Take me back to the early days of the Golden West, before Twitter dictated a person’s success and the Napa Valley was just a fertile floodplain hiding in “them thar hills.” This would have been the second half of the 19th century when European businessmen were looking for new ventures in a wildland waiting to be tamed. And that is exactly what you can rediscover at the Oakville Grocery and Wine Merchant.
When you live in Napa Valley, you take these stories for granted. The 400+ wineries seem rooted in the ground like the vines that support them. Only within the last few years have I found intrigue in the stories of the past and I can only hope that visitors to the valley would appreciate the stories of our forebears as much as I do. In truth, these stories make the Napa Valley experience seem even more like a fairytale.
The Oakville Grocery and Wine Merchant, at its inception in 1881, was where local ranchers bought and sold their goods. My grandfather remembers stopping there as a teen after spending an afternoon working in a prune orchard, on his way back home to Yountville. Now a hugely popular hotspot, the venue is a trifecta of artisan wares linking past and present. The buildings are all original with the grocery nestled in a weathered adobe and the wine merchant and museum positioned as a modern interior to an otherwise simple, 2-story, Victorian ranch home.
As a local, I found this spot to be so far above expectations. You can taste wines from all over the valley, revel in Napa history, and enjoy delicious artisanal deli concoctions all at once. Unlike the typical seated tasting model, here you get a special charge card that allows you to pick your pours from “vending machines” and pay at the end. What was intended to be a quick hour-and-a-half jaunt turned into three hours of enjoyment, so clearly, it’s easy to lose yourself in the immersion. There was an eclectic band playing outside on the lawn while ladies in sundresses and large-brimmed hats giggled and sloshed their glasses. I don’t understand the “Napa dress code” of sundresses, Ray-Bans, and sandals, polos and denim shorts with classed-up boat shoes. Nobody who lives here actually dresses like that, I can assure you!
Anyway, I know what you’re here for. Would I recommend the Oakville Grocery and Wine Merchant? Yes, of course! But to whom? Everyone! Locals looking for lunch and something new without breaking the bank, travelers just passing through, and visitors mid-way into their week of wine tours who want a little break from the norm.
Take it from this concierge, 10 out of 10 would recommend.