3 Napa Icons Spill Their Secrets
In advance of the Napa Valley Film Festival (Nov. 7 to 11), vintners Francis Ford Coppola and Rich Frank and chef Thomas Keller reveal their best places to stay, eat, drink and relax.
FRANCIS FORD COPPOLA
Wineries: Francis Ford Coppola Winery, 300 Via Archimedes, Geyserville, CA; Inglenook Winery, 1991 St. Helena Hwy., Rutherford, CA.
If Coppola's Inglenook Winery were an actual wine, it would have one of the best provenances in Napa Valley. Built on 1,600 acres, the estate -- which the director restored for three decades after purchasing it in 1975 with help from profits from The Godfather trilogy among other early films -- produced some of the region's finest Cabernet in the 1940s. His eponymous winery in Sonoma County is more a story about unique wine branding. Featuring 10 wine brands, two wine tasting bars, two restaurants, bocce courts, a movie gallery and a swimming pool overlooking the vineyards, it's "a place the entire family can enjoy -- with wine, great food and a moonlit pavilion for dancing and Shakespeare," says Coppola, who cites the 2010 Claret ($21 a bottle) as its latest and greatest offering. "Local people describe it as a 'daycation.' " Now living full-time in a house he built on the Rutherford estate, Coppola is on a mission to restore the Inglenook name -- which he bought in 2011 after it had devolved into a boxed-wine brand -- back to its glory.
Best Breakfast Place: "Breakfast in the Napa Valley is usually a family affair, and so it happens in people's homes," says the director. In other words, lucky guests eat at Chez Coppola. "I make breakfast for my friends at Captain Niebaum's mansion," he says of the 1879 residence built by the estate's original owner. "My own favorite is at the home of Bret Lopez and Mimi DeBlasio, owners of the famed Scarecrow vineyard and makers of the best popovers in the world," Coppola adds. His neighbors are also Hollywood progeny: Bret is the grandson of MGM executive Joseph Judson Cohn, who oversaw production of The Wizard of Oz, hence the Scarecrow name.
Best Dinner Place: Says Coppola: "I enjoy Ad Hoc" -- located at 6476 Washington St. in Yountville and owned by Thomas Keller -- "which nightly serves a special quality meal" from a four-course, family-style menu that changes daily. "I also love Cindy Pawlcyn's, either her Backstreet Kitchen in St. Helena" at 1327 Railroad Ave., featuring regional American and Mexican-influenced cuisine, "or Mustards Grill on Highway 29" in Napa, frequented by chefs such as Bobby Flay (who cited its Mongolian pork chop on Food Network's The Best Thing I Ever Ate) and truckers alike.
Best Place For a Celebration: Coppola finds the seasonal and artisanal offerings of Gott's Roadside Tray Gourmet at 933 Main St. in Napa (formerly known as Taylor's) "refreshing -- it looks like a fast food place but serves quality food, and is a favorite of locals."
Good Shops: "In St. Helena, I like Steve's Hardware and Housewares," at 1370 Main St. "Or visit the Napa Valley Olive Oil Manufacturing Company -- say hi to the Particelli family," who fill by hand each bottle of extra-virgin and infused oil made from olives grown in Sacramento Valley for their store at 835
Charter Oak Ave.
Other Wineries: "Certainly, all our neighbors in the Napa Valley make exceptional wine. There are so many great places for every taste and budget." He recommends a visit to Robert Mondavi Winery at 7801 St. Helena Hwy. in Oakville; Swanson Vineyards at 1271 Manley Lane in Rutherford; and Hall Wines at 401 St. Helena Hwy. in St. Helena.
Best-Kept Secret: Nightly bocce in St. Helena's Crane Park. Says Coppola: "There are 138 local teams, and it's really fun. We like bocce because you can play holding the ball in one hand and a glass of wine in the other."
