gluten-free on the go
When in wine country where do you eat? You’ll notice this list is not truly encompassing Napa Valley because all the restaurants are in St Helena. It’s not that I haven’t tried Napa, Yountville, or Calistoga restaurants (yes, yes Thomas Keller) but frankly these are the options that win out in friendliness, food quality and options for the gluten-free vegetarians. Napa Valley restaurants tend to come with steep prices and menus that are primarily meat-based so I’ve done my best to find a few places with a range of prices that all provide great service and lovely food. These are the restaurants I keep going back to.
Breakfast: Gillwood’s Cafe
Neighborhood: St Helena
Price: 8.99 for the two egg breakfast
Ambience: exactly how a diner should be: casual + cozy
Service: Warm and Friendly- they always double check gluten free items
Beverage of Choice: Orange Juice
Gillwoods is exactly what you expect when you think of a diner. I mean that in the best way possible. Everyone who works there is kind, cheery and attentive. The food is hearty, the portions large, and the coffee is always hot. To be completely honest what I love most about Gillwoods is that they have both gluten-free pancakes and waffles. The pancakes are plate-sized so be warned and only order one.
Neighborhood: St Helena
Ambience: Super casual - outdoor seating, community style
Service: Fast-paced and friendly
Beverage of Choice: Milkshake
I gotta hand it to Gott’s: they go above and beyond to take care that gluten-free stays gluten-free. Fries are made in a separate fryer and gluten-free buns are only $1 extra. I ordered the veggie patty on a gluten-free bun without thinking twice. When the order came up, the woman working expo checked to verify that I was gluten-free and then let me know that the vegetarian patty had gluten in it. She sent in a new order on the fly and found myself eating a delicious impossible burger carefully marked gluten-free. For the rest of you gluten-allergic who are not vegetarian you’ll be happy with most of the burgers on a gluten-free bun.
Neighborhood: St Helena
Price: $14-$20/plate for vegetarian/gf options
Ambience: nice, but not overly dressy, light airy ambience
Service: Kind, patient, helpful!
Beverage of Choice: dare I say wine?
I was first drawn to Archetype by their menu with carefully marked gluten-free and vegetarian items. The space is airy and bright, the hospitality warm. To my delight, when they drop each plate, they verify that it is gluten free, saving me from being the stick-in-the-mud asking “are you sure that this gluten free?” Believe me, these are meals that will make you forget that you’re missing out on gluten and meat.
The food is immaculately prepared and each dish offers complex flavors that will leave you smiling. These are plates to savor, so take your time, and be present with each bite of your meal.
The Wine is the Thing…
You’re probably thinking, “Great, now I can eat, but that’s not why I go to Napa Valley…” I hear you loud and clear. With over 400 wineries across the valley, choosing where to go for a weekend can be difficult. I’ve got a few must-visits for your wine weekend.
I keep going back to Failla. The wines are just that good. If you’re weary of the typical Napa Cabs go partake in their impressive Pinot Noir line-up. Their hosts are incredible knowledgeable and will keep your glass full as they wind you through their cave system and introduce you to their lineup.
Chappellet sits high upon Pritchard Hill, where the pyramid shaped winery is nestled among the fog and trees. The first thing made obvious on entering the building is the founders’ passion for art. As you walk among barrels of wine, canvases are on display with works done by various members of the Chappellet family. Don’t be fearful that the experience comes at the cost of the quality of the wine: their wines are beautiful and by far some of the best I’ve had while visiting the area.
My favorite tasting room experiences are the intimate ones where the wines truly speak for themselves. At Hunnicutt, you won’t deal with hordes of people and raucous wine drinkers. In their cozy tasting room, you’ll have time to absorb each wine and get to know your host. This family owned winery produced small lots of Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Merlot and Pinot Noir.
Because bubbles. Need I say more? Mumm is one of those wineries that receives huge amounts of visits, but I would say it is well worth it to sit on their patio and work through a flight of their handicraft.
This is an odd one to land on this list. The first word that comes to mind when I think Raymond is: opulence. Over the top opulence. The tasting room is a cross between Vegas and Cirque du Soleil. Frankly, the wines are just alright. I recommend Raymond because the grounds are such a great introduction to wine. With a tasting you can explore their terroir room and see the difference of each soil type. Next, peruse the sensory hall where you can challenge your vocabulary to describe different aromas characteristic of wine. Finally, wander outside and explore their biodynamic farm. The experience is truly immersive.