Few food-wine pairings in the world are as effortless as a well-crusted ribeye steak grilled medium rare and a Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. In fact, some say that a Napa Cabernet won’t show its true best self unless it’s paired with a juicy beefsteak. The saltiness and fatty marbling of a steak crave the grippy tannins and potent black-fruit flavors of the wine. So, when you’re in Napa Valley, do as the Napans do, and book a table at one of these local, independent favorites. You can bring your own bottle of wine (the selections below are some of our recommendations) and pay a moderate corkage fee or indulge in one of the fabulous vintages on their wine lists.
Napa Valley’s Best Steaks
Owner Philippe Jeanty brought haute French cuisine to Napa Valley when he helped open the restaurant at Domaine Chandon in 1977, soon becoming executive chef. But when, after 20 years, he launched his own quaint French restaurant on Yountville’s main street, he focused on traditional, rich French bistro fare. The fillet au poivre is a meltingly tender, silky 8-ounce tournedo ($56) crusted in black pepper and topped with a creamy mushroom sauce. A wonderfully earthy 12-ounce ribeye ($49) makes a classic entrecote frites. Ending with a luscious bread pudding made with croissants, a meal at Bistro Jeanty is a comforting indulgence.
Founder Greg Cole’s ode to the all-American steakhouse is a long-running destination for dry-aged beef lovers in downtown Napa. On a recent visit, the steaks, sides and service were as good as ever under current owners Eric and Heather Keffer. No less than six steaks are on offer, from a petite filet mignon ($45) to a 21-day, dry-aged, 32-ounce Porterhouse for two ($150) sourced from Allen Brothers in Chicago. The 21-day New York strip is crunchy on the outside, tender and gamy on the inside, perfect to savor with an Oakville Cabernet or Châteaux Margaux from the broad wine list while enjoying the stone wall ambience of the restaurant’s 19th century building.
Adopting the Spanish word for a ribeye steak, newcomer Entrecot brings a fresh, Argentine style of cooking to the downtown Napa Riverfront. While two steaks and three other beef dishes dominate the menu, Entrecot achieves a lively diversity of Latin, Italian and Spanish influences, shown in tapas, salads and veggies. Partners Gonzalo Barrado and Antonella Tesio were architects in Argentina and have brought chic design touches to the dramatic, airy dining room that opens on river views. A well charred, ruby centered 14-ounce ribeye ($45) with chimichurri sauce and a velvety skirt steak ($35) with criolla salsa are equally enticing.
St. Helena, California
Press was rightly celebrated for its woodfired proteins and deep Napa-centric wine list from its inception 15 years ago, but major shifts in the kitchen and the cellar have taken hold post-Covid. Now in charge are a veteran chef from Le Bernardin and the French Laundry, Philip Tessier, and Samantha Rudd, daughter of the late Press founder Leslie Rudd. The new team has reimagined the spacious, luxurious interior and expanded the wine list to include a few non-Napa options: The Michelin Guide promptly awarded a star for their efforts. While much more than a steak house, Press knows its cow, from a dry-aged beef tartare to a toothsome 35-day dry-aged New York strip ($75) and even a 60-day dry-aged tomahawk for two ($190).
Wines to Pair With
Chappellet 2019 Pritchard Hill Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley)
98 Points Wine Enthusiast
An extremely concentrated and well-structured wine, it offers flinty, toasty, tarry aromas, dark chocolate, black currant and espresso flavors on a thick blanket of fine-grained tannins that give a very firm mouthfeel. The wine has the depth and structure to age and improve for decades, as well as the track record to prove it. Cellar Selection —Jim Gordon$299.99 Wine.com
Shafer 2018 Hillside Select Cabernet Sauvignon (Stags Leap District)
97 Points Wine Enthusiast
Alluring aromas of cedar, dark plums, black currants and tobacco lead to generous and finely spiced flavors including black cherries, black currants, mint and a hint of cocoa. Fine-grained tannins and a full but not heavy body frame the complex flavors beautifully. Best from 2028–2040. Cellar Selection —J.G.$244.99 Wine.com
Corison 2019 Kronos Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley)
97 Points Wine Enthusiast
This snugly wrapped, agile, medium-bodied wine from old vines keeps a core of raspberries, violets and black currants under a veil of silky tannins. The wine’s excellent acid balance, tension and sense of depth will unleash more complexity as the tannins resolve over time. Best from 2028–2040. Cellar Selection —J.G.$ Varies Wine-Searcher
Taub Family Vineyards 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon (Mount Veeder)
96 Points Wine Enthusiast
Velvety and suave in texture, this opulent, concentrated wine cradles rich black fruits and handsome oak spices in melted tannins. It’s not a pushover, however, as it stays deep and intense with repeated sipping, and lingers a long time on the finish. Although not the highest priced of the Taub Family lineup, it’s super attractive. Best from 2025–2040. Editor’s Choice —J.G.$89.99 Total Wine & More
95 Points Wine Enthusiast
Velvety tannins weave in and out of vivid dark-plum and black-currant flavors in this full-bodied, fruit-centered wine. Attractive, light oak accents of cedar, wood char and anise add complexity, and the wine’s concentration lets the pure fruit notes build on the palate and linger on the finish. Best through 2030. Cellar Selection —J.G.$115.00 Schramsberg Vineyards
Hendry 2018 Hendry Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley)
95 Points Wine Enthusiast
This deeply colored, extremely ripe and concentrated wine from a cooler part of Napa Valley is powerful but smooth, as a creamy texture carries blueberries, cocoa and anise flavors wrapped in significant fine-grained tannins. The flavors show great depth on the palate and good length on the finish. best from 2026–2036. Cellar Selection —J.G.$ Varies Wine-Searcher
This article originally appeared in the May 2023 issue of Wine Enthusiast magazine. Click here to subscribe today!
Last Updated: June 6, 2023