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City Winery

Author: Julie Fadda Powers
March, 2015 Issue

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City Winery
1030 Main St.
Napa
(707) 260-1600
Cal-Mediterranean Cuisine
Dinner nightly
Lunch Th.-Fri., Brunch Sat.-Sun.
Entrées (dinner): $13-$30
Full bar; excellent wine list
 
City Winery, with roots in New York and Chicago and now open in Nashville, transformed the circa 1880 Napa Valley Opera House last year into a delight for all the senses. Its Tap Bar & Restaurant is on the ground floor, while the performance space (which also offers seated dining) is upstairs. There’s also an outdoor patio along the Napa River and a private banquet room. The entire redesign gives a nod to the original building’s history and purpose of being a community gathering space, with the vision of its new leaders being to indulge the senses with a blend of great food, wine and music.  
 
Chef Joseph Panarello’s menu has a global influence with a dash of American comfort foods mixed in, all locally sourced and expertly prepared with service to match. Wine director Kristina Fischer has put together an outstanding wine list and offers more than 30 local wines at the tap bar—an impressive selection to say the least. You can order tapped wines by the taste, glass, half or full carafe.
 
We started with a glass of Schramsberg Blanc de Noir (green apples, toasty nose) and tuna tartar, which came with avocado, jicama, micro cilantro and house made taro chips. Topped with a hint of chili powder, the nice-sized portion of fresh tuna had a building heat and great flavor.
 
The soup of the day was a hearty, Spanish three-bean with grated Garrotxa cheese, diced carrots, chorizo and bacon in a slightly herbaceous broth, served with fried English dough seasoned with paprika. The warm sweet potato salad had bite-sized chunks of Merguez lamb sausage, chopped cashews, shaved Parmesan/Reggiano and arugula—one of those salads that an “everything” bite makes heavenly.
 
Next we had Miner Family Viognier (delicate with a hint of jasmine on the nose) and Truchard Rousanne (silky with apricot elements) with our generously sized entrées. The seared king salmon fillet (very tender) came atop spaghetti squash and was topped with tomato fondue with a dash of avocado cream on the side. The red wine-marinated short rib was thick, slow cooked and served boneless atop a delicious onion cream sauce. It came with crisp, spinach-filled ravioli on top (its shell reminded me of a dumpling) and a slice of “candied” (not too sweet) butternut squash. With it, I sampled Lang & Reed Cabernet Sauvignon (dark berries, sassy, great body) and Brown Estate Zinfandel (classic Chiles Valley fruit that’s dark, earthy and sexy—it went especially well with the short rib).
 
For dessert, we had olive cake (dense) with mascerated strawberries, crème fraîche and house made caramel gelato (superb). The apple crème brulée was served inside a cored, baked apple, topped with cinnamon crème fraîche and drizzled with caramel.
 
After dinner, we headed upstairs (the venue was partially funded by Margrit Mondavi) to catch jazz guitarist Larry Coryell, who performed with Jeff Chambers on stand-up bass and Mike Hughes on drums. It’s a beautiful setting with great sound, table seating on the floor and a few tables on the rear balcony; the show was most excellent.
 
City Winery offers an eclectic mix of performers, and I highly recommend taking in a show either with or after your meal for the full experience.

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