Sip and Feast: Northern California Wineries Bring Food Pairings to the Table

A guide to the top culinary tasting experiences in Napa and Sonoma

The wine regions of the Bay Area are blessed with some of the best restaurants and wineries in the world. But rarely do the two intersect: it can be tricky finding wineries serving food at all (thanks to some complicated laws). Thankfully, these eight wineries, from Napa and Sonoma to the East Bay’s Livermore, offer exceptionally delicious food experiences.

Food pairings at Jordan Winery

Jordan Vineyard & Winery, Healdsburg (Sonoma)

Tom and Sally Jordan opened Jordan Winery in the Alexander Valley in 1972, drawing inspiration from their Bordeaux travels for the gorgeous architecture and the Bordeaux-style, California wines. Jordan offers three food-and-wine tastings and tours, from an affordable, one-hour Library Tasting to a three-hour Estate Tour & Tasting across the 1200-acre property that visits the chef’s garden and the apiary. The winery produces its own olive oil and grows the ingredients for its food, which is paired with varying vintages of the acclaimed Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Table at Liana Estates

Liana Estates, Napa

Open as of October 2016 in Carneros, Liana Estates boasts serious pedigree: the family behind Napa’s Peju Province Winery. Sisters Lisa and Ariana Peju focus on Pinot, Chardonnay, rosé, orange muscat and other varietals while hosting wellness activities like yoga with brunch and bubbly. Food options range from full moon harvest dinners to the Bake and Bubbles—where guests shuck and bake oysters to be paired with wines. There’s also a guest chef series in the olive grove, estate picnics, a mercantile store selling produce and private label olive oil and a hands-on Mozzarella Challenge class with Liana’s executive chef.

Food pairings at Ram's Gate Winery

Ram's Gate Winery, Sonoma

Striking Ram’s Gate is an architectural, Howard Backen-designed beauty. It’s half open air, perched on a plateau gazing out over the valley. Ideally situated at the gateway of Sonoma and Napa counties, it’s an easy stop to and from either region, with a spacious kitchen (and cookbook library) at its center. Paired with the flagship Pinot Noir and Chardonnay) and smaller releases of Pinot Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Rhône varietals) there’s a Palate Play wine and food pairing for two to six people. You can also pre-order a picnic basket to take on the grounds or book the ultimate, three-hour Vineyard Table meal for 4-10 guests. Reserve ahead.

Robert Sinskey Vineyards, Napa

For over 25 years, native Californian Robert Sinskey has been producing organic, biodynamic certified wines, from beloved Abraxas to acclaimed Pinot Noir, that are revered by wine geeks and honored with awards. There’s a first-come, first-served policy for the Flight of Five, a casual flight of five wines with five bites from the Vineyard Kitchen, or visitors can reserve ahead for five different food and wine experiences, including a meal outdoors or a decadent chef’s table for up to eight guests that moves from gardens to atmospheric caves. Robert’s wife, Maria Helm Sinskey, is the winery’s culinary director, having cooked in Michelin-starred kitchens.

Wine pairing at Long Meadow Ranch

Long Meadow Ranch, St. Helena (Napa)

Long Meadow Ranch is many things: winery, cattle and horse ranch, chicken farm, olive orchard and produce farm. The enchanting, expansive grounds are home to Farmstead restaurant, making this a winery where it’s easy to spend all day appreciating estate-grown wines, fresh produce, olive oil and grass-fed beef and lamb—all from the property—paired with or utilized in dishes from talented chef Stephen Barber. There are pit fire nights and guest chefs, bluegrass concerts in summer/early fall and even the onsite farmers’ market on weekends.  

Patio at Round Pond Estate

Round Pond Estate, Rutherford (Napa)

A MacDonnell-family-run affair since the early 1980s, Round Pound is revered for its estate olive oils and red wine vinegars as much as it is for its Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon. The Estate also produces eggs, organic vegetables, honey and more, making it an idyllic, palm tree-lined setting for food and wine experiences. Visit the olive mill for a tasting or book one of the meals, such as the Garden to Table Brunch with a garden tour or the Signature Estate Tour, a ride in a 1941 red truck around the vineyards and olive mill that ends with the Il Pranzo Garden Tasting.

Gloria Ferrer, Sonoma

A Pinot pioneer since the early '80s, the Ferrer Family is one of the region’s great sparkling wine producers, utilizing méthode champenoise with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes. As the first winery to plant Champagne clones in Carneros, they’ve perfected their wines over the decades, offering a few food and wine experiences. Dig into the Ferrer family’s Spanish roots with a tapas and Spanish varietals tasting, or picnic on a private hilltop area with panoramic views over Carneros.

Dish from Restaurant at Wente Vineyards

Wente Vineyards, Livermore

Barely 50 miles east of San Francisco is the historic wine region of Livermore, a haven of vineyards and ranches with more than one winery—including Wente­ Vineyards—continuously operating since the 1800s. Still run by the Wente family, the impressive operation boasts a winery, a concert series with big names from Diana Ross to the Beach Boys and a destination restaurant. Chef Mike Ward artfully plays with produce from Wente’s garden, where the gardener of over 30 years, Diane Dovholuk, grows everything from basil to squash. Year-round ingredients go into exceptional dishes like roasted black cod over red beet quinoa, accented by pistachio and shaved cauliflower in a French-style curry. The elegant cocktails are mixed with housemade vermouth and tonic. Wine selections by sommelier Jorge Tinoco show off the exciting wines of Livermore and beyond.