Learn basic and fancy skills, gather new recipes, and have fun in these hands-on culinary adventures in wine country.
Don a chef’s apron and dive right into the world-class food scene of Napa and Sonoma with a hands-on cooking class. Prices range from around $60 to more than $200, depending on the amount of class time and what’s on the menu.
Napa Valley Students at the Silverado Cooking School can whip up—and then share—a four-course dinner, Sunday brunch using fresh eggs from the chef's own farm, or dishes such as beef with creamy Dijon mustard sauce. There's also a three-course “date night dinner” class for couples. Private group classes available. 1552 Silverado Trail, Napa, (707) 927-3591, silveradocookingschool.com.
One of the country’s premier training grounds for the pros, the Culinary Institute of America’s Greystone campus also offers dozens of home chef classes that include Mediterranean Cooking, Seasons in the Wine Country, Holiday Cookies, and the Flavors of Asia. 2555 Main St., St. Helena, (707) 967-1100, enthusiasts.ciachef.edu/cooking-and-baking-classes.
Another professional institution offering public instruction is the Napa Valley Cooking School, part of Napa Valley College. Offered on evenings and weekends, classes might have you mastering Shanghai soup dumplings during dim sum instruction or perfecting your béarnaise in a session on classic sauces. Private group classes available. 1088 College Ave., St. Helena, (707) 967-2910, napavalleycookingschool.org.
Cooking With Julie lunch classes start with a morning shopping expedition to a farmers' market or Oxbox Public market, followed by a tasting of wine options to accompany the meal. Then it’s off to the kitchen to cook and enjoy a seasonal, three-course menu that could feature a French-style fish stew or almond-hazelnut-pear tarts. Private group classes available. Napa, (707) 227-5036, cookingwithjulie.com.
Sonoma Valley The amusingly named classes at Ramekins Culinary School cover a wide variety of topics. During My Heart Belongs to Chocolate, students make and share samples of mini chocolate biscotti and three other dishes. The class This Little Piggy satisfies pork cravings with a half-dozen preparations such as bacon-and-sweet-potato biscuits. Private group classes available. 450 W. Spain St., Sonoma, (707) 933-0450, ramekins.com.
Italian cooking is the specialty of Scuola Rustica in the Depot Hotel Restaurant. Once-a-month classes produce a multicourse meal for students to share, with a focus on Tuscany, Sicily, Lombardy, and other regions, or on particular ingredients such as wild game or Dungeness crab. Private group classes available. 241 First St. W., Sonoma, (707) 938-2980, depotsonoma.com.
Hour-long classes at Relish Culinary Adventures might teach you how to make fresh mozzarella or fermented beverages such as kombucha. Longer classes include a seasonal session on wild mushrooms that begins with a foray into nearby woods and ends with a four-course lunch featuring porcini polenta. Private group classes available. 14 Matheson St., Healdsburg, (707) 431-9999, relishculinary.com.
Photography courtesy of Silverado Cooking School
This article was first published in January 2014. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.