CALIFORNIA WINE COUNTRY
Continued (page 12 of 13)
NAPA VALLEY OLIVE OIL MANUFACTURING CO.
835 Charter Oak Ave.
The little white barn that has sat on Charter Oak Avenue since 1931 is worth a visit just for the inspiring smell that greets you as you walk in the door: a heady mix of olive oil, aged cheese and salami. This is the center for plain old olive oil in a jug, imported Italian pastas and sauces as well as fresh cheese. The folks running the place may well be in the sweetest people in town. Place your business card on the wall to join the thousands already there. Napa Valley Olive Oil is near Tra Vigne Restaurant.
TWO STOPS FOR SHOE LOVERS
Off the main street and in a tiny space, Flats (1232 Spring St., St. Helena; 707-967-0480; flatsnapavalley.com) is worth seeking out for its handcrafted Italian ballerina flats in many colors, big white cotton tunic tops and Indian fabric dresses. Footcandy (1239 Main St., St. Helena; 707-963-2040; www.footcandyshoes.com) is for fabulously spoiled girls (you know the type) who need Choo, Blahnik and Louboutin to feel right about themselves. The shop is gold and white and has not only shoes but also fashion-forward clothing and bags. Of course.
1367 Main St.
This jewel of a candy box sells handmade delights in unusual fresh flavors like mint—which tastes like the leaves smell—mocha cream, rum raisin, honey and quatre epices (pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg and clove). The packaging—light blue and brown—is so tasteful it will make you want to buy someone special (besides yourself) a gift. Like many businesses in the Napa Valley, this is a family-run operation. One daughter makes the chocolates assisted by her mother, two daughters help out with the business, and the chocolatier's husband "does everything else." They all do their jobs exceedingly well.
THE WINE EXCHANGE OF SONOMA
452 1st St. East
This is a place to come for local wines. The bottles are organized by variety, there are colorful vintage French posters on the wall, and you can even get beer for those in your party who want suds instead of grapes. Go to the homey wooden bar at the back of the shop, chat with the knowledgeable owners, Dan and Mary, and ask them what they’re pouring that day—you can taste most wines for a dollar a (generous) pour, with a few $2 or a tad more. The owners can also suggest boutique wineries in the area worth visiting. The shop has been here since 1989, and there are just as many locals as visitors at this friendly place.
EAST NAPA STREET
Stores worth visiting near the southern edge of Sonoma Plaza include three selling wines, books and kitchenwares. Sonoma-Enoteca (35 E. Napa. St., Sonoma; 707-935-1200; sonoma-enoteca.com) pours the wines of 12 boutique wineries, and you can purchase wine and accessories (glasses, openers, racks and even some art). If you need to furnish your new kitchen on a budget, Robin’s Nest (116 E. Napa St., Sonoma; 707-996-4169) isn't huge, but the products here are well made and smartly styled. There are lots of white ceramic ramekins and serving dishes in the many sizes all proper cooks need. Chanticleer Books (127 E. Napa St., Sonoma; 707-996-7613; chanticleerbooks.com) is filled with rare and out-of-print books. The owner, Stephen Blackmer, specializes in California history, literature and cookbooks.