27 Best Places To Eat And Drink In Napa And Sonoma

When you hear the words wine country, Napa Valley and Sonoma County likely come to mind. Though every state in the U.S. makes wine today, the two Northern California regions put American winemaking on the map. Lying just outside San Francisco, the two counties are divided by the Mayacamas Mountain Range and welcome millions of tourists annually to enjoy wine tastings, Michelin-starred dining, and general hospitality. 

Though the pandemic and devastating wildfires in recent years have hit the communities hard, they have emerged stronger. Visiting today is different than in years past. Gone are the days of popping into a tasting room without an appointment or walking into a restaurant without a reservation. Today pre-set bookings are usually required, allowing for proper staffing that provides a more personal experience. 

The price of a meal or a tasting does vary across the two areas, with Sonoma being slightly more laid back and affordable than Napa. Still, both offer something for everyone, whether you are a wine lover, cocktail enthusiast, food-truck fanatic, or destination diner.

Best tasting with a view: Barnett Vineyards in Spring Mountain

Forty years ago, Hal and Fiona Barnett found a piece of land at the top of Spring Mountain that stole their hearts. The land, located north of Napa near St. Helena, was unruly, containing forests of trees, wild animals, and rattlesnakes. Still, it was an idyllic place 2,100 feet above sea level at the Napa-Sonoma county line. This site became their home and the home of Barnett Vineyards. It took five years to clear and terrace the steeply sloping land, plant the vines, and eventually produce a vintage worthy of making into wine expressing the concentration and refined character of Spring Mountain fruit.

The small-production winery welcomes guests for outdoor tastings. Sitting above the fog line, the visitors enjoy cooling maritime breezes from the Pacific while taking in the sprawling picturesque views of the mountain landscape and St. Helena. It is one of the most scenic places to enjoy Barnett's Spring Mountain cabernet sauvignon.                                      

Best wine pairing experience: B Cellars in Oakville

In Oakville, B Cellars is producing a range of small-production wines from premium vineyards throughout the valley, including an offering from each of the premier grower Andy Beckstoffer's six heritage vineyards. To fully enjoy each, chef de cuisine Derick Kuntz creates one-to-two-bite pairings taking inspiration from the wine. 

Using the onsite winery garden and local ingredients, Kuntz produces a new menu for B-bites every month, crafted explicitly around the wine. Combinations include seared tuna with garden radish slaw paired with rosé, smoked brisket tacos with Synergy red blend, and a beef slider with cabernet aioli with a side-by-side cabernet sauvignon pairing.

Best farm to table: Single Thread Farm in Healdsburg

Husband and wife teams successfully exist in every sector of business. However, few do it with the precision and style of Kyle and Katina Connaughton of three Michelin-starred Single Thread Farm, Restaurant, and Inn. 

With a focus on gifts from the earth, dishes feature produce from the couple's 24-acre farm tended to by owner-farmer Katina Connaughton. Owner-Chef Kyle Connaughton paints seasonal ingredients on plates to create edible artwork with flavors that meld Californian with Asian. Menus change continuously based on what is in season in the Russian River Valley. If you care to stay a night at one of the inn's quaint rooms, they'll treat you to a full breakfast in the morning.

Best wine cave: B. Wise Vineyards in Sonoma Valley

The underground caves of B. Wise Vineyards on Moon Mountain are functional, housing the winery's fermentation and aging areas. Beyond that, they offer one of the wine country's most unique, inviting spaces. The space is the creation of owners Brion and Ronda Wise. It represents their mutual eclectic aesthetic. 

The caves tunnel to various private alcoves decorated with vintage furnishings, art posters from the 1920s, and mementos acquired during the couple's travels abroad. A grand central salon features bronze sculptures depicting the Wild West, leather club chairs, and walls filled with whimsical paintings, all lying under a canopy of twinkle lights. The warm, inviting space is the perfect environment to taste the stellar wines from B. Wise.

Best Cali-style Italian: Ciccio in Yountville

Ciccio has been a casual Italian neighborhood favorite run by the Altamura family in Yountville for the past decade. It closed in 2022 and reopened in May 2023 under the direction of new managing partners, Michelin-starred chef Chris Kostow and Martina Kostow. Though chef Kostow has the fine dining attributes of a three-star chef, the food at Ciccio remains casual and rustic. Dishes incorporate seasonal produce from Kostow's nearby farm. 

The menu includes wood-fired pizza with imaginative flavors, like artichoke dip with lemon and potato with caper salsa verde. We recommend the spicy Petaluma chicken with Calabrian chili "aigredolci," delivering a sweet heat, a crunchy texture, and juicy meat. Pair with one of the numerous Negroni cocktail options.

