Travel Tips

Kitchens & Chefs of California Wine Country: Postcard from Suzy Gershman

Locations in this article:  Las Vegas, NV Los Angeles, CA Paris, France San Francisco, CA Santa Barbara, CA

Suzy Gershman explores California Wine CountryDear Peter,

As you know, I have been drinking my way through California’s Wine Country in the past year as I research Born to Shop California Wine Country (available at and other retailers in July).

One of the things I’ve learned is that where there’s wine, there’s always good food.

All of the grape-growing areas are taking on chefs and eateries to enhance the destination; Napa has three multi-star Michelin chefs who are working with vintners and visitors. So I’ve got news and then I’ve got more news.

Chef Christopher Kostow - MeadowoodSTARS AT NIGHT

Stars are especially big and bright at Meadowood, the premier resort in the Napa Valley. You will see those stars because it’s very dark here as you drive from your deluxe cabin in the woods to dinner …  and because there are stars on the plate: as in, two Michelin stars for the last three years in a row.

Christopher Kostow is the in-residence chef and one of the few two-star ranked chefs in Napa. He changes his carte seasonally, so Sarah and I have been forced to go there often (for scientific reasons, of course).

One of the most amazing things about this restaurant is that despite the ranking of the chef and the quality of the dishes, the prices are not big-city. Dinner at $75 has to be considered a bargain. A three-course meal with wine pairings is $125.

Find more food adventures in our Culinary Travel section.

Meadowood Dinner - California Wine country“Three course” is somewhat a misnomer as assorted small bites and nibbles come to your table as well, including everything from an oyster-and-potato layer stew to ginger sorbet. I plan to plant radishes any day now just because of the adorable radish teaser we were served. You eat the green as well as the red part!

As good is the meal is the service which is so professional you could think you are in a palace in Paris.


Don’t miss Suzy’s report on Paso Robles Wines & Hotels.

The Restaurant at Meadowood, Napa, CaliforniaNot content to rest on his stars, Chef Kostow does several promotions each year with guest chefs and area vintners. In December there’s the Twelve Nights—an event so popular that it sells out as soon as the dates/chefs are announced and can be bought as a package with a room night (so you don’t have to worry about drinking and driving).

Kostow himself cooks the final feast, but guest chefs can come from all over. Last Christmas we were lucky enough to eat with Josiah Citrin, from Melisse in Los Angeles.

Among the most exciting things about dinner at Meadowood is the attitude of chef and sommelier, who are very hands on. Not only do they make the rounds to each table at least once, but if you ask to come into the kitchen, you will be allowed to do so. For those who have never seen a professional kitchen in the throes of a degustation, this alone is a destination to remember.

Love wine? Don’t miss Suzy’s “Bottle Blogs” series:

Suzy with Chef Josiah Citrin of Melisse, Los AngelesI even had my picture taken with Chef Josiah as we giggled and tasted together. Talk about the modern souvenir and evening to remember. Who needs a day at the opera or a night at the races when you can have 5 minutes in the kitchen with a multi-star chef?


We stayed at Les Mars Hotel off the main square of Healdsburg, in Sonoma County, in order to see what the chefs in that area are doing. Healdsburg is a great food and wine town, most famous to foodies because another two-star Michelin restaurant, Cyrus, is located inside Les Mars.

For more local fun, don’t miss Suzy’s Postcard from San Francisco, California

Charlie Palmer’s Dry Creek KitchenHowever, it was inexplicably closed the night we went for our dinner rendez-vous. This was disappointing of course, but not too upsetting since we had already been to Charlie Palmer’s Dry Creek Kitchen, one block away. Palmer is one of the most famous chefs in the area and a genius at marketing: he does an event related to an all-pork menu that sells out every year. The sommelier here is also very knowledgeable, so the food melts in your mouth before the wine hits the tongue. Palmer has over a dozen restaurants around the country, and does menus for Seabourn cruises, but his Dry Creek Kitchen is famous as a local hero on the town square.


The biggest story is just now breaking news: Thomas Keller, renowned chef/owner of the three-star The French Laundry, has coordinated a take-out program from his Lyon-style bistro, Bouchon in Yountville with a new winery, Kenzo Estates. The pairing event (as it is called, NOT lunch) costs $60 per person, a bargain when it comes to Keller, and you get four 2-ounce pours of the regal Bordeaux-style wine and a cold platter from Bouchon. I haven’t tested this, but I love going to Bouchon (and Bouchon Bakery), so it should be a treat to chow done at this gorgeous new winery high above Napa.

Starry Kisses,

By Suzy Gershman for Visit Suzy on the Web at, and learn about her journey from Paris to Paso Robles at