When the doors at 813 Main Street in downtown Napa open for business on Wednesday, August 8, it will be for the first time in nearly 40 years. The Thomas restaurant and its street-level Fagiani’s Bar are closing the circle on a piece of Napa history and ushering in a new era for the town.
If your usual method for selecting a wine to pair with a dry-aged, flame-kissed ribeye, a pile of burnt ends or crispy chicken wings slathered in sweet, spicy barbecue sauce involves grabbing the biggest bottle of red in sight, we beg you to reconsider.
Roughly three-and-a-half-hours south of San Francisco on the 101 is Paso Robles, an appellation that is becoming known for both its diversity of wines and the reputation of its growers and winemakers to take chances on unusual blends and lesser-known varieties. There is an excitement about wine and winemaking here that, while certainly not lost in places like Napa and Sonoma, often lies beneath a more corporate-driven surface.
A lot of winemakers in Northern California are crossing their fingers, rubbing disembodied rabbits’ feet and throwing copious amounts of salt over their shoulders. Why? Because it is the middle of July and 2012 has been a nearly perfect growing season (knock on wood).
Forget all this “farm to table” nonsense. Why bother, when you can just bring the table to the farm? At least that is Chef William Heubel’s idea behind his Beyond the Kitchen dinner party series, which will be staged at a different farm in Napa Valley each Saturday throughout the summer.
Starting this week, the impressive collection of artisanal spirits displayed behind the bar will be transitioning from gin to rum as Sorentino rolls out his summer cocktail program — from classics like the Cuba Libre to the historic Grog as well as more modern Tiki drinks like the Mai Thai.
If Sauvignon Blanc has become your thirst quenching, go-to daytime patio quaffing wine — maybe even the foundation for Saturday afternoon’s sangria — we don’t blame you. There is plenty of fresh, young, affordable SB out there perfectly suited for summertime sipping. But, in keeping with the Bordeaux tradition, there is increasingly a focus on making serious, high-quality Sauvignon Blanc in California. By lowering yields and carefully managing the vigor of the canopy, growers can intensify the flavor, aromas and varietal character of the grape — giving the winemaker more to work with. This slew of just-released Sauvignon Blancs are certainly fine paired with a sunny day, but offer considerable depth and complexity — a very valid alternative to Chardonnay.
On Monday in Livermore, a celebration was held in the honor of a noble lady. Hailing from Burgundy, she is now the most popular of her kind in the United States.* Her name is Chardonnay. In 1936, she first appeared on the label of a wine (before that she was categorized merely as “miscellaneous”) and now, just 75 years later, wine professionals joke that they will have and serve “ABC”: Anything But Chardonnay.
The wood-fired pizza trend is sending Wine Country up in smoke. This summer, there are no less than four (four!) new restaurants in Northern California centered around the great and glorious wood-fired oven pizza pie. What on Earth did we eat last year? Here are the hot (literally—those ovens are really hot) new restaurants themselves along with our wine-pairing recommendations.
There may be Francophiles speaking French while holding French poodles named Frenchie. There may even be French oak tables and men sporting French cuffs lounging in French wicker, but there is no French food at French Blue. Nor is there any French wine. At legendary Wine Country architect Howard Backen’s new restaurant, French Blue (which, in the design world, is actually a shade of blue — the very shade of the front doors that hung on the original Vanderbilt building) in the heart of Napa Valley, the focus is local, local, local. Two hundred miles around the town of St. Helena to be exact. Or, as Beverage Director Adam La Cagnina puts it, “from Monterey to Mendocino.”
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