A jug of wine and you. That’s nice, sure, but a loaf of bread stuffed with handcrafted salumi, fancy cheeses, and local greens make for a perfect threesome when visiting wine country. Luckily, many wineries now offer a bevy of artisan picnic selections to enjoy with your bottle pinot. Here are some of our favorites:
Cairdean Estates, St. Helena
The recently opened Butterscots bakery and deli, located at Cairdean Estates, is geared toward picnickers. The bakery covers any craving from stuffed croissants to scones, cookies, filled doughnuts, trifle, bread pudding, tarts and puddings. And the deli side delivers salads (like summer squash with shrimp in dill cream dressing), hot or cold sandwiches (roast beef with mozzarella and marinated peppers), snacks (Scotch eggs, for example), cheeses, ice cream, and popsicles. Look for unexpected flavors, too — the sourdough loaf is accented with Mendocino seaweed, while the brioche is dusted with vadouvan curry.
Charles Krug Winery, St. Helena
Last month, the historic winery added the finishing touch to its new tasting room: Cucina di Rosa Italian trattoria, offering a menu from Richard Haake and his Winery Chefs group, and some ingredients gathered from the winery’s on-site farm that is managed. Eat at lounge tables or on the lawn outside, filling up on a panini stuffed with salami, mortadella, fontina and sundried tomato-olive dressing; a salad of chop of greens, salami, provolone and pepperoncini in oregano vinaigrette; and a sundry of assorted snacks, like olive and dip plates.
V. Sattui, Napa
At this Napa winery, Chef Gerardo Sainato offers crab cakes, grilled mustard prawns, pastas, tri-tip steak, salmon, barbecue ribs, Italian sausages, and thin-crust pizzas. Also featured are salads, sandwiches, more than 200 different cheeses (including twice-daily pulled mozzarella with heirloom tomatoes, grilled bread & basil), salami, pates, fresh fruits and desserts. And what a pretty place it is: the two-acre picnic grounds span 250-year old giant oak tree orchards, tri-level terraces, and a wrought iron-gated cave. Gorgeous.
VJB Vineyards & Cellars, Kenwood
Matriarch and executive chef Maria Belmonte oversees this Tuscan courtyard marketplace featuring La Cucina deli and espresso bar, a Neapolitan style pizza café with an outdoor wood-fired oven, a gelato and pastry shop, and a gourmet grocery, all centered around a large wine tasting bar. She makes her own tomato sauces and pestos, and dishes change with the seasons - white bean salad, perhaps, and cheese or salumi boards decorated in olives, crostini, nuts and fruit. Reliable favorites include a prosciutto cotto and Jarlsberg panino, and wood-fired garlic-lemon chicken drumsticks, enjoyed on the patio piazza.
Ram’s Gate, Carneros-Sonoma
If you can drag yourself away from some of the best views in Carneros, visit the hilltop winery and indulge in an assortment of delicacies, tucked into a real wicker basket along with a blanket and bottle of wine. Some ingredients come from the garden at the winery entry, and you’ll definitely feel like you’re dining in Wine Country, spread out on the lawn by the pond amid the vineyards.
Viansa Winery & Marketplace, Carneros-Sonoma
Snag a seat on the large terrace overlooking the Valley, and order some wines by-the-glass. The plan your meal, from the deli and marketplace tempting with wood fired pizzas, salads, sandwiches, cheeses, artisan breads, pastries and gelato. One particular favorite is the artichoke and garlic chicken pizza, topped with an add-on of prosciutto.
Chateau St. Jean, Kenwood
Ah, the romance of a European style castle, with meticulously manicured gardens and endless lawns framed by vineyards. Making it even more delicious are gourmet sandwiches, salads, charcuterie and artisan cheeses plus wines by the glass, savored at the shaded picnic tables in the fountain garden, and followed up with a game of bocce ball.