The ten minute drive between the towns of St. Helena and Calistoga at the northern end of Napa Valley is an idyllic one. If you can break through the clench of traffic as Highway 29 squeezes into St. Helena’s downtown as English muffin-craving tourists jostle for parking spots in front of Model Bakery, Wine Country opens up again. Highway 128 winds past the great wineries of Napa Valley’s history: Beringer, Greystone (now the CIA), Schramsberg and Charles Krug. What you won’t find between St. Helena and Calistoga on this stretch of road are any Michelin-starred restaurants — or any restaurants at all, for that matter (The Silverado Brewing Company, the mediocre eating establishment in front of Freemark Abbey, closed last year).
But coming in 2014, that will change. The abandoned shopping mall about a mile north of the CIA on the east side of 128 that once housed the likes of Brooks Brothers is being remodeled and revitalized by a husband and wife winemaking team. Edwin and Stacia Williams purchased the rundown complex shortly after buying an adjacent piece of property that will soon be a winery for their Cairdean Estate label.
“We hope to make it a destination in and of itself,” says Edwin. Plans include a 100-seat restaurant called The Farmer and the Fox, which he describes as a combination of a European farmhouse and a gastropub (whatever that means), a deli and marketplace, a picnic area and, of course, tasting rooms for their wine and others.
The Williams hope to have it complete by 2014. In the meantime, hightail it to Buster’s Barbeque in Calistoga for ribs and a steak sandwich and be sure to ask for your hot sauce "extra hot."