Customized foie gras sandwich at Dean & Deluca: $31
Two ounce caviar serving at Bouchon: $95
Bottle of 1999 Opus One at Auberge du Soleil: $325
Dinner for two at the French Laundry, excluding wine: $420
Your credit card bill next month: sky high!
Priceless? Hardly. When it comes to wine country, you can rack up the interest
points faster than you can finish your tasting flight at one of the region’s
many outstanding wineries. But, if you know where to go, your visit to vine
land doesn’t have to break the bank.
Read on for tips on the best places to save on food and libations in wine
country. Because when it comes to traveling, sticking to your budget is
extremely savvy – especially when you can still make your mortgage payment
For a laid-back vibe and the best burger in wine country at a wallet
friendly price, look no further than Taylor’s Automatic Refresher in St.
Helena. Around since 1949, Taylor’s offers what may be the very best meal
deal in wine country: just $4.99 scores you 6 mini corndogs and an order
of fries at this mid-century charmer with ample outdoor seating. And at
$6.49 the cheeseburger – which comes tricked out with all the fixings
and Taylor’s “special sauce” – is a local favorite at a price that’s nice.
Taylor’s Automatic Refresher, 933 Main St., St. Helena (707) 963-3486
Stave Wine Lounge
High tech meets art in this stylish wine bar/art gallery offering
self-service pours from Enomatic wine tasting machines. Purchase a budget-conscious
pre-set amount of tastes on a debit card and help yourself or settle in
at the bar to sample their new happy hour concoctions, offered from 4
to 6pm Monday through Friday. The happy hour roster features an appealing
lineup of inventive sparkling cocktails and mixed drinks discounted to
$7 from their usual $9. Try the Tropical High, made with Bouvet sparkling
wine and mango sorbet, or opt for the adventurous Ginger Twist, made with
New Age rosé wine and Asian vodka with crystallized ginger.
Stave Wine Lounge, 1149 First Street, Napa (707) 259-5411 stavewinelounge.com
Looking for an excuse to wet your whistle on a Tuesday? Then head
over to the lounge at Restaurant Cuvée, a new installation in the old
Restaurant Budo space, where on “Grey Tuesdays” savvy scenesters score
$5 Grey Goose martinis from 6 to 9pm. The spot also offers a standard
happy hour every weekday from 4 to 6pm featuring half priced drinks and
$5 bar bites. Appealing bar nosh includes mini pork slider sandwiches
and tasty goat cheese-topped bruschetta. Quite possibly the best happy
hour deal in Napa.
Restaurant Cuvée, 1650 Soscol Avenue, Napa (707) 224-2330 cuveenapa.com
Dry Creek General Store
Leave it to this quaint outpost that’s been around since the 19th
century to offer outstanding eats and drinks at prices reminiscent of
a time gone by. Sidle into the quirky biker bar (the collection of oddities
hanging from the ceiling is reason enough to go) for well priced pints
of a generous assortment of draft and bottled beer. Then head over to
the gourmet food shop and deli, where $5.25 nabs you a killer French Dip,
or splurge for the spot’s most expensive sandy, the Prosciutto di Parma,
which at a still-reasonable $7.25 comes loaded with fresh mozzarella,
tomato and oregano on a wonderfully crunchy artisan roll. Picnic, anyone?
Dry Creek General Store, 3495 Dry Creek Road, Healdsburg (707)
Tucked into the new Plaza Farms complex just off the square in
bustling downtown Healdsburg is refreshingly inexpensive Restaurant Bovolo.
Imaginative husband and wife team John Stewart and Duskie Estes turn out
what they call "slow food… fast" in tapas-style portions at
this foodie pleaser that doesn’t accept reservations. The menu emphasizes
local sustainable producers – including Plaza Farms neighbor Scharffen
Berger Chocolate - and includes a good selection of sandwiches, pizzas
and salads. But the best news for the budget-conscious is Bovolo’s monthly
Sunday family-style dinner featuring free corkage and bottomless pours
of the evening’s wine. Call the restaurant for dates and details.
Bovolo, 106 Matheson St., Healdsburg (707) 431-2962, plazafarms.com