Wine Country is officially reopen for business.
So get up there and support your neighbors — which, as luck would have it, means partaking of the world’s finest wines and cuisine.
Here, an insider’s guide to the region’s unmissable spots, courtesy of Laura Brennan Bissell of Inconnu Wines. You may remember wine expert Stevie Stacionas’s top local picks, a list on which Inconnu figured prominently, with some of “the most beautiful and easy-going wines in the state.” (Buy them here — Stevie recommends the 2014 Pinot Gris.)
Brennan Bissell’s winery survived the fires. “I wouldn’t say things are back to normal, but there’s a big push for people to come and visit and travel in Wine Country,” she says. “There’s a whole ecosystem of people, and wineries and restaurants expecting visitors.”
Let’s be those visitors. Below, Brennan Bissell’s top picks.
“A true gem of Napa. These guys make amazing sandwiches that can be picked up or delivered, as well as cater events. A lot of wineries work with them for release parties because they are the best. They also do a super fine pop-up breakfast at Miminashi in Downtown Napa, and are at the farmer's market every Saturday.”
“Beautiful minimalist Japanese food in an extremely well designed location with a street side soft-serve ice cream window. My favorite is their bento box — it's a wonderful harvest pick-me-up, and can be made to-go pretty easily.”
Bistro Don Giovanni
“It's kind of like the Zuni of Napa. Everything is always good, and even though it can be packed with tourists, there's always a ton of locals. The wine list is nothing to write home about, but their cocktail program waxes and wanes between fun and classic. The octopus salad, fried olives, and Mandilli are not to be missed. There's also great outside seating.”
The Fremont Diner
“I work with a vineyard right by there, and as much as it's nice to go in and eat sometimes, my favorite thing about the Fremont is their snack menu and a beer at the bar, or grabbing a breakfast sandwich to-go.”
La Taquiza Fish Tacos
“Legit Baja-style tacos. No glitz or gleam — just super fresh and delicious coastal-style Mexican food. They are also known for a taco dorado filled with salt cod and mashed potatoes — very tasty.”
“In Cotati before getting to Sebastopol is this little hole in the wall. It's very simple and fresh, and the owners are super sweet. I'm a big fan of the fresh rolls, and the salt and pepper squid.”
“Amazing sushi just south of Santa Rosa in Rohnert Park — who would have ever thought? This is some of the freshest and most skillfully put together Japanese food I have had in California.”
And below, two local relief efforts Brennan Bissell supports. “Personally, I was inconvenienced, and it was hard and scary — the most important thing is to help people who lost their homes,” she says.
Rebuild Wine Country, which is working in partnership with Habitat for Humanity to rebuild homes destroyed in the fires.
UndocuFund, which supports undocumented workers in Sonoma County, who are ineligible for funds from FEMA and who often fear that seeking help could lead to deportation.