Wine Country After Dark
Napa and Sonoma Counties’ booming nightlife keep the party going—and the wine pouring.
Miminashi // Emma K. Morris
The sleepy napa and Sonoma Counties are waking up, so to speak. The towns that once closed shop along with the tasting rooms at 6 p.m. now host rocking music venues, late-night eats, and craft cocktail bars, drawing a hip, new crowd that stays out to the wee hours. Here are a few of our favorite spots for food, drinks, and music that are bringing the night to life.
HOT SPOT: Chef-owner Curtis Di Fede made a radical shift from his previous Italian restaurant, Oenotri, to Miminashi, which opened in May 2016 and combines the best of California flavors and Japanese fare. With hours extended to 11 p.m. on weekends, the izakaya (informal Japanese gastropub) is special from the start: The hand-carved wooden entryway made of hundreds of conal knobs creates a stark contrast to the surrounding brick buildings. Light-colored poplar wood is used throughout the interiors in the tall booths, massive bar, and ceiling. The menu has both traditional and innovative Japanese cuisine, featuring everything from ramen to Monterey Bay black cod to pork belly. miminashi.com.
LOCAL FAVORITE: Since opening in September 2015, La Taberna has quickly become popular with Napa residents, bringing a laid-back vibe to the downtown food scene without skimping on quality. Patrons can read from the chalkboard menu that changes daily, offering a wide variety of Spanish tapas, including standards such as crudo, empanadas, and bocadillos. La Taberna serves its wine by request in a traditional porron (Spanish wine carafe), which has a narrow spout: Spot locals by seeing who can create the longest wine stream from the carafe. The restaurant closes at 11 p.m. most nights of the week, but in true small-town form will stay open much later if the crowd is still buzzing. latabernanapa.com.
CLASSIC: For a restaurant that’s defined the Napa Valley’s culinary scene for almost 20 years, you’d think Bouchon would have more rigid hours, but chef Thomas Keller’s famous Yountville eatery stays open until midnight every night of the week. Like Keller’s impossible-to-get-a-reservation restaurant The French Laundry, Bouchon serves authentic French bistro fare in a decadent setting. It even features a seasonal late-night menu from 10:30 p.m. to midnight for those in need of pâté de campagne or confit de canard after a long day of wine tasting or hiking the Silverado Trail. thomaskeller.com/bouchonyountville.
HOT SPOT: Portuguese cuisine and wines don’t often get enough credit. Tasca Tasca, however, has been working to change that ever since it debuted in downtown Sonoma in spring 2016. Open until midnight all week long, the restaurant offers a menu of delicious Portuguese wines—Vinho Verdes and bold reds from the country’s Douro region—alongside make-your-own tasting plates. Pick three, five, or seven small-plate items such as Portuguese mac and cheese or the more traditional Dungeness crab empanadas and boquerónes (white anchovies). tascatasca.com.
LOCAL FAVORITE: The rustic and modern Oso Sonoma has managed the perfect balance of fun and quality for close to three years. Don’t let its casual bar stools and ’80s rock soundtrack fool you, though. Open until 11 p.m. on weekends, the restaurant serves a variety of traditional dishes with surprising, delicious twists: deviled eggs with crab and house-made yellow curry, or poutine with red wine gravy and scallions. Its selection of wines gives an appropriate nod to wineries in nearby Napa, Sonoma, and Lake Counties. ososonoma.com.
CLASSIC: The Girl and the Fig has become a staple in the Sonoma community and is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. The French restaurant dishes out a rotating three-course menu each week, with delicious late-night brasserie fare available on weekends until 11 p.m. The menu features the restaurant’s quintessential fig and arugula salad alongside traditional French items such as croque monsieur and steak frites. The cocktails also have a uniquely French twist, with the popular Fig Royale consisting of French sparkling wine and house-made fig liqueur. thegirlandthefig.com.
HOT SPOT: Even though its taproom only stays open until 9 p.m. (Wednesday through Sunday), Tannery Bend Beerworks is changing the downtown Napa scene by embracing beer culture in Wine Country. Opened in March, the small-batch brewery can produce up to 250 gallons of beer a week. The beer itself is hyperlocal, using ingredients grown in the area. And even the beers’ names—the Coombs Saison, for instance—highlight local references, such as the brewery’s location on Coombs Street. An L-shaped bar and stools take up most of the brewery’s snug space, while some beer-making tanks are on view. This is only the beginning for the Tannery Bend team, though: The owners hope to expand after the successful opening. tannerybendbeerworks.com
LOCAL FAVORITE: On the second floor of Andaz Napa, Mercantile Terrace is a haven that plays host to tourists and locals alike until 10 p.m. Its expansive hardwood deck includes fire pits surrounded by rocking chairs mixed in with communal tables and lounge seating. Patrons can choose from an extensive cocktail menu that changes seasonally. For those who prefer to sit indoors, Mercantile Social on the hotel’s lobby level provides cocktails and live music on Wednesdays and Saturdays; it’s open until 1 a.m. on weekend nights. andaznapa.com.
