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Under Construction: Wine Country Prepares for the 2012 Season

Under Construction: Wine Country Prepares for the 2012 Season

Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc is under construction. But what's happening behind closed doors? Photo via jaycross on Flickr.com

Winter in Wine Country is a time for restaurants to revamp, remodel, change ownership and, this year at least, build from the ground up.  From pizzerias to gastropubs, Napa in 2012 is shaping up to be considerably less buttoned-up.

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Chef Richard Reddington refuses to call his new pizzeria Redd Wood, opening just down the street from his Michelin-starred Redd in Yountville, Italian. “Here we are in Napa Valley, and everyone tries to recreate Tuscany. I don’t get it.” His decidedly American-style pizzeria takes advantage of the wood-burning stove left by the space’s former inhabitants (the short-lived Cantinetta Piero) to make Neopolitan-by-way-of-Brooklyn pies like the pork jowls, clams, and montasio and the lardo, mushroom, spinach and fontina. Pasta, an eclectic array of appetizers and larger plates (from braised veal to branzino) fill out the menu. There will also be a house-made beer and more than 400 wines on offer from the high-end to the every day. With two outdoor spaces and a full bar, Redd Wood is shaping up to be casual and authentic — just the sort of place Disney-fied Yountville desperately needs.

6755 Washington Street, Yountville, 707-290-5030, Opens Thursday, January 26


If there were a “shit Napa locals say," it would include “I miss the Martini House.” The two-floor 90-year-old building nestled just off Main Street in St. Helena has always boasted what the new owner, Andy Florsheim — a Chicago-restaurateur-turned Napa resident — calls “the best bar in California.” Goose & Gander, as the reincarnation will be called, aims to bring the cozy feel of the downstairs space upstairs, trading in white tablecloths for cozy booths. With a focus “on the left side of the menu,” expect “serious but unpretentious” small plates, specialty cocktails and an extensive, but approachable list of (mostly) local wine. As for the bar? Locals will be relieved to know that Florsheim plans to make very few changes: “The downstairs was close to perfect,” he says.

1245 Spring Street, St. Helena, CA, Opens sometime in April 
 

Howard Backen has teamed up with Leslie Rudd (Press, Dean & Deluca, Oakville Grocery, etc.) for French Blue, a much-talked-about restaurant on the north end of St. Helena. For Backen, who is the go-to architect for big money wineries (Harlan, Ovid, Dana), the project is especially exciting because it is the first project he is personally invested in.

1429 Main Street, St. Helena, 707-968-9200, Opens this spring


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Anyone with a hankering for $52 fried chicken is going to have to wait. Ad Hoc, Thomas Keller’s other other restaurant in Yountville, which specializes in high-end comfort food, has been boarded up since January 1. What’s going on behind closed doors? For starters, the entire kitchen has been gutted. The new kitchen will be “up to par” with Keller’s other properties, according to Chef de Cuisine Dave Cruz. New equipment, a separate pastry station and custom metalwork will provide the team with more worktop space allowing them to be “to be more creative and efficient,” says Cruz. Renovations to the front of the house are minimal, but will include a revamped foyer and a slightly expanded dining room — which means there will be more of the much-in-demand tables.

6476 Washington Street, Yountville, 707-944-2487, Reopens last week of February or first week of March

Chef Christopher Kostow, having earned Meadowood three Michelin stars, has been granted a new kitchen. Kostow, who is currently seeking inspiration in Morocco, told 7x7 that his new, perfect kitchen will allow for creative growth and fluidity: “If we suddenly need the use of extra induction burners, or a rotary evaporator, or a series of small fryers, we will always have the space.” So a lot like what you want in your own kitchen. But the gadget he is most excited about? A coal-burning oven: “It will enable us to juxtapose very elegant and rustic flavors and textures in a way that we have only touched upon up to this point."

900 Meadowood Lane, St. Helena, CA, 707-963-3646, Reopens March 1

The LUCY restaurant at the well-designed, LEED Platinum-certified Bardessono hotel in Yountville was always a disappointment. “It felt like an afterthought... like a glorified cafeteria or a hotel convention room,” says designer Jeff Vandiver of the Seattle-based firm Seva Design, which was brought on late last year to transform the dining room into a “fun, sexy experience.” Earthy (and eco-friendly) pieces like repurposed walnut doors and stone furniture are balanced with contemporary elements like metallic lotus flower-inspired light fixtures and a wavy glass wall reminiscent of falling water. “We were not going for Wine Country cliché,” says Vandiver. (No barrel stave furniture or wine bottle lanterns, thank god). The biggest difference is in the bar area, which has been opened up allowing guests to sip their Gin Blossoms indoors or outside by the fireplace.

LUCY at Bardessono,6526 Yount St. Yountville, CA 94599, 707-204 6000, Opens February 23rd

At the southern end of St. Helena, the other Backen-Rudd collaboration, Press, is getting a state-of-the-art wine cellar. Notable mainly because of what it will hold — one of the largest collection of Napa wines in the world with vintages dating back to the 1960s — sommeliers Scott Brenner and Kelli White hope to convince visitors that yes, Napa Cabs can age with grace.

587 St. Helena Highway, St. Helena, CA 94574, 707-967-0550. Wine cellar opens February 22nd and will be visible from neighboring Dean & Deluca