Elite Traveler Summer 2024

UNUSUAL PAIRINGS “When I worked at a restaurant in San Francisco, we had a French chef who made a dish called the Seafood Royale. It had a savory custard at the base with three di ff erent seafoods, typically uni, scallops and oyster, topped with a fennel foam. We started out with white wine and it wasn’t very good. I thought of sake but it was a French restaurant — it’s just not going to work. So, we tried something with a similar weight and texture to sake and we thought of vermouth, so we tried it with a French vermouth which felt like the right track, but we needed something more fl oral. Our bar director grabbed a California vermouth and we tried it, and wow . It was one of those hair-on-the-back-of-your-hand moments. It was so good, and we knew people would never expect it. To date, it’s my most favorite pairing.” — Vincent Morrow

Clockwise Press has the world’s largest collection of Napa Valley wines; Vincent Morrow took over the wine program in 2020; Press has embodied Napa’s culinary scene for over 15years


Right in the heart of Napa County, where the sloping vineyards give way to shrub-covered mountains, is St Helena — a pretty, sophisticated town embedded in wine country lore. It is here that you’