenache from the Rhone Valley. Jeanty has been another of our favorites from when we lived in Kenwood and it still offers some of the best rustic French faires we have had. If you go, the cassoulet is a must order as is the Lyonnaise salad. A few of us had the sole meunière which is another delicious classic from chef owner Philippe Jeanty. Jeanty, like many restaurants, is busy and noisy, but it also has a warm and cozy atmosphere which is wonderful.

We hope you can make your way to wine country soon, and when you enjoy some of these wonderful classic Napa Valley restaurants, you won’t be disappointed. Next week we will talk about some of the remarkable wines we tasted during our stay.

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George Balling is co-owner with his wife, Mary Lancaster, of the Dinner, Wine and Gift Shop at Coeur d’Alene by Costco. The dinner has won the Best Wine Store in Northern Idaho award twice, including in 2018.

George is also published in several other publications across the country. After working in California wineries and judging numerous wine competitions, he moved to Coeur d’Alene with Mary over 10 years ago to open the boutique.

You can also follow us on Facebook at!/dinnerpartyshop.

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