Best sushi: Morimoto in Napa

Morimoto is Chef Masaharu Morimoto's namesake restaurant with clean lines and a contemporary modern feel. Still, the Iron Chef's Japanese flavors keep us returning to his downtown Napa restaurant, sushi lounge, and bar. 

Begin with a sake flight featuring chef-selected options, then enjoy starters, like tuna pizza with fresh ahi, anchovy aioli, and jalapeno, or wagyu beef carpaccio with yuzu soy, ginger, and garlic. Follow these with the chef's combination of sushi and sashimi and end with a bowl of flavor-packed seafood tobanyaki with lobster, scallops, clams, and mussels in a red miso broth.

Best tasting room: Ram's Gate in Carneros

At the entrance of wine country, Ram's Gate offers some of the best experiences at their Carneros estate. Known for producing premium small-production pinot noir and chardonnay wines, the winery focuses on hospitality, making visitors feel like friends and friends feel like family. 

With a dozen areas dotted throughout the tasting lounge and winery, guests can enjoy various tasting opportunities. These include wines enjoyed in the outdoor garden or courtyard, enjoying light bites prepared in-house in the energetic tasting lounge, or, our favorite, relaxing bottle service by the pond overlooking the vineyard. Each experience is led by a knowledgeable host who shares the story of the wines with genuine authenticity and passion. 

Best Michelin experience: The French Laundry in Yountville

The French Laundry is likely on the top of your list if you are a destination diner. Chef Thomas Keller's three-Michelin-star restaurant is one of the finest food experiences in the world. The restaurant opened in 1978 in a historic building off Yountville Square. In 1994 Keller took ownership of the restaurant and began featuring American flavors with elevated French techniques. 

Today the multi-James Beard award-winning restaurant continues a legacy of excellence under Keller's direction, creating luxurious tasting menus for guests able to secure a (nearly impossible) dinner reservation. If you find yourself among the lucky, be prepared to enjoy a twelve-course tasting of dishes. Each is presented in harmonious unison garnered from giving the highest level of attention to detail.

Best distillery: Napa Valley Distillery

Napa Valley Distillery is creating world-class artisanal spirits just off Highway 29 in Napa proper. It is the first post-Prohibition distillery in Napa, opening in 2009, focusing on micro-lot craft spirits and ready-to-drink cocktails. Owned and operated by Arthur and Lusine Harutunian, the distillery offers tours and tastings. You can also enjoy a cocktail in one of three lounges dotted throughout Napa, including at the Hollywood Room inside the distillery and the tasting bar in Oxbow Market.

Best contemporary California: Press Restaurant in St. Helena

In 2005 Leslie Rudd of Rudd Estates began Press Restaurant. It was a local favorite and a place to go for traditional steakhouse fare paired with Napa Valley wines. A few years ago, Press went through a modernizing transformation to contemporary Californian cuisine, earning one Michelin star in 2022. 

Dining options include a four-course prix fixe menu or the eight-course tasting menu. French Laundry alum Chef Philip Tessier crafts colorful plates with locally sourced ingredients, like spring peas with Meyer lemon custard, poached lobster with summer truffle, and a 45-day tomahawk ribeye with mushroom hollandaise. The Napa-centric wine list features over 2,600 bottles dating back over 70 years.

Best boutique tasting room: Goosecross in Yountville

While many tasting rooms in Napa are extravagant and excessive, Goosecross Winery is a small-production operation focusing on accommodating hospitality and quality wine. Named after two geese that have been a part of the property for decades, the Yountville winery sits amid its 11-acre estate in the heart of Napa Valley. 

The winery, led by owners Christi and Dave Ficeli, produces less than 10,000 cases annually, specializing in Bordeaux varieties, like cabernet sauvignon and aromatic cabernet franc. It is a small family winery that welcomes you to relax and unwind with the laid-back style of Napa Valley of yesteryear.

Best Americana: Valette in Healdsburg

Valette delivers modern interpretations of classic American flavors. The Healdsburg restaurant is run by brothers Aaron Garzini and Chef Dustin Valette. Dishes like coriander-crusted duck breast with spicy carrots mingle alongside pan-roasted halibut with duck fat potatoes and crave-worthy Day Boat scallop en croute with fennel pollen, caviar, and Champagne beurre blanc sauce. The buttery shellfish bakes under a cloud of flaky pastry served fully puffed. The rich, creamy wine sauce enhances the enticing dish, creating the perfect bite.

