New Wine Country Dining to Check Out This Summer

charteroak-Bar.jpg

The bar at The Charter Oak. Photo: Kelly Puleio.

charteroak-DiningRoom.jpg

The dining room at The Charter Oak. Photo: Kelly Puleio.

charteroak-Kat-Hearth.jpg

Chef Katianna Hong at The Charter Oak’s hearth. Photo: Kelly Puleio.

minimodel.jpg

The new Mini Model in Yountville. Photo via Facebook.

z-livefirenapa.jpg

The blazing pizza oven at LiveFire Pizza at Oxbow Public Market. Photo via Facebook.

z-thistlemeats-sandwich.jpg

Sandwich of the day at Thistle Meats. Photo via Facebook.

It’s that time of the year when San Franciscans escape to Wine Country for the weekend if we hope to encounter any chance of sun (at least that’s my M.O.). I thought you could all use a little roundup of what’s new and happening in the 707, so let’s review.

In St. Helena, chef Christopher Kostow and Nathaniel Dorn of Restaurant at Meadowood have opened ~THE CHARTER OAK~ in the former Tra Vigne. Chef Katianna Hong leads the kitchen, and the family-style menu highlights simple and seasonal presentations like grilled meats (beef rib grilled over cabernet barrels with beets dressed in the rendered fat) and vegetables from their farm, with the hearth figuring prominently. To go along with the family-style dining, you can also order cocktails for the table (they serve six), but you can also go solo too, don’t worry. It’s all meant to be celebratory and casual. And let’s not forget the terraces and the courtyard. Open for lunch Mon-Fri 11:30am-2:30pm, dinner nightly 5:30pm-10pm, brunch Sat-Sun 10:30am-2:30pm. 1050 Charter Oak Ave., St. Helena.

St. Helena’s other big opening is ~ACACIA HOUSE~ at the newly opened Las Alcobas Napa Valley hotel (an offshoot of the original luxury property in Mexico City), with chef Chris Cosentino and Oliver Wharton (Cockscomb, San Francisco; Jackrabbit, Portland). The 50-seat restaurant is located in a historic property that dates back to 1907, so expect a unique Wine Country atmosphere. The dinner menu includes dishes like local radishes with sea urchin, butter, and local sea vegetables; Napa Valley lamb tartare with green harissa, mint, and chickpea cracker; and porcini rigatoni with nettles, pine nuts, and hemp oil. There are cocktails, a house-brewed beer, and guests can also order picnic baskets with cold fried chicken, or musette bags for cyclists. Open daily for breakfast (7am-10am), lunch (11:30am-3pm), dinner (5pm-10pm), with the bar and lounge open until 11pm. 1915 Main Street, St. Helena.

Don’t want to deal with the lines at ~MODEL BAKERY~ to get your English muffin fix? There’s a Mini Model now open in Yountville in the former Coffee Caboose location. You’ll also find Stumptown Coffee drinks, breakfast sandwiches, grab-and-go sandwiches, and more. Open daily 7am-2pm. 6523 Washington St., Yountville.

Over in Napa at Oxbow Public Market, ~LIVEFIRE PIZZA~ is now open, serving California-style wood-fired pizzas, along with Italian sandwiches, salads, and baked goods. Partners Michael Levine, Scott Rodrick, and Ervan Lim brought on consulting chef Liza Shaw (Merigan, A16), so you know those pizzas and sandwiches are the business. Breakfast is also available, with full breakfast on the weekend. Open Sun-Thu 8am-9pm and Fri-Sat 8am-10pm.

Need to perk up after that meatball sandwich and wine? ~RITUAL COFFEE~ has a new coffee bar open in Oxbow, The Cup & Star. There’s a dedicated bar featuring a special menu and brew methods that aren’t available at the main coffee bar or SF locations—it’s kind of like going to an exclusive bar, but with coffee.

Up in Healdsburg, ~THE BRASS RABBIT~ has opened in the former Bistro Ralph. Chef Shane McAnelly’s (also executive chef at Chalkboard in Healdsburg) menu highlights supper club classics like lamb Wellington and lobster thermidor, plus farm-fresh produce from Chalk Hill’s organic vegetable farm. There’s an Argentinean-style wood-burning grill, plancha, and rotisserie in the open kitchen. Pre-Prohibition cocktails are also on offer, plus martinis with add-ins like foie gras-stuffed olives. Dinner nightly 5:30pm-10pm. 109 Plaza St., Healdsburg.

In downtown Petaluma, Travis Day (Commonwealth, Salumeria, Central Kitchen, The Fatted Calf) has taken over ~THISTLE MEATS~ as owner-butcher. Grass-fed, pasture-raised meats will continue to be the focus, along with charcuterie and an expanded menu of prepared foods including sandwiches, salads, and soups. Kyle Itani (Hopscotch and Itani Ramen) is also helping out with operations. Look for upcoming Sunday suppers with guest chefs, and a beer and wine license this summer. The shop has 13 seats and a new bar in the window with seating, plus a backyard. Open Wed-Mon 10am-7pm. 160 Petaluma Boulevard N. at Washington, Petaluma.

While you’re in Petaluma, you should also swing by ~BREWSTERS BEER GARDEN~ and plunk down in one of the more than 350 open-air seats. You’ll find former chef of Citizen’s Band Chris Beerman overseeing a menu of Southern Carolina barbecue with some California touches (you know, salads), perfect with the 30 craft beers on tap, plus wine and cocktails. There are also heat lamps, a fire pit, a bocce court, a children’s playground, and a live music stage—all the bases are covered. Open Tue-Fri 11:30am-close, Sat-Sun 11am-close. 229 Water St., North Petaluma.