Tasting pair with fine art at Acumen Wine Gallery.

Modern Guide to Downtown Napa: The Small Town Is Having a Stylish Renaissance

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Downtown Napa is in the middle of a Wine Country renaissance, with new restaurants, shops, bars, hotels, and tasting rooms (of course) popping up on every corner. The additions mean there's plenty to do for teetotalers, or for those suffering from palate burnout after a long day at the wineries.

Drink: Wine Tasting, Beer Bars + Napa's Only Distillery

(Courtesy of Compline)

Wine Bars + Tasting Rooms

Fantastic wines and captivating, rotating art blend together at the new Acumen Wine Gallery, where you can sip casually while browsing the current collection (look for the Zodiac collection by renowned artist Vincent Xeus, inspired by the 12 animal signs of the Chinese Zodiac, this fall). Don't leave without trying a yet-to-be-released, Atlas Peak mountain barrel sampling from their taps. 1315 First St. (Napa), acumenwine.com // If you want to taste wine that none of your friends have ever heard of, head to Vintner's Collective, housed in a former saloon and brothel from 1875, where more than 20 boutique producers—Azur, Parallel, and Shadowbox, to name a few—have partnered up. They have several tasting options available to enjoy in the downstairs tasting room, upstairs lounge or rooftop patio. 1245 Main St. (Napa), vintnerscollective.com. // Uncorked at Oxbow is the only place downtown offering barrel tastings and blending sessions and two complimentary pours upon arrival (try offerings from Ahnfeldt Wines and Carducci Wines). Uncorked also hosts an open mic every Thursday night, and live music from local artists on Fridays. 605 1st St. (Napa), uncorked-at-oxbow.com. // You're guaranteed a good time at Mark Herold Wines, evidenced by the Happy Ending Wine Club and "sexual chocolate" pairing, which complements their wines with six decadent bites like a hickory smoked bacon truffle and raspberry cranberry dark. This quirky tasting room, full of eclectic art pieces (there's a Ken doll in chaps) and sexual innuendos, is conveniently located next to the Oxbow Market. 710 1st St. (Napa), markheroldwines.com. // 1313 Main is a hotspot for inspired food-and-wine pairings, evidenced by the seven-course chef's tasting menu ($125 per person). The expansive, carefully curated wine list covers vino from all over the world, and chef Adam Ross creates unique and ambitious dishes, like sea urchin or buttermilk fried frog legs, that are influenced by his experience working with famed chefs in Hawaii, Denver, San Francisco, New York, Napa's own Ad Hoc and the Restaurant at Meadowood. 1313 Main St. (Napa), 1313main.com. // Casual wine bar and restaurant Carpe Diem has finally reopened after suffering significant damage during the Napa earthquake. With one of the best happy hour menus in town, snag a seat at the bar for discounted wine and small bites, such as the addictive truffle popcorn, mini quack and cheese (mac and cheese with duck confit and bread crumbs), or a charcuterie plate ($10). The ostrich burger is a must-order if you're staying for dinner, because where else are you going to try that? 1001 2nd St. (Napa), carpediemwinebar.com. // Compline wine bar, restaurant, and bottle shop is the brainchild of two master sommeliers, and thanks to their worldly wine knowledge, fantastic local wines mingle with those from all over the globe, which you'd have to board a plane to taste otherwise. Compline also offers daily wine education classes for both novices and experts. 1300 First St. #312 (Napa), complinewine.com.


There's Beer Too

Who runs the newest bar in Napa? Girls! Colleen Fleming and Aubrey Bailey, both old hands in the wine industry, serve more than 100 wines at Cadet Beer & Wine Bar, including a lot of varietals you've never heard of—Melon de Bourgogne, anyone?—plus a solid lineup of beer (try brews from Oklahoma, Michigan, and Maryland). Pair it with a selection of small provisions, including olives, pistachios, grilled cheese, and cheese and charcuterie plates. Buy a bottle and they'll let you pick a record from their collection to play. 930 Franklin St. (Napa), cadetbeerandwinebar.com. // Finally, downtown Napa has a hip place for the beer lovers. Small, yet mighty, Napa Palisades Saloon serves a rotating tap list of more than 30 local craft beers and is one of the few bars in town where you can catch a sports game on TV. Contemporary and classic bar bites, such as the pimento cheese fondue with a fried pretzel and apples, don't disappoint either. 1000 Main St. (Napa), napapalisades.com. // There's a beer revolution underway in Napa, and Tannery Bend Beerworks is the only brewery operated by a hometown crew. Stop by the cozy tap room and taste through a sampler of their rotating, small-batch beers, such as the Coombs Saison and Imola Session IPA (both named for the brewery's cross streets). If you're hungry, they have a small bar menu featuring a selection of pork sausages, sandwiches, nachos, and bottomless popcorn. 101 S. Coombs St. (Napa), tannerybendbeerworks.com. //


And Spirits!

Napa's only distillery (and the first to open since prohibition), Napa Valley Distillery has operated out of the Oxbow Public Market for several years, but recently opened up a second location in their new warehouse space. Here you can actually tour the operation, and then head upstairs to their eclectic, speakeasy-meets-tiki-meets-Old Hollywood tasting salon for a spirited flight. Try the Son of a Bourbon, a Meyer lemon liqueur, a reserve brandy, gin and more. If you ask nicely, they may even give you a free ride back to your hotel in Creme Puff, their sky blue 1996 Cadillac Fleetwood limo. 610 First St. (Napa), napadistillery.com.

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