Best winery tour: Donum Estate in Carneros

Across the 200-acre estate of Donum Estate Winery in Carneros lies one of the world's most impressive private art collections that is open to the public with a prior appointment. Meaning "gift of the land" in Latin, Donum has 50 works of art throughout the estate, including dozens of open-air sculptures. Each melds into the space, playing off the nature surrounding them and bringing joy and beauty to the vines and visitors. 

Guests can enjoy a walking tour featuring select pieces surrounding the tasting room or a more extensive exploration via all-terrain vehicles transporting guests into the vineyards to experience the open-air collection. Luckily, both feature a tasting of the winery's premium pinot noir wines.

Best French: Bistro Jeanty in Yountville

For the past 20 years, Bistro Jeanty has been a Napa Valley staple serving classic French fare with rustic elegance reminiscent of a French bistro in the countryside. The atmosphere is informal, and the flavors are familiar with a sense of nostalgia. Favorite dishes include baked escargot with garlic butter, coq au vin, cassoulet, steak tartare, and the most delicious creamy tomato soup served en croute with buttery puff pastry.

Best fried chicken: Bird & The Bottle in Santa Rosa

Bird & The Bottle in Santa Rosa is the spot for all things chicken, including flavorful mousse, wings, cracklings, and the best fried chicken. Chef Mark Stark's Santa Rosa restaurant focuses on large and small plates with influences from around the world, like chicken skin fried in shmaltz and Korean barbecued chicken. 

The salt and pepper seasoned, battered, and fried half-chicken makes our mouths water just thinking about it. With an ultra-crispy coating on the outside and tender, juicy meat inside, the dish defines why fried chicken is so delicious.

Best cocktail program: Goose & Gander in St. Helena

Goose & Gander is the place to go for cocktails when you are done drinking wine. Located just off St. Helena's main drag in a historic bungalow once owned by the Martini family, the casual spot offers traditional Americana flavors and tasty bar bites that pair with the best cocktails in the region. 

The basement is home to a full-length, pub-like bar serving boozy libations that change with the season and modern takes on classics, like a Bali-Spice Old Fashioned and mezcal negroni. The individual spirits list is as thoughtfully curated as any high-end wine list. It includes numerous options for every type of liquor, including a dozen Japanese whisky selections, over 50 bourbon options, and four different types of absinthe.

Best Mexican: El Molina Central in Sonoma

Tucked off Highway 12 in Boyes Hot Springs in Sonoma County, El Molina Central serves authentic Mexican flavors taking inspiration from the season's flavors. Dishes include traditional favorites, like chicken enchiladas and pork tamales, each expertly crafted fresh masa from hand-milled organic corn. 

However, we recommend venturing outside the standards to enjoy El Molino's not-so-common combinations. We love dishes like the wild halibut tostada featuring that ethereal masa and spicy chile de arbol salsa, beef birria tacos, and cheesy Swiss-chard enchiladas with tomato-habanero salsa.

Best brewery: Russian River Brewing Company in Santa Rosa & Windsor

One of the best breweries in the U.S. lies in Sonoma's Russian River Valley. In 1997, Korbel Champagne Company began Russian River Brewery, hiring one employee to make the beer and manage the business. Today, that employee, Vinnie Cilurzo, and his wife, Natalie, continue to run the show but as sole owners of the brewery. Korbel left the beer business in 2003, selling the company to Cilurzo and a group of investors, which the couple bought out over the next several years. 

Cilurzo has always been a fan of ultra-hoppy beers, creating one of the first commercially brewed Imperial IPAs in America in 1999: Pliny the Elder. It continues to be a favorite with various other IPAs, Belgian-inspired, and barrel-aged options.

Best burger: Gott's Roadside in St. Helena

Since 1999, Gott's Roadside has been flipping burgers in a, you guessed it, roadside stand on Highway 29 in St. Helena. Though locations dot the Bay area today, the original St. Helena location and James Beard American Classic winner, which was formerly known as Taylor's Automatic Refresher, is the place to go for a quick, casual, outdoor lunch featuring succulent burgers. 

Niman Ranch beef patties are piled high with local accompaniments like Zoe's Meat's artisan bacon and Cowgirl Creamery cheese, both from nearby Petaluma. If you aren't a carnivore, swap the ground beef with a plant-based Impossible burger patty. Pair the burgers with an old-fashioned, hand-spun milkshake or classic float made from organic dairy. Order online before arriving to skip the mile-long lines that gather at lunchtime.

Best dog-friendly wine bar: Migration Winery in Napa

For many, our dogs are our four-legged children, traveling with us wherever we go. Luckily, several Napa and Sonoma wineries accommodate and welcome well-behaved pups to join mom and dad for outdoor tastings. One of the best is Migration Winery in Napa. 

