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A Sense of Place in Napa Valley

By Atissa Manshouri | Photos by Bob McClenahan

Few restaurants embody the farm-to-table ethos as literally as Brix Napa Valley, where the distance from farm (or, in this case, garden) to table can be measured in steps. Those peppery curlicues of arugula and psychedelic watermelon radishes adorning diners’ plates are more than likely harvested from one of the raised beds situated within view of the outdoor terrace, and that glass of cabernet sauvignon gets its cherry color from grapes grown on the vines that grow on the property.

Nestled amid 16 fertile acres in the Oakville AVA (American Viticultural Area), Brix is a classic Wine Country restaurant, beloved among locals and visitors. A meal at Brix provides immersion in the unique bounty of its soils, where stone fruit and citrus grow among flowering gardens and a seasonal rotation of herbs and produce, all under the watchful gaze of the Mayacamas Mountains. As proprietor Valerie Kelleher Herzog describes it, “Visiting Brix means even more than food and wine. It’s a special place to settle in, relax, and enjoy the beautiful views.”

Much like the relationship between wine and its terroir—its sense of place the abundant beauty of the environs at Brix imbues the dining experience with something magical. “Imagine sitting in our vineyard, next to the grapes that make the wine and our organic vegetable garden, and the finished product of our labor is on your plate and in your glass,” says Kelleher Herzog. Guests are encouraged to stroll the restaurant’s grounds to take in even more of the atmosphere, one in which golden sunlight, a whispering breeze, and the melody of laughter floating from the terrace induce a trancelike contentment.

The guest experience is enhanced by the restaurant’s chic aesthetic, expressed in a 2019 renovation that highlights the spacious terrace and a horseshoe-shaped bar in the heart of its dining room. “Far and away the best part of our renovation was moving our bar to the center of the restaurant,” says Kelleher Herzog. “We have the best bartenders in Napa Valley, and now our locals and visitors can gather and see each other across the bar and the whole vibe is energetic and social.” It’s the ideal perch from which to enjoy a Mule from the Gardens, the classic vodka ginger beer cocktail, enlivened here by just-plucked fruits and herbs from the garden’s raised beds.

Chef Cary Delbridge’s seasonal menu nods to regional favorites including Dungeness crab fondue and wood-grilled artichoke without skimping on indulgent choices such as the burger on pain de mie, or the shrimp and grits with an umami roasted pepper gravy. A technicolor stone fruit salad with crispy goat cheese evokes the essence of summer, its colors echoing the white daisies and yellow-red sunflowers dotting the grounds, while the forest mushroom risotto brings forward the refined earthiness of its simple ingredients.

Looking towards the next quarter-century of hospitality, Kelleher Herzog is both reflective and optimistic. “Where did twenty-five years go, and how did it pass so quickly?” she asks. “We will look to our family’s next generation to take over with their own ideas of how to maintain Brix’s success.”

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