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Winemakers' Favorite Restaurants

Vitners share seven places that they like to dine in California's wine country.

diners at Artisan restaurant in Paso Robles California, image
Photo caption
Diners converse at Artisan, a Paso Robles restaurant in California's central coast wine region.

Winemakers have to have good taste—it’s in their job description. So where in California’s many wine regions do they go to dine?

  • Central Coast—The buzz down is all about Paso Robles’s  Artisan (805-237-8084, Winemaker Amy Butler of Ranchero Cellars loves the starter of toasted brioche with chanterelles, bacon, and poached egg. “It’s the best food in Paso, hands down,” she says.
  • Her colleague Elaine Villamin of Eden Canyon Vineyards frequents the Loading Chute in nearby Creston (805-237-1259), where patrons tying up their horses catch the aroma of oak-fired barbecue. “During harvest I stop by for a succulent rib eye or a steak sandwich,” she says.
  • Amador County—Taste Paul Sobon of Sobon Family Wines heads to downtown Plymouth for “mushroom cigars”—golden phyllo rolls filled with goat cheese, oyster mushrooms, cremini, and shiitakes—and for the seafood entrées. “It’s a place with incredible service that’s quite a departure for dining in the foothills,” he says. (209) 245-3463,
  • Livermore Valley—Campo di Bocce of Livermore Chris Graves of Ruby Hill Winery often dines outside at tables by the eight bocce courts. “If you want a good time, it’s the place to go,” says Graves, who favors the pancetta-wrapped prawns and boar sausage pizza. (925) 249-9800,
  • Napa Valley—Rutherford Grill On Friday nights, just for fun, Lokoya Wines’ Chris Carpenter tends bar here. Colleagues drop by, including Eric Titus of Titus Vineyards, who never passes up the sashimi salad with avocado and mango. (707-963-1792, Titus also hits the Tuesday and Wednesday happy hours at Hog Island Oyster Company in Napa’s Oxbow Public Market for half-price oysters on the half shell. (707-251-8113, “I was trained as a marine biologist,” he says, “so this place marries all my interests.”
  • Santa Cruz Mountains—Viva Dave Moulton of Burrell School Vineyards and Winery sends tasting-room patrons to this family-minded eatery in Los Gatos, especially for Rotisserie Wednesdays, when $17 to $20 gets you rack of lamb, turkey, or tri-tip with fixings. (408) 356-4902,
  • Sonoma County—Charlie Palmer’s Dry Creek Kitchen Bill Williamson of Williamson Wines favors the slow-cooked pork belly served with pork loin at this celeb chef’s outpost in downtown Healdsburg. “It’s very rich but magnificent,” he says. (707) 431-0330,

Photography by Chris Leschinsky

This article was first published in May 2011. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.