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If it’s happened once, it’s happened a hundred times: Wandering from winery to winery up Highway 29, you forget about food. Then the munchies strike and you pull over at the nearest roadside store, only to wind up eating chips in the car. Here’s the antidote: the five best deli/lovely picnic spot pairings, so you can sip and nosh sans curb.
Dean & DeLuca must have invented the gourmet picnic—they’ve certainly perfected it. This epicurean’s delight carries all the fixin’s, from Spanish manchego cheese to Kumamoto oysters and key lime ginger shortbread. Walk across the street and due north about 100 yards to Louis M. Martini Winery, where you can spread out on the sunny picnic tables. Dean & Deluca: 607 S. St. Helena Hwy., St. Helena, 707-967-9980, deandeluca.com; Louis M. Martini: 254 S. St. Helena Hwy., St.Helena, 707-963-2736, louismartini.com
Picnic tables in the terraced gardens or a secluded table for two on the breathtaking overlook—in either place, your heart will belong to Rombauer. Stop by Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen on your way up the hill for rustic roast artichokes with lemon aioli, or grilled ahi on peppery greens to complement Rombauer’s famous chardonnay. Rombauer Vineyards: 3522 Silverado Trail, St. Helena, 707-963-5170, rombauer.com; Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen: 1327 Railroad Ave., St. Helena, 707-963-1200, cindysbackstreetkitchen.com
Rumored to have the best cheeseburger in town, Calistoga Inn Restaurant and Brewery also boasts tasty sandwiches, salads, and starters. Five miles down the road is Bothe State Park, where redwoods and ferns, a rocky creek bed, and volcanic cliffs surround hiking trails, picnic areas, and a pool. Bring your portable SoundDock and lounge for a while, or slip into your suit for an invigorating dip. Calistoga Inn: 1250 Lincoln Ave., Calistoga, 707-942-4101, calistogainn.com; Bothe State Park: 3801 N. St. Helena Hwy., Calistoga, 707-942-4575, napanet.net/~bothe
The entrance sign to V. Sattui winery and its sprawling picnic grounds gives cheese and deli equal billing, as it should. The enormous cheese counter offers free samples of everything, including La Tur and cheddar beer cheese. Tri-tip and baby back ribs are often sizzling on the grill—and with two large tasting rooms to boot, this is the ultimate gastronomic wonderland. But personally, we prefer to buy a bottle, step outside, and pop it on one of the many picnic tables or by the shimmering fountain. 1111 White Ln., St. Helena, 707-963-7774, vsattui.com
Lose the crowds by going north to Alexander Valley for Jimtown Store’s brie-and-olive sandwich and a bottle of Crush, served with a hearty slice of Americana. Then settle onto the grass by the fountain at Stryker Sonoma Winery. (If it’s getting late, watch the sunset by the back-porch fireplace with a bottle of Stryker’s Monte Rosso cab.) Jimtown Store: 6706 Hwy. 128, Healdsburg, 707-433-1212, jimtown.com; Stryker Sonoma Winery: 5110 Hwy. 128, Geyserville, 707-433-1944, strykersonoma.com