Nothing says summer like a picnic on an emerald green lawn. It can be fancy or casual. Whether one prefers caviar and champagne or hot dogs and chips, everything goes when it comes to picnic fare. Especially this summer, dining outside with friends and family makes one feel free. Just sharing a meal around a picnic table, perched on a park bench or sprawled out on a blanket is liberating.
A picnic demands the right setting–it makes the meal. With their manicured grounds, mountain vistas, and impressive architecture, wineries are perfect places for al fresco dining. If a Napa Valley picnic is on the to-do list this summer, here are a few places to consider.
Since 1976, the scenic Fairwinds Estate Winery at the north end of Silverado Trail has been fronted by a vast picnic area. “It’s the spontaneity of being on the Silverado Trail, and being able to visualize yourself sitting at one of the picnic tables,” Colin McPhail, consulting general manager, said. “People say hmm, it might be nice to go there and have a picnic.”
Guests who come for a tasting are welcome to picnic afterwards, either with their own fare, or the cheese and charcuterie boards available at Fairwinds. At a picnic table, the eyes rest on olive groves, vineyards, and Diamond Mountain. Summer sippers include a rosé of Cabernet Sauvignon and the Cabernet Nouveau. The latter is sourced from a famous vineyard and barrel aged for four months. It’s sheer for a Cab, but more weighty than a typical rosé. “It’s a similar style to Beaujolais,” McPhail said. “It’s a happy springtime wine.”
Details: Fairwinds Estate, 4550 Silverado Trail North, Calistoga. Use of the picnic area is complimentary with a wine tasting. www.fairwindsestatewinery.com
Stepping onto the grounds at Clos Pegase is almost like walking into a fantasy.
The winery’s post-modern architecture designed by the late Michael Graves is one of the most acclaimed structures in all of Napa. The classical proportions, from the columns to roof line, create an air of tranquility. “It’s a very calming experience,” Estate Director Jona Medoza-Fabiani said. “They get to enjoy a picnic lunch anywhere on the property.” That includes the expansive lawn lined with stately poplars and wrought iron tables surrounding a 17th century bronze fountain.
One of the coveted spots will be near the new bronze piece by Australian sculptor Gillie Marc. The Friendship Bench will be flanked by Rabbit Woman and Dog Man, with room in the middle for people to join.
The winery’s picnic tote includes any sandwich from Oakville Grocery, a cookie and fruit for $40 per person. There’s also a corkscrew and two Govino glasses; all visitors need to add is wine. He said the crisp Sauvignon Blanc is tasty with a bacon, lettuce, tomato, and avocado sandwich, or on its own. “When I’m at the winery, I pair the Sauvignon Blanc with a really good afternoon or a good conversation,” Mendoza- Fabiani said.
Details: Clos Pegase, 1060 Dunaweal Lane, Calistoga. All tastings by appointment only. Order picnic lunches 72 hours in advance. No outside food or drinks permitted. www.clospegase.com
Nestled in the Vaca Mountains at 450 feet above the valley floor, Rutherford Hill Winery is a legendary picnic destination. “We sit above Auberge du Soleil so you’re getting the views of Auberge du Soleil,” Hospitality Manager Joseph Foss said. “It’s rustic and elegant. It’s a place where people can hang out and be themselves.”
On a clear day, the view extends for seven miles down the valley. From the main picnic area, guests will see mountains and blue sky, and landscapes dotted with olive groves, vineyards and ponds. Or choose a secluded cabana ringed by roses. During the summer months the winery is open later so visitors can enjoy a sunset while sipping wine.
Winemaker Marisa Taylor’s library Merlots are a big draw year-round, but in summer- time, it’s all about the juicy rose of Merlot made in a Provençal style, which would be delicious with prosciutto and grilled peaches.
Details: Rutherford Hill, 200 Rutherford Hill Rd., Rutherford. Reservations Recommended. www.rutherfordhill.com
Picnics have been part of the V. Sattui Winery experience ever since it opened in 1976. “This has always been a place where you could come in grab a bottle of wine, pick up some food, then sit down and relax,” Monica Flick, director of winery events, said. The picnic area is vast, with tables, patio furniture and benches among massive oaks, herb gardens and vineyards.
V. Sattui is known for its many wines–72 to be exact–but they’ve also got a serious culinary program that supports picnics year-round. The deli stocks 200 cheeses plus house made salumi thanks to Michelin-starred Chef Stefano Masanti. He splits his time between Napa Valley and Italy, where he’s won awards for his bresaola, a cured beef. There’s also a crew that barbecues tri-tip and brisket every weekend. Rosé lovers will be in heaven, since V. Sattui makes three styles, a rosato di Sangiovese, another from Pinot Noir, as well as a berry-forward Gamay Rouge.
Details: V. Sattui, 1111 White Lane, St. Helena. No out- side food or drinks permitted. www.vsattui.com
Tucked away on the west side of Highway 29, Silenus feels like a discovery. The grounds are ringed by vines, mature oaks, olive trees, and gardens filled with roses and sunflowers. “We’ve always had the beautiful garden area and we figured why not let people enjoy a picnic after their wine tasting?“ Hannah Haile, the tasting room and wine club manager, said.
The garden grotto near the Cabernet Franc vines offers picnic tables and plenty of grass. There’s also a bocce court and a stage for live music. The slightly secluded feel makes it ideal for proposals, Haile said. “We did a tour around the property and through the vineyard and when we got back to the grotto he dropped to one knee and proposed,” Haile said of a recent visitor. “We picked a bunch of flowers from all over the winery and he gave it to her afterwards.”
Details: Silenus, 5225 Solano Ave., Napa. All visits by appointment only. Call or email for reservations. Wine purchase or tasting required to use the picnic area. Silenus doesn’t serve food, but they supply eco-friendly plates, cutlery, and napkins. www.silenuswinery.com
For those not interested in packing a picnic, these are the best places to pick up a premade picnic spread.
6476 Washington St. Yountville
Buttermilk fried chicken is always on the menu here. The three-course menu includes a seasonal green salad, chicken and cookie for dessert starting at $19.50 per person. Order by 5 pm for same-day pickup. www.thomaskeller.com
1550 Trancas St. Napa
This old-school Italian deli makes crave-worthy fare from ciabatta stuffed with prosciutto, mozzarella, tomato and basil to eggplant Parmesan made from scratch. www.genovadelinapa.com
Browns Valley Market
3263 Browns Valley Rd.
Napa Boutique grocery store and deli featuring a wide selection of prepared foods, dips, sandwiches, wraps and salads. A variety of fresh local produce and baked goods are stocked daily. www.brownsvalleymeat.com
607 St. Helena Hwy., St. Helena
Gary’s market has everything for high-class picnicking, including a full deli counter with hot and cold gourmet sandwiches, a wide selection of cheeses and charcuterie, gourmet baked goods and fresh bread, and a full service wine shop featuring some of Napa Valley’s premier labels. www.garysnapa.com
Soda Canyon Store
4006 Silverado Trail, Napa
Stop in for an espresso or a special- ty sandwich like the Firehouse with roast beef and horseradish cheddar. Picnic lunches include a choice of sandwich, salad, cookie and fresh fruit in a box tied with a ribbon for $19. Order 24 hours in advance. www.sodacanyonstore.com
Article By: Marcia C. Hunt