Although most vintners say that their wines taste best with food, until recently few local wineries offered food tastes with their wine samples. That's a shame, for savory bites like cheese, olives or charcuterie make most wines tastier and European wineries typically offer them with their wines at tastings.
Local wineries have long hosted wine and food marketing meals, but rarely offered more than crackers in the tasting room. This was partly because Napa County used to discourage food pairings in tasting rooms.
The county now sees the advantages of serving snacks with wine, and has relented. As a result, an increasing number of Napa Valley wineries now offer food and wine pairings in their tasting rooms to enhance visitors' experiences - and sell more wine.
The wineries have to be careful, however: Napa County prohibits restaurants at wineries in unincorporated areas (Domaine Chandon was grandfathered in), but allows the pairings as long as the wineries are permitted for the practice. Some wineries seem to be pushing the envelope a bit, however, and you can get a light lunch at some.
Wineries in cities have more flexibility. Long Meadow Ranch now offers tastings daily at the Logan-Ives House by its Farmstead restaurant in St. Helena where guests get small bites created by Farmstead chef Sheamus Feeley (longmeadowranch.com).
Likewise, in Yountville Somerston's tasting room (somerstonwineco.com) and Blackbird Vineyard's Ma(i)sonry in Yountville (blackbirdvineyards.com) offer food with their wines, as does Patz & Hall in Napa (patzhall.com).
Here are some of the food pairings at wineries, though many other wineries offer them, too. All prices are per person and appointments are generally required.
Andesite vineyard in the Spring Mountain District serves free tastings with paired food by appointment in the owners' home on the vineyard. Info, AndesiteVineyard.com; 963-8895. 4011 Spring Mountain Road, St. Helena.
B Cellars in Calistoga offers six appetizers in the tasting room for $20 each with wine tastings. Info, bcellars.com. 709-8787. 400 Silverado Trail in Calistoga.
Benessere Vineyards serves wine and chocolate pairing on weekends. Info, benesserevineyards.com; 963-5853. 1010 Big Tree Road, St. Helena.
Cakebread Cellars is probably the most food-oriented winery in Napa Valley, and offers visitors tours of its gardens as well as winemaking facilities. It serves pairings from chef Brian Streeter. Cakebread Thursdays and Fridays plus Mondays during the summer at 11 a.m. for $40. Info, cakebread.com. (800) 588-0298. 8300 St. Helena Highway in Rutherford.
Clos Pegase has an artisan cheese pairing and a chocolate tasting. Info, clospegase.com; 942-4981. 1060 Dunaweal Lane in Calistoga.
Del Dotto Vineyards holds occasional food pairings, as do many other wineries. Info, deldottovineyards.com; 963-21341445. St. Helena Highway South, St. Helena.
Hess Collection offers wine and cheese pairing for $35, wine and cheese tasting in the Garden Courtyard for $10-$15. Info, hesscol lection.com; 255.8584.4411 Redwood Rd, Napa.
Kenzo Estate offers extensive food pairings at the impressive winery on Mount George, even a la carte sandwiches, appetizers and desserts. Info, kenzoestate.com; (877) 977-7704.
Kuleto Estate has pairings Thursday at 11:45 a.m. Info, kuletoes tate.com;302-2209; 2470 Sage Canyon Road in St. Helena.
Jocelyn Lonen Winery can't host visitors at its winemaking facility, but holds food and wine pairings at Napa Valley Country Club for $25 waived with a wine purchase of $30. Info, jocelynwines.com; 257-2821.
Newton Vineyards in St. Helena offers small bites with a sit-down tasting for $40. The food is prepared by Perry Hoffman from Étoile restaurant at Domaine Chandon.
Peju Province has a cheese pairing and tapas, typically at 11 a.m. Thursdays and Fridays, for a minimum of six people. Info, peju.com; (800) 446-7358. 8466 St. Helena Highway, Rutherford.
Raymond Vineyards in St. Helena offers an educational cheese pairing that includes three artisanal cheeses with the Raymond Favorites Flight for $25. Info, raymondvineyards.com; 963-3141. 849 Zinfandel Lane, St. Helena.
Robert Mondavi Winery has always focused on wine with food, and it offers cheese tastings, chocolate tastings, and even a tasting lunch. Info, robertmondavi.com; (888) 766-6328. Highway 29, Oakville.
Signorello Vineyards offers Italian treats plus Wagyu beef daily at 11 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. Info, signorellovineyards.com; 255-5990. 4500 Silverado Trail, Napa.
Silver Oak serves its Silver Wine & Food Pairing Monday through Thursday at 2 p.m. for $45. Current vintages are served with foods created by Winery Chef Dominic Orsini. 915 Oakville Cross Road, Oakville. Info 942-7022
Swanson Vineyards offers a selection of food and wine tastings in its salon and its Sip Shoppe. Info, swansonvineyards.com; 754-4018. 1271 Manly Lane in Rutherford.
Trefethen Vineyards has two food and wine tastings: Chef's Table Tasting of four wines with chef's canapés, artisan cheeses and seasonal offerings from the family garden for $50; and Twilight at Trefethen Fridays with artisan cheese and charcuterie, plus special wines for $100. Info, trefethen.com; (866) 895-7696.1160 Oak Knoll Ave., Napa.