While you sip Migration's flavorful pinot noir and chardonnay selections on the covered, dog-friendly patio, or various outdoor tasting areas, the winery ensures your dog is content and comfortable. They offer fluffy beds for Fido to rest, bowls of water, and pup-approved Barkquterie boards. 

Best pizza: Tre Vigne in St. Helena

Pizzeria Tre Vigne is a family and pet-friendly neighborhood spot in St. Helena. Locals gather daily to enjoy happy hour specials like $5 cocktails and raw oysters for $1.50 each, at the time of publication, while playing a round of bocce on one of the restaurant's courts. 

We go for the pizza and dreamy hand-pulled fresh mozzarella. Pies are loaded with regional ingredients piled high on chewy sourdough crusts and wood-fired to perfection. Options like the Positano with rock shrimp and fried lemons or the Ducati with spicy Italian sausage and capicola pair well with local beers and wines. Or, take your own bottle and enjoy, as the restaurant offers a modest single-bottle corkage fee.

Best winery lunch: Bricoluer Vineyards in Windsor

Showcasing how food and wine complement each other is at the heart of Bricoleur Winery's "Rooted" tasting. Produced with the assistance of culinary advisor chef Charlie Palmer, the Bricoleur team presents a six-course tasting that changes with the seasons. 

Dishes can include sustainable halibut with shallot compote paired with Bricoleur's unoaked chardonnay or Pacific Coast wild salmon cakes with Bricoleur's Founder's Block pinot noir. The tasting is elegantly served at the winery's welcoming communal table, celebrating community while building friendships over a glass of wine and flavorful food.

Best seafood: Willi's Seafood and Raw Bar in Santa Rosa

Willi's Seafood and Raw Bar in Healdsburg welcome guests nightly with piles of ice-cold fresh oysters (including eight different varieties from both coasts), whole Dungeness crab, peel-and-eat shrimp, and fresh lobster. If you prefer your fish served hot instead of chilled, try the caramelized butterfish with miso vinaigrette or all-meat Dungeness crab cakes. 

Pair flavors with one of the many local options on the wine list. Every selection is available by the glass, half-bottle, or full bottle, making it easy to sample multiple selections.

Best Italian: Bistro Don Giovani in Napa

Taking inspiration from the flavors of Napoli, Napa's Bistro Don Giovanni prides itself on creating authentic Italian dishes featuring locally grown ingredients. Housemade pasta, fresh focaccia, and Neopolitan pizzas are served alongside grilled branzino with lemon and caper butter, braised lamb shank, and owner Giovanni Scala's Mamma Concetta meatballs served with tomato ragu. We suggest saving room for the cabernet chocolate cake with Chianti-cherry sauce. You can thank us later.

Best Breakfast: House of Better in Calistoga

House of Better restaurant is inside Dr. Wilkinson's Backyard Resort & Mineral Springs in Calistoga. Under the direction of chef Trevor Logan, the menu's southwestern flavors are healthy and delicious, redefining how we think of spa food. 

Breakfast begins with housemade aqua frescas and detoxifying wellness tonics, followed by breakfast fare like a kale-and-maitake omelet and red chile huevos rancheros. Expect everything to be good — you can even have a slice of homemade pie for breakfast.

Best brunch: Restaurant at Auberge du Soleil in Rutherford

Set in the hills above the Silverado Trail, the Restaurant at Auberge du Soleil offers sweeping views of the valley for those that dine al fresco on their veranda. The restaurant offers a daily multi-course and Michelin-starred experience for lunch and dinner. However, we stop in for the three-course brunch on the weekend. 

The occasion begins with a glass of sparkling wine or brunch cocktail, easing you into an afternoon of food-driven decadence. Refined dishes range from green garlic soup with Dungeness crab, Maine lobster omelets, or cabernet braised short ribs with morel mushrooms.

Best place to meet a farmer: Santa Rosa Original Certified Farmers Market

The focus on eating and drinking from locally grown ingredients is strong in Sonoma. Farming and ranching are essential to the county's economy. Wine grapes are an obvious contribution, but farming goes well beyond to include beef, dairy, produce, poultry, and seafood. 

Many of these purveyors come together on Saturday mornings at the Santa Rosa original certified farmers market, offering their goods to neighbors, visitors, and friends. The term "certified" guarantees that the market's goods have been raised or made in California, mainly in Sonoma, and the person selling it is likely the farmer, meaning purchases go directly to a local member of the community.