Living in the Napa Valley, we often hear the word “veraison” (ver-ay-zuhn), especially in July when there are breathtaking changes in the vineyards that surround us. The word veraison comes from the French, and is defined as “change of color of the grape berries”. From green to yellow, red and purple and it’s stunning. Typically veraison takes place in July.
Luckily for us, we don’t have to wait until July to enjoy “veraison” and the many colors that feed our senses or the French influence.
We can find Veraison in Calistoga at the historic Mt. View Hotel.
A contemporary styled wine country bistro with French influence originally opened in January 2017 by owners Rick and Theresa Kaiser along with co-owners Dan and Carolina Kaiser. You may remember it as Johnny’s. There’s been some changes made.
Because it’s family owned and operated, it’s important for the Kaisers to be good neighbors in their community, be approachable and available, and offer great food at affordable prices. They’d also like us to know that they are very proud to work with local and sustainable providers.
Rick explained that often kids follow in their parents’ footsteps, but in this case he and Theresa are following in their son Dan’s footsteps. With careers as accountants, they handle the books and jump in where help is needed.
Even in elementary school, Dan was fascinated with food preparation, baking cookies with his grandmother. (This is a place where many of us foodies began.) Moving forward Dan worked in a few kitchens in their then hometown of Danville, Calif., and subsequently studied hospitality management at Cornell University with a focus on food and beverages.
After graduation in 2007, Dan became part of Solbar Restaurant. His next stop was JoLe Restaurant and Bar where he remained for five years as general manager and wine director before moving on as wine director and GM for the Left Coast Restaurant Group.
Interestingly enough, what is now Veraison was once JoLe.
It was at JoLe that Dan met the woman who would later become his bride, Carolina. Carolina left her position of many years at the French Laundry and now, as co-general managers, they share responsibilities and as well as their love for food, wine and hospitality.
When the Kaisers learned that the JoLe space was available they leapt at the opportunity to become the new owners. Dan likes to say he’s returned to his beginnings.
The inspiration in the kitchen is Executive Chef James Richmond. Originally from Sonoma, James is another one of us who can thank a grandmother for inspiration. For James, it was baking pies.
What began as some catering while still in high school, became a culinary degree from the California Culinary Academy and an opportunity to work in a French kitchen at Café de la Presse in San Francisco.
Working with Chef Matthew Bousquet as sous chef, Richmond was part of the team when Mirepois earned its Michelin star. His impressive resume also includes chef de cuisine at Bistro Jeanty in Yountville.
One of his passions is charcuterie. Once I enjoyed some of his housemade creations, I was impressed with his creativity and simplicity. Nothing was over the top, so all of the ingredients could be enjoyed in every bite.
Now, before I go any further I want to acknowledge that there might seem to be a lot of “French” going on here. This is a good thing. Some of the misconceptions about French food is that everything is heavy, covered in rich sauce, has strange ingredients, is pretentious and unhealthy. Please allow me to debunk these myths.
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If even thinking about reading a French menu is overwhelming, the Kaisers have made it easier for diners. If there is a classic French dish on the menu there are both the French name and then its English counterpart word.
While the menu is French “influenced,” not all of the choices even fall into this category. I enjoyed tender handmade pasta made with peas. The beautiful color and subtle flavor is enhanced with shallot, garlic, cracked black peppercorns and Estero Gold Reserve cheese from Cowgirl Creamery — Italian inspired.
Try to think about it this wa: French home cooking is simple and classic. Boeuf Bourguignon is beef stew with red wine served over buttered noodles. Petrale sole in brown butter with capers and lemon is something we know, but the French call it Sole Meuniere. Grilled Ribeye with potatoes au gratin and creamed spinach falls into its own category.
These things being said, if you a craving something truly French, you will find that, too. Foie gras anyone?
There is a bountiful cheese menu, mostly from California, but France is definitely represented.
Veraison has a beyond bountiful wine list, I believe it numbers over 100 options has one of the best wine by the glass lists I have seen locally.
Now that we’re chatting about wine, I have to share that I enjoyed three different wines with my experience. Sauvignon Blanc, perfectly balanced, Sangiovese that had that old vine flare and a Cabernet Sauvignon with subtle tannins and easy drinking profile. Very approachable price point. These were Kaiser Family wines. They also do a Zinfandel and Petite Syrah. I was curious at to who their winemaker was and what a nice surprise to discover that Rick Kaiser is the winemaker. I guess when he said he helps out where needed he forgot to mention this. Making wine since 2008 and honing his craft along the way, Rick’s first release was in 2015. He only makes about 225 cases annually, with some fruit coming from their local estate property as well as fruit from otherNapa Valley vineyards.
You have to love accountants with a sense of humor, the Petite Syrah is called “Deduction”, while the Sangiovese is dubbed “Refund.”
Open only for dinner, there are different theme nights at the restaurant that are both affordable and fun opportunities for friends and co-workers to gather. “Bubbly Mondays” is BYOB, bring your own bubbles, on the first and third Mondays of the month. From 5-6:30 p.m. they will serve you complimentary oysters. No corkage.
In fact, there is no corkage at the restaurant, unless, as the Kaisers shared, a guest is mean. Helpful hint.
The second week of each month is their Brown Bag Club, which features blind tastings of specific varietal and a four course dinner priced at $50.00 per person.
Every Thursday is Throwback Thursday where older vintage Cabernets are available at their original retail prices.
Quick word about the aforementioned Johnny’s, so you don’t think you are imaging things when you walk by and see this sign out front of the Mt. View.
Johnny’s Restaurant & Bar is also located in the hotel and also owned by the Kaisers. The sports bar boasts five HDTVs showcasing sports entertainment. It has a well-known happy hour, and they also offer a brunch
Wishing the Kaisers much luck and here’s hoping they become a Calistoga fixture.