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Napa, Calif.: A Classy Escape

A wine country capital boasts a
bounty of restaurants, shops, and outdoor draws.

of
  • Skyline Wilderness Park trail with hikers and oak trees, image
    Photo caption
    Skyline Wilderness Park offers hikers a view of the wilder side of Napa Valley.
  • overhead shot of Oxbow Public Market with shoppers and diners, image
    Photo caption
    Oxbow Public Market buzzes with shoppers who come looking for charcuterie, cheese, desserts, olive oil, spices, and much more.
  • beignets at Jax, image
    Photo caption
    Beignets, served hot and covered with powdered sugar, are a breakfast favorite at Jax.

The buzz about new restaurants, savvy wine bars, and tried-and-true culinary shops is more vibrant than ever in Napa, Calif. Take in the gourmet scene in the tidy, walkable downtown and explore the surrounding countryside. Area code is 707.

The impressive stone-wall dining room at Torc feels both rustic and refined, and the food follows suit. Try the pakoras with truffle-seasoned yogurt dipping sauce, and the handmade twisted strozzapreti pasta with local greens and piquant cheese. 1140 Main St., 252-3292, torcnapa.com.

Since it opened in mid-May, the loftlike Jax White Mule Diner has become a brunch favorite, serving up smoke salmon-topped eggs Benedict. Or try the Mule, a breakfast sandwich with eggs, cheese, and bacon, using two crispy waffles unstead if bread. The beignets dusted with powdered sugar always satisfy. 1122A First St., 812-6853, jaxwhitemulediner.com.

With its panoply of upscale restaurants, the Oxbow Public Market is more fancy food court than farm stand. Lunch highlights include Model Bakery's crunchy BLT and Kitchen Door's soft  thin Armenian pizza topped with spiced lamb and tangy harissa yogurt. 610 and 644 First St., 226-6529, oxbowpublicmarket.com.

An antidote to pricey appointment-only wineries, Back Room Wines mostly sells bottles from vintners without tasting rooms of their own. Every day, it features five pours for $10 at its no-frills bar. 1000 Main St., Ste. 120, 226-1378, backroomwines.com.

Shackford's Kitchen Store has occupied the same corner for ages and under its vinyl sign lies a serious culinary arsenal. Amidst the encyclopedic array of Bundt cake molds and cast-iron skillets and the half aisle of kitschy cake toppers—hula dancers, dinosaurs, photorealistic bass—you're guaranteed to find something you need. 1350 Main St., 226-2132.

The trails at nearby Skyline Wilderness Park boast valley and vineyard views from an often unseen angle. Take an hour’s walk along the Buckeye Trail, which passes mossy scrub oaks and golden hillsides, to the Bay Leaf Trail, which connects to Lake Marie Road and delivers a new perspective on Napa. 2201 Imola Ave., 252-0481, skylinepark.org.

Inside a trim, brightly painted warehouse, Rancho Gordo New World Specialty Foods carries speckled black calypsos and a rainbow of other heirloom beans, as well as handmade cooking pots from Mexico and beyond. 1924 Yajome St., 259-1935, ranchogordo.com.

Photography by Alexis Petty (Skyline Wilderness Park), courtesy of Jax White Mule Diner, courtesy of Oxbow Market

This article was first published in October 2014. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.