About 30 miles long with more than 45,000 acres of planted grapes, Napa Valley’s many diverse wineries prepare innovative group meals and events that change depending on day-to-day fresh ingredients.
We visited the 106-room River Terrace Inn, a boutique hotel with an enchanting Californian décor and inspiring views of the valleys and Napa River. The hotel has more than 3,000 sf of meeting and event space, including a riverfront setting for up to 100 pax. Located in Downtown Napa, about an-hour drive from San Francisco International Airport, the hotel is five minutes away from the Oxbow Public Market in Napa, a riverfront market featuring artisan food, wine and cheeses.
Our group stopped at Hog Island Oyster inside the market. Following Napa’s commitment for sustainability, this restaurant grows its own oysters in Tomates Bay, where they’re delivered fresh every morning to the market. They are as fresh as it gets, and with a few drops of lemon and hot sauce, they are to die for.
Adjacent to the hotel, the newly revamped Restaurant Cuvée offers a country-style steakhouse with a menu that varies according to each day’s harvest. Chef Jordan Mackey offers guests dishes like braised short ribs with creamed leeks and candied heirloom tomatoes. I loved the Durham Ranch Striploin, with sweet hot tomato jam, roasted fennel and nameko mushrooms.
“If we don’t get it fresh, we don’t serve it,” says Mackey. He also visits Oxbow’s farmers market on Tuesday and Saturday mornings to find inspirations on new ingredients.
Cuvée also has an ample list of drinks made with Napa’s freshest fruits, and our group loved the Effen Fizz, which is effin good with black cherry vodka, muddled cherry and champagne. Another fave was the super refreshing Mayacamus Cooler, a spicy concoction of fresh pineapples, cucumber, lime, charbay tequila and a piece of jalapeno. A few called it a hot cold drink.
Other Cuvée signatures are the chef’s sugary delicacies, like a coconut crème brulee with a caramelized pineapple salsa and sweet cream. And you can dine al fresco here following a $2.7 million renovation project that included a new patio with four green trees and a center fire pit surrounded by plush lounge chairs.
A real estate magnate turned winemaker, Vic Bourassa started producing wine to sell after Californian winemaker pioneer Robert Mondavi sampled his early foray into growing grapes. In Bourassa’s tasting room, groups up to 15 can learn about his signature blends at candlelight, surrounded by French Oak barrels that decorate the elegant room under golden canvas that cover the ceiling. One of our group’s faves was the Harmony3 Bordeaux Blend, a mix of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. Bourassa also gives groups a quick lesson on wine blending.
A family business in the Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley, Monticello Vineyards is a full wine experience. With about 4 acres available to up to 40 pax, the winery is available to group events like corporate dinners that could include a tour and wine tasting. Groups can reserve a dinning room in the Jefferson House Home Ranch Vineyard, an estate inspired by Thomas Jefferson and his love for wine. Max pax is 40. Monticello Vineyards founder Jay Corley honored the third president by naming the winery after Jefferson’s mountaintop home in Charlottesville, Virginia. This year, Corley and his three sons, who now oversee the winery, are celebrating 40 years of harvest.
Beer and Olive Oil
Groups can also learn about beer and olive oil in Napa. Our group discovered that an olive tree can live forever, that you should cough at least three times when tasting olive oil, and that you won’t choke in the process, if you do it right. The family-owned Round Pond Estates in the Rutherford region of Napa Valley produces olive oils, wine vinegars, citrus syrups and limited wines.
For those groups with wine and beer lovers, planners will find it helpful to know Bourassa partnered with Napa Smith Brewery, where a meeting room will be divided into two: on one side, half of the group can enjoy a wine tasting while the other tries Napa Smith signatures like the Napa Smith Bonfire, an imperial porter with a dark caramel, coffee and chocolate notes. Delicious.