Winery: Frank Family Vineyards, 1091 Larkmead Lane, Calistoga, CA. President of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences during the '90s and president of Walt Disney Studios as well as Paramount Television in the '80s, Frank has been channeling his executive energies for the past 20 years into his vineyard. It has developed a Hollywood following as a go-to getaway for "all my friends -- Michael Wright at TNT got married at the winery, Steve McPherson [former ABC Entertainment chief] got married here; Pink, Larry David stop here. I never know who's coming -- we get calls every week."
While the winery, which employs 35, is overseen by Frank, his sons Darryl, president of DreamWorks Television, and Paul, executive producer of Royal Pains, are involved, too, "meeting distributors, though not full-time, and checking out restaurants we should be in," he says. The family effort is paying off, with their wines sold in every U.S. state and in Canada and "by the glass all over L.A., at BLVD at the Beverly Wilshire, Wolfgang's and up and down the street," says Frank. He shuttles every other week with wife Leslie Miller, an Eyewitness News reporter for ABC7, between their houses in Beverly Hills and Rutherford, and is proud of having launched a wine club last year, "which has already grown to over 2,000 members." He recommends among his offerings: The Rutherford Reserve Cabernet at $85 a bottle; Winston Hill for $150 a bottle, "but our Frank Family Vineyards Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, under $50, is a giant favorite."
Best Place For a Celebration: Located at 900 Meadowood Lane in St. Helena, "Meadowood Napa Valley Resort is a great place. The grounds are beautiful, and they have amazing catering facilities, service and rooms. Their restaurant recently received three Michelin stars and is a special experience," says Frank. "Meadowood is hosting this year's Artist in Residence Program during the film festival. The directors of the feature films in the Narrative Competition should be very happy."
Best Breakfast Place: "I like to go to Gillwoods Cafe on Main Street in St. Helena for an old-school omelet breakfast," says Frank, "or to the Grill at Meadowood, the property's more casual restaurant overlooking the golf course. They have a fantastic weekend brunch."
Other Wineries: "We always tell our guests at Frank Family Vineyards to also visit Joseph Phelps, Darioush and Revana," Frank says, at, respectively, 200 Taplin Rd., St. Helena; 4240 Silverado Trail, Napa; 2930 St. Helena Hwy., St. Helena.
Best Dinner Places: "Michael Chiarello has a restaurant called Bottega" at 6525 Washington St. in Yountville, says Frank. "When Michael is in town, he stops by everyone's table. The best tables are the corner tables in the main room, facing the kitchen, [where] you can have a conversation and see the whole room. My favorite dishes are the polenta appetizer with caramelized mushrooms, and the gnocchi are heavenly. I defy anyone to bite into one before it just melts in your mouth." Press at 581 St. Helena Hwy. is a great steak house. Says Frank, "It has the best rotisserie chicken anywhere. Order one and split it for the table."
Good Shops: "Every woman has to go to Foot Candy," Frank says, at 1239 Main St. in St. Helena. "Everybody loves the chocolates at Woodhouse" at 1367 Main St. in St. Helena. At 6525 Washington St. in Yountville, "NapaStyle is a great store for housewares and gourmet items. They also do a really great picnic basket. We often see our guests at the winery enjoying their baskets under our big elm trees outside of the tasting room." For coffee breaks between splurges, Frank recommends the Napa Valley Coffee Roasting Company at 1400 Oak Ave. in St. Helena.
Insider Tip: "If you really want to relax, enjoy the wine country and be safe," recommends Frank, "hire a driver. I recommend Ken Slavens at St. Helena Wine Tours."
Best Hotel: "For a luxury experience, the Calistoga Ranch" at 580 Lommel Rd. (rooms from $875), "is sublime," says Frank. "It is very private, and the facilities and grounds are amazing."
Restaurants: The French Laundry, Ad Hoc, Bouchon, Bouchon Bakery, Washington Street, between 6476 and 6640, Yountville, CA
As much as his Bouchon is an industry commissary in Los Angeles, Keller -- who lives with his fiancee, Laura Cunningham, in a restored Victorian carriage house in Yountville -- feeds practically all of Napa morning and night with his four establishments there. Keller's own favorite bites include Bouchon Bakery's "grown-up versions of desserts I enjoyed as a child, such as Oreos (which we call TKO's) and peanut butter cookies (Better Nutters)." If you're looking for a break from the grape, Ad Hoc just received its liquor license, "so our beverage team over there is busy making their own wonderful cocktails," says Keller.
