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Why Chef Charlie Palmer Loves Living in Wine Country

Let the celebrity chef, TV personality and restaurateur show you around Napa and Sonoma.

A James Beard Award-winning chef, TV personality and prolific cookbook author, Chef Charlie Palmer has proved himself to be a successful entrepreneur with a restaurant, hotel and retail empire spanning coast to coast. In addition to his his famous flagship Aureole restaurant located in New York City’s One Bryant Park, he has dining establishments in Las Vegas and Washington DC. In his home base of Northern California Wine Country, he owns Harvest Table in St. Helena, Dry Creek Kitchen and Spirit Bar in Sonoma and the new Charlie Palmer Steak in downtown Napa, as well as two hotels.

Chef Charlie Palmer
Chef Charlie Palmer (©Paige Green Photo)

Where do you send visitors to eat around here?

There are so many great choices on both sides of the hill, but here are some of my favorite choices: In Napa, Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch. I love their charcuterie and cheddar biscuits. And CIA at Copia. It’s a great concept at the new Copia campus. And you can't go wrong at Cook or Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen.

As for Sonoma, I live in Healdsburg, so I definitely eat out more on that side, and the list is a bit longer: Willi's Seafood & Raw Bar, where honestly, all the seafood is delicious. Diavola in Geyserville is my favorite for pizza. Dino [Bugica] does an amazing job in the kitchen there. Campo Fina in Healdsburg also has great pizza, and it's a great place to bring visiting friends and family. I also love Chalkboard for the incredible handmade pastas that Shane McAnelly puts out.

What’s your favorite local winery?

This is like picking your favorite child. I have so many favorites, but my favorite wine is pinot noir, and Tom Rochioli [of Rochioli Vineyards] makes the best pinot in the world.

Roasted baby beets at Charlie Palmer Steak Napa
Roasted baby beets at Charlie Palmer Steak in downtown Napa (©Paige Green Photo)

What’s an overlooked Wine Country activity?

My wife Lisa and I hike pretty often in Sonoma County, and I don't think the hiking spots get nearly enough recognition out here.

Describe your perfect weekend in town.

I'd spend it with my wife Lisa and my four boys: Courtland, Randall, Eric and Reed. We'd spend the afternoon at Iron Horse Vineyards and then go out to dinner at Diavola.

The doughnut wheel at Charlie Palmer Steak Napa
Doughnut wheel from the brunch menu at Charlie Palmer Steak in downtown Napa (©Paige Green Photo)

What local wines do you enjoy sipping?

I love Mauritson Wines. Clay [Mauritson] is a good friend, and his sauv blanc is a great, easy drinker. Some other favorites are Whitehall Lane, Rafanelli, Merry Edwards and Silver Oak.

Where would you pick up a gift or souvenir?

Oxbow Public Market in Napa is great for foodie gifts. I try to stop by whenever I'm down by Charlie Palmer Steak Napa. If you're looking for artwork or something longer lasting, try one of the Aerena Galleries locations.

Charlie Palmer Steak Napa
Spread at Charlie Palmer Steak in downtown Napa (©Paige Green Photo)

What’s your favorite town in the region?

Healdsburg, hands down. It's where we live, and it's the most beautiful place on earth! 

Any tips for visitors coming up from San Francisco for a day of tasting?

If you're just visiting for a day, head to downtown Napa. It's only an hour's drive, and you can hit many different tasting rooms in town. It's really hard to try and do more than two wineries in any one day, so if you pop in and out of several tasting rooms in Napa, you can try more.