How to Conquer Building a Picnic Basket in Napa Valley

Is there anything better than an afternoon spent soaking up sunshine amidst rows of grapevines on a rambling estate? There is when you add locally-made artisan food and world-class wine served atop a picnic blanket just steps from where those grapes were grown. A wine country picnic is a must-do on any Napa Valley itinerary and we’ve got the skinny on everything you need to create a memorable al fresco meal. First things first, you need to choose a picnic spot. The Napa Valley Vintners Association has a comprehensive list of wineries that allow or encourage picnicking. Plan to purchase the wine you will be enjoying at the winery where you are picnicking. Most wineries will provide you with glassware and open a bottle for you to enjoy or offer wines by the glass for you to pair with your picnic. Next, act like a boy scout and be prepared. If you’ll be picking up your lunch early in the day pack it in a cooler along with napkins and any utensils you’ll need. Many vineyards have designated picnic areas, while others offer lawn space for setting up your spread. If you’re enticed by a lazy afternoon in the grass, pack a blanket as well. Now comes the fun part. We’ve scouted the best spots in the Valley for stocking your picnic basket with a feast fit for royalty. In Napa Oxbow Public Market is ground zero for gourmands and a great place to go if you and your picnic partners have different tastes in lunch. The offerings are endless with prepared sandwiches and salads, artisan cheeses and charcuterie, handmade pastries and chocolates, and even sushi to-go. Our pick: The Fatted Calfs Porchetta Sandwich with lemon aioli, pickled vegetable & caper relish, roasted red peppers and arugula. Bonus Tip: If you’re at Oxbow on a Tuesday or Saturday morning, the Napa Farmers Market takes place just across the street! In Oakville The Oakville Grocery has been open since 1881 making it the longest operating grocery store in California. This is not your average country market, however. You’ll find decadent pastries, artisan pesto and tapenade and a mouth-watering menu of sandwiches made from locally sourced meats, produce and artisan foods. Our pick: The Petaluma Chicken Salad Sandwich made with Mary’s Smoked Chicken, Aioli, Apple-Fennel Slaw and Butter Lettuce piled on an Acme Torpedo Roll. Bonus Tip: If you’re looking for a late afternoon pick-me-up, Oakville Grocery has top-notch espresso and locally-made ice cream. In St. Helena The St. Helena location of culinary emporium Dean & DeLuca has a distinctly Napa feel with locally- sourced produce, a massive selection of artisan cheese, and more than 1400 California wines lining its well-stocked shelves. Our pick: Let one of the knowledgeable staff in the Cheese Room help you put together a cheese plate worthy of pairing with your favorite wines. Bonus tip: Don’t miss the prepared foods here – the chefs creating the menus in this market have worked in some of the best kitchens in the country. Consider this list a good starting point for putting together a classic Napa Valley picnic. If whiling away an entire afternoon browsing stacks of freshly baked bread and tasting triple-crème sounds like perfection to you, we have one final tip. Ask the locals! The cheesemonger at Dean & DeLuca will be happy to tell you the best place to get gelato and the staff at the artisan bakery probably has the scoop on the best pour-over coffee. Let the locals in this epicurean epicenter guide you to hidden culinary gems and an unforgettable wine country picnic.

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