TABLEHOPPING It’s time for another installment of wine country overnighters — perfect winter getaways without the crowds (and price surges)! Now we’re heading to historic St. Helena, which draws throngs of people to its charming main street of shops and restaurants. Downtown, however, has always been a little short on accommodations. The recently renovated Wydown Hotel (1320 Main St, St. Helena. www.wydownhotel.com) is changing that. This boutique hotel has 12 rooms, big fab beds, and a comfortable residential vibe that’s contemporary and stylish. (Try to get a luxury corner room if you can).
Then there’s always the nearby and stunning Meadowood (www.meadowood.com), the ultimate in luxury resort accommodations — if you can splurge — and its downtown sister property, Southbridge Napa Valley (1020 Main St, St. Helena, www.southbridgenapavalley.com), which is more affordable and has spa facilities. If you want something a little secluded from downtown, there’s the Wine Country Inn (1152 Lodi Lane, St. Helena. www.winecountryinn.com), a spacious property with beautiful vineyard views, although the look and feel can be a bit suburban.
After you check in, go for an amble down the main drag. You’ll want to pick up some handmade chocolates from Woodhouse Chocolate (1367 Main St., St. Helena. www.woodhousechocolate.com) which is styled like a jewelry shop. Pick up a single bite for yourself — pistachio for me! — or a box for later (like caramels with fleur de sel).
Thirsty? Always. You can visit the new Orin Swift tasting room (1325 Main St, St. Helena. www.orinswift.com) and taste a portfolio of full-bodied reds, a few whites, and China Doll rosé. If it’s a cocktail you crave, cheers, you can head to Goose & Gander (1245 Spring St, St. Helena. www.goosegander.com), which not only offers damn good cocktails thanks to bar star Scott Beattie, but there’s also a cozy basement bar to enjoy them in (a fun spot at the end of the night, with a killer burger). Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch (738 Main St, St. Helena. www.longmeadowranch.com) also has a busy bar, and you can snack on cheddar cheese biscuits with your bevvie, plus other bar bites. Oh, and there’s a happy hour Mon–Fri 4pm–6pm.
It’s time for dinner. Head to La Condesa (1320 Main St, St. Helena. www.lacondesa.com/napa), an import from Austin which is rocking a new Mexico City-meets-Northern California menu from chef Chris Mortensen. (If you haven’t been here for a while, it’s time to give it another chance.) Once you have margaritas on your table, skip the guacamoles and go for the stellar tortilla soup and the fluke ceviche with potato, and mains like the juicy oak-grilled chicken, and the stuffed poblano chile (absolutely delicious, and vegetarian!). Dessert is all about the house-made ice creams — get a couple.
Other dinner options: drinks and bites at Bar Terra (1345 Railroad Ave, St. Helena. www.terrarestaurant.com/BT) the more casual offshoot of Terra from Hiro Sone and Lissa Doumani of Ame here in SF, and the welcoming Cook (1310 Main St, St. Helena. www.cooksthelena.com), a local favorite for house-made pastas and hearty, seasonal mains. If it’s a steak you crave, the answer is Press (587 St. Helena Hwy, www.pressnapavalley.com), which also has a very deep wine cellar.
The next day, grab a coffee and hang with the locals at Napa Valley Coffee Roasters (1400 Oak Ave, St. Helena. www.napavalleycoffee.com). And then I recommend going for a walk in the vineyards — you’ll see plenty of neighbors out with their cute dogs. Your brunch should be on the terrace at French Blue (1429 Main St, St. Helena. www.frenchbluenapa.com), another place worth a revisit: There are new owners and a new chef. My brunch dish of oak-grilled trout with poached eggs and crisp rösti potatoes was smashing, ditto my mother’s eggs Benedict, which featured a light hand with the dill hollandaise. The meal made me want to head back for dinner soon.
Last tip: Before you hit the road, you’ll want to pick up some freshly made English muffins from Model Bakery (1357 Main St, St. Helena. www.themodelbakery.com), along with anything else that catches your eye in there. Be careful.
Marcia Gagliardi is the founder of weekly tablehopper e-column www.tablehopper.com. Get her app: Tablehopper’s Top Late-Night Eats. On Twitter: @tablehopper.