Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Dining at a Winery

Most visitors to wine country are surprised to learn that it is nearly impossible to dine at a winery. To protect the agricultural nature of Sonoma and Napa Counties, the areas outside of the towns and cities are zoned agricultural. As a result, restaurants are prohibited in the agricultural parts of the counties.

Some wineries do wine and cheese pairings. V.Sattui, in the Napa Valley, has a delicatessen where you can pick up food to take to the winery's picnic area. However, in Napa County, only one winery has a full restaurant.

Domaine Chandon has had a restaurant since its visitor center opened in 1977. Its restaurant was allowed to continue when the zoning restrictions where enacted. Etoile serves upscale California/French cuisine in a refined dining room. On a nice day, enjoy the garden view while lunching on their terrace. The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner from Thursday - Monday, except in November in December when it is open from Thursday - Sunday and in January when the restaurant is closed.

Only two wineries have restaurant permits in Sonoma County. Francis Ford Coppola bought the old Chateau Souverain winery a few years ago. Along with the winery came a restaurant permit. The winery is now Rosso and Bianco, where Coppola produces his mid-priced wines. When Coppola took over ownership, he started serving very good Italian food in the winery's restaurant. Unfortunately, the restaurant, still unnamed, is closed for remodeling. Hopefully, when the restaurant reopens, the food still will be good and diners will once again be able to enjoy a meal on the terrace overlooking the vineyards.

In the Russian River Valley of Sonoma County, the old Topolos winery had a restaurant. The winery, along with the restaurant, closed a few years ago. The property was sold and is now called Russian River Vineyards. The tasting room is open, but the restaurant has not yet reopened.

Many wineries have permits for private events. If you are coming to wine country with a large group, you can arrange a private meal at many wineries, some of which have spectacular settings.

If you want recommendations for wineries to host your private meal or wish to take a private tour of wine country, please feel free to call me at (866) 326-4237 (toll free) or e-mail me by clicking here.