Gourmet Gifts: Napa Valley

A trip into the West’s wine country is an excellent opportunity to savor the grape—that’s a given. But it’s also the perfect chance to find one-of-a-kind gifts with a story and a sense of place. Here’s our indispensable guide to where to shop in Napa Valley.

Published: 9/02/2019

Napa Valley


The city of Napa is imminently walkable and architecturally significant with more pre-1906 buildings than anywhere else in the Bay Area—much of it set along the Napa River. Farther, dozens of tasting rooms are scattered throughout the compact downtown alongside murals and sculptures that show-off the city’s non-alcoholic diversion: art, seen throughout the Napa Art Walk, the galleries, and the Railyard Arts District.

Leave all that behind. It’s time to shop. Stroll through First Street Napa, a collection of restaurants and ultra-chic boutiques that offer fashion, home decor, and gifts. The General Store fulfills two needs in one stop: a delicious leisurely breakfast of cornmeal pancakes on the patio, and an opportunity to peruse locally made gifts like jewelry and items made from barrel staves. It’s no surprise that the merchandise at the Store at CIA Copia is expertly curated since it is the work of the Culinary Institute of America. Kitchen treasures include locally made pottery and beautiful barware. You can sign on for cooking classes, watch a demo, eat, or view 4,000 kitchen artifacts in the Chuck Williams Culinary Arts Museum. (Williams is the late founder of Williams-Sonoma.) Nearby, the 40,000-square-foot emporium, Oxbow Public Market, provides fresh bounty that has been expertly prepared by talented chefs. Shop the vendors for Anette’s small-batch brittle and chocolates, exotic spice blends from Whole Spice, or cookbooks from Napa Bookmine. 

Nothing is done halfway in Napa and that’s evident in its riverfront Welcome Center on Main. Napa Valley Ambassadors dole out magazines, maps, wine-tasting passes, and spot-on advice. It also scores big with its own mercantile.

Traditionally, most visitors coming from points south, first stop in downtown Napa. This has changed with the opening of The Village at Vista Collina Resort, a collection of tasting rooms and a brewery that host culinary activities. There are cooking and baking classes, butler-arranged lawn picnics, and sound-healing and other wellness sessions in the 22,000-foot Spa Terra, which is housed in a cave. 


The Towns of Silverado Trail

The hamlets along the Silverado Trail—from south to north: Yountville, Oakville, Rutherford, St. Helena, and Calistoga—are filled with wine country treasures. With so many places to taste, tantalize, and shop, they are well worth braking for.

Chef Thomas Keller has often been credited with putting Yountville on the map, drawing diners to the acclaimed The French Laundry and, consequently, to the towns nearby. That’s still true, only he’s since added two other restaurants as well as Finesse, The Store, a kitchen-supply shop. The store is filled with worthy gifts for the foodie in your life that Keller practically selected himself.

A dozen places collect under one roof at The Shops at The Marketplace. There, you can locate whimsical gifts like Napa Soap Co.’s vinotherapy creams, olive-vine candleholders, and chic cork sunglasses.

Whatever enterprise that Jean-Charles Boisset brings to life is always a delightful surprise. One of his recent endeavors, Senses by JCB, doesn’t disappoint. The luxury retail spot and medispa is also home to the highly coveted osmologue machine, which blends custom fragrances.

Frenchman Boisset continues to delight with two recent projects in Oakville: the revamped Oakville Grocery and the opening of 1881 Napa, a museum/tasting room adjacent to the grocery. Both historic properties look out to the Mayacamas mountains.


St. Helena

One of the more idyllic valley towns, St. Helena, preserves its late 1800s heritage in the brick and wood facades. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the commercial district boasts dozens of shops, many within these old structures. In that sense, shopping is also an education in Napa Valley history.

As one of the first dog boutiques, Fideaux is historic in its own right, selling spoils for furry friends for over 20 years.

Grapeseed oil is one of the secret weapons within Napa Soap Company’s products, like its luxurious Vinotherapy cream, which are all sold in the quaint Main Street shop.

It’s highly recommended that you educate yourself in St. Helena’s English muffin history at The Model Bakery. This spot, open for almost a century, has perfected these breakfast breads and packages them to take home as gifts. An English muffin may not seem like much of a gift, but these are the legendary Model Bakery muffins. Trust us, or if not us, then Oprah—they made her list of favorite things.

Another delicacy handmade in Napa Valley are the barks, toffees, and chocolates at Woodhouse. A chocolate lover is sure to appreciate one of the succulents made from dark or milk chocolate. They’re pure indulgence.

You are nearly guaranteed to find a special gift at Pennyweight, which makes ordinary objects extraordinary. A regular umbrella becomes giftable when it’s studded with blue crystals; pens turn bespoke when they’re from Montegrappa’s Game of Thrones series. This is the perfect place to hunt and gather.

Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch isn’t only a place for a fresh lunch beneath a giant blue spruce tree at the café, it’s a place to shop and taste. Order a flight of olive oils, whiskeys, or wines.



About 25 miles north of Napa, Calistoga is dubbed “Up Valley,” and has, for the past 200-plus years, promoted wellness via its natural geothermal waters and mineral-rich mud. Do take the mud and waters, perfect for thawing the winter’s chill. This year’s Wine Country on Netflix has shone a celeb-ish light on the small town. We hope it doesn’t go too much to its head, because we like the Western town the way it is: so unaffected that on a late fall or winter weekday you can almost imagine the gun slingers and stagecoaches roaming the roads. Can’t picture that? Then, get yourself to Sharpsteen Museum, where a 30-foot diorama depicts 1860s Calistoga. The museum was built by an Oscar-winning American animator, director, and producer for Disney.

You can also dig for this history in the many antique shops along Lincoln Avenue, including Roam Antiques and Design, Rags to Riches, and The Vintage Treehouse. 

Brannan Cottage Inn is hardly a newcomer—it opened in 1862—but Sam’s General Store is a 21st-century addition. The upscale mercantile opens this fall.

The tasting room at Tank Garage Winery is a great waystation between shopping, since it’s housed in a 1930s filling station.

The bonbons at Earth and Sky Chocolates are little chocolate paintings, filled with valley ingredients, including wildflower honeys, fruit jams, and locally produced bourbon-whiskey and beer.


Diversions for Napa Valley

The CIA at Greystone isn’t far from the main hub of St. Helena, but it’s an experience that deserves a couple hours of your time, particularly if you include a tour of the 1888 stone edifice. Within is Spice Islands, which carries 1,700 book titles, cookware, bakeware, and artisan goods from the valley.

Also inside, the studio of Jeff and Sally Manfredi is known as Calistoga Pottery. Their wares can be seen in the aforementioned Brannan Cottage Inn and many local wineries. Visitors flock to watch them create.

Recycled oak barrels are the raw materials of Wine Barrel Furniture, which is ten minutes from downtown Calistoga. Craftsman Paul Block makes chandeliers and rocking chairs from barrel staves. He also recycles and refashions grapevines into sconces and chandeliers.

Napa Valley Olive Oil Manufacturing Company embodies Old World charm from a St. Helena 1880s barn. Yes, there’s a screen door entrance. The Italian grocery store, founded in 1931, carries 20 different olive oils, which you can buy by the jug. 

As seen in the issue Harvest 2019 of Touring & Tasting Magazine.

Napa may be half the size of neighboring Sonoma, but it packs a lot between the grapevines, including some of wine country’s best shopping and fine dining experiences. This is the land of Thomas Keller, the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone, and the epicenter of wine country cuisine. The coveted varietals are Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, but the area also produces stellar Sauvignon Blancs and Merlots.