CLASSIC: Farm at Carneros offers a delicious menu with produce from the resort’s garden and orchards, and its casual bar and pavilion are the perfect spots to grab a cocktail after a wine tour. Open on weekends until 11 p.m., the bar and pavilion feature outdoor fireplaces and bocce ball. Its Summer Nights at the Pavilion series (which runs through October) includes live blues and jazz by Jack Pollard’s Party of Three from 6 to 9 p.m. every Thursday. farmatcarneros.com.
HOT SPOT: Artisanal cider-makers Sonoma Cider opened a brick-and-mortar post in October 2016 in Healdsburg. Even though it’s usually only open until 9 p.m., it’s a great place to get a taste of the county’s other popular fruit: heirloom apples. As the first cider taproom in Healdsburg, Sonoma Cider provides a wide range of craft ciders, with 24 taps in a casual setting that includes a dog-friendly patio. sonomacider.com.
LOCAL FAVORITE: Bergamot Alley wine bar and shop in Healdsburg is an anomaly, serving no American wine in the heart of American Wine Country. In lieu of the typical Pinots and Zinfandels, the bar pours varietals such as Cabernet Franc and Chenin Blanc. Since opening in 2011, Bergamot has become an educational hub for the wine community, hosting an annual Seven Percent Solution tasting for California producers of uncommon grape varieties. The ambiance is equally community driven, with funky vinyl spinning on the turntable and a variety of recycled furniture that sets the stage for cribbage tournaments and trivia nights on any given day. Even its menu of grilled cheese dishes gives patrons another reason to stick around until closing at 1 a.m. on most days. bergamotalley.com.
CLASSIC: Russian River Brewing Company in Santa Rosa has become such an international sensation that there’s now a line to get in many nights—but it’s worth the wait. Grab a Pliny the Elder, the beer that put the brewery on the craft-beer map, and don’t even think about skimping on the Pliny bites, pizza dough topped with white cheddar and jalapeños. Open until midnight, the brewpub keeps folks entertained for hours with its extensive beer list. Beer aficionados can also buy bottles or growlers to take home. russianriverbrewing.com.
HOT SPOT: The latest venue to open inside the historic Napa Valley Opera House is Blue Note Napa, an offshoot of the 35-year-old Blue Note Jazz Club in New York City’s Greenwich Village. The Napa spot offers table seating so visitors can eat while enjoying the show. The venue, which opened in fall 2016, creates an intimate musical experience. Past acts include Alvon Johnson, The Sextones, and Funk Revival Orchestra. bluenotenapa.com.
LOCAL FAVORITE: The Italian menu at Ca’ Momi Osteria brings people into the restaurant, but its DJs and live music on Fridays and Saturdays keep them here. The dining room transitions from bustling restaurant to music hall in time for the 10 p.m. start of Osteria Live! when regional musicians take the stage. On the first and third Friday of the month, La Notte Latina sees DJ Jose Miguel spinning beats for a crowd dancing salsa, cumbia, and merengue. The shows are free, and the restaurant offers a late-night menu for anyone who works up an appetite. camomiosteria.com.
CLASSIC: For a town of less than 100,000 people, Napa now has quite a few live music venues, including Silo’s. Vinyl and album covers line the ceiling and walls of the popular spot, which has a similar jazz-club seating arrangement as Blue Note Napa, but with a more laid-back vibe. A wide range of jazz, rock, and blues musicians perform most nights of the week, keeping the music going until at least 11 p.m. on weekends. Outdoor concerts take place on the club’s RiverBend Performance Plaza. silosnapa.com.
HOT SPOT: Starling Bar Sonoma brings a sophisticated touch to Sonoma’s nightlife scene. While the bar hosts live music several nights a week, the blues and rock sounds provide a soundtrack more suited for intimate conversations. Its cocktail menu features that same classic touch, with bartenders using ingredients from the venue’s patio garden to craft delicious sips. On special nights, a local chef creates a menu to pair with live music. The neighborhood bar is open every night of the week until 2 a.m. starlingsonoma.com.
LOCAL FAVORITE: With outlets in Sonoma and Sebastopol, Hopmonk Tavern has quite the following. Both locations support the local music scene by booking area bands and attract big-name acts like Blackalicious. Patrons can hang in the beer garden, complete with fire pits and live music, or they can see a show on the bigger music stage. True to the hop name, the tavern features a wide variety of beers, and the pub fare is tasty. hopmonk.com.
CLASSIC: It’s hard to believe the talent that McNear’s Mystic Theatre attracts to the small town of Petaluma. Once an old Vaudeville theater built in 1911, this live music venue still has the sound of a historic building with sturdy wooden floors perfect for a foot-stompin’ good time. While several acts—Yonder Mountain String Band and Poor Man’s Whiskey, to name a few—cater to bluegrass fans, contemporary funk groups including The Revivalists and Brownout also play here. The adjacent McNear’s Saloon and Dining House serves pub fare alongside some of the county’s best beers—think Russian River’s Pliny the Elder—and stays open until 2 a.m. mcnears.com.