For more than a century, locals and tourists alike have visited the Oakville Grocery, located along Highway 29. The quaint destination is surrounded by arguably the most iconic vineyard sites in California, including the Robert Mondavi Winery, To Kalon and Opus One Winery.
“The Oakville Wine Merchant adjacent to the store was the first purveyor of wine in the valley established in 1881” said the visionary current owner, Jean Charles Boisset.
A couple years ago, Jean Charles acquired the property, previously owned by the late entrepreneur Leslie Rudd, and since then, he has made it his mission to enhance and elevate the experience at both Oakville Grocery and other Oakville Wine Merchant locations.
Over the last months, I’ve made it a point to stop by, with any excuse I can find — as a meeting point with friends visiting from out of town to taste wine and indulge in their culinary fare, to grab an espresso and macaroons and take the kids for hot chocolate and matcha lattes.
Recently, we met Jean Charles for an al fresco lunch where we explored the menu in depth, while enjoying some of his many wines and engaging conversation, which made for a deeply memorable adventure.
The Oakville Grocery has become a one-stop shop for visitors who can experience the Napa Valley bounty, along with a sprinkle of renowned international wines — and even sake.
Jean Charles' vision from the get-go was to offer an in-depth selection of the wines produced in the valley. As you walk through the carefully curated wine corner, you will come across wines from the who’s who of the region as well as up-and-coming producers.
The selections, directed by Walter Hamlin, range from crisp sparkling wine from Schramsberg to rosè by Paradigm Winery, Sauvignon Blanc from Cliff Lede Vineyards and Raymond Vineyards, Chardonnay from David Arthur and TOR Vineyards. The reds include Pinot Noir from Truchard Vineyards and Frank Family, as well as heartier reds like Larkin Cabernet Franc, Spottswoode Lyndenhurst, Joseph Phelps and smaller projects like Riverain Cabernet Sauvignon for domestic wines.
For the international selections, there’s a wide range of styles and price from the everyday category like JCB Burgundian Cremant to Billecart-Salmon Champagne as well as special bottlings from Dom Perignon, and of course, the highly sought-after Domaine de la Vougeraie Charlemagne Grand Cru in magnums and exciting sake producer Takachiyo.
The store is managed by Barry Dinsmore, who has a special eye for detail in the deli section and brings in special local treats like Madeleine Macaroons, which alone are worth the trip.
The Oakville Grocery also offers a lineup of wood-burning oven pizzas, which make for an excellent impromptu gathering as we recently experienced after a day of wine tasting with coworkers. The pizzas are also available for take out.
Across the courtyard from the Oakville Grocery is the 1881 Wine Museum and Oakville Wine Merchant, which provides a unique experience led by sommelier Jamie Pyles.
You can taste what seems an unlimited number of wines by the glass. The sections include some unexpected and hard to acquire wines from Screaming Eagle Cabernet Sauvignon, The Mascot and even Jean-Charles’ own 1881 Napa Valley wines, which are all available by taste, half glass or full glass along with charcuterie and cheese boards.
The Oakville Grocery, the 1881 Wine Museum, and Oakville Wine Merchant are true gems in the Napa Valley that manage to deliver an unparalleled experience to venture into the world of wine, channeling the hospitality-centric spirit of Jean-Charles in a buzzing setting. Whether the excuse is lunch, wine tasting or simply a recharging espresso in the middle of the day amongst the Oakville vineyards, this is an ideal stop.