Most Beautiful Drive: "The Silverado Trail runs parallel to Route 29 but is less congested, a bit more winding and romantic," says Keller of the 29-mile route along the valley's eastern edge. "You have views of vineyards on one side and beautiful hillsides on the other."
Wineries: "If you are staying for several days, there are a couple of wineries that are really worth the effort and the wait," Keller says, recommending Kenzo Estate at 3200 Monticello Rd. in Napa, and "for sparkling wines, there's Schramsberg Vineyards" at 1400 Schramsberg Rd. in Calistoga.
Best Dinner Place: (other than his own) "It's not very new, but I really like Oenotri in Napa," at 1425 First St., says the chef. "It has wonderful energy. You can't go wrong ordering any of their pasta dishes."
Good Shops: Located at 607 St. Helena Hwy., "Dean and Deluca in St. Helena has a great selection of items for take-away and picnic baskets," he says.
Best Hotels: "In Yountville, we have several hotels and inns in walking distance to our restaurants that we've built great relationships with and always recommend to our guests," he says. Keller suggests Bardessono at 6526 Yount St. (rooms from $800), Villagio Inn & Spa at 6481 Washington St. (rooms from $400), Vintage Inn at 6541 Washington St. (rooms from $530), Petit Logis at 6527 Yount St. (rooms from $185) and Hotel Yountville at 6462 Washington St. (rooms from $400).
Best-Kept Secret: "The Veterans Home in Yountville is the largest veterans' home in the U. S.," says Keller. "If I were in the military, this is where I'd choose to retire."
WHAT'S NEW IN NAPA VALLEY
Andaz Napa Hotel (1450 1st St., Napa) At this 141-room property downtown, the leanings are luxe but low-key, from iPad check-in to the contemporary high-end rooms (from $350 a night), with bath amenities from Lydia Mondavi's 29 Cosmetics line.
Auberge du Soleil Inn (180 Rutherford Rd., Rutherford) Ryan Seacrest, Robert Redford and David Kelley have been seen on the property, whose updates include artisanal workshops in cheese-, salami- and breadmaking, a redesign of the guestrooms (from $950), and a new private dining experience at luxury treehouse Maison d'Arbre.
Goose & Gander )1245 Spring St., St. Helena) The View co-host Lisa Ling is a fan of the duck fat fries at this casual outpost that serves upgraded comfort food (think braised lamb meatballs with feta) in a former hunting lodge. Michael Keaton, on repeat visits, hung out at the bar, sipping a seasonal cocktail while poring over the new Robocop script. "Goose & Gander has mind-boggling good cocktails made by Scott Beattie," says Frank. "Plant yourself in front of him in the downstairs bar."
Cindy Pawlcyn's Wood Grill and Wine Bar (641 Main St., St. Helena) The Napa standout chef closed Brassica but has opened in the same location a rebranded eatery that will no doubt attract admirers with its well-balanced high-end pizza made with homemade sausage (gluten-free dough available) and pub food.
Redd Wood (6755 Washington St., Yountville) Tia and Tamera Mowry used this rustic backdrop for their reality show, and David Franco, James' younger brother, dropped by with a buddy for a blistered wood-fired pizza from Michelin-starred chef Richard Reddington. Among the reclaimed items in the salvage-chic space is the old mailbox from Robert Mondavi's former Napa Valley house.
The Thomas (813 Main St., Napa) From the folks who brought Public House to New York City comes this canteen, reopened Aug. 8. Residing in an old boarding house, it serves up seafood prepared with locally sourced ingredients -- including a fresh halibut burger. Carnivores can dig into the wood-fired steak while vegetarians enjoy the black truffle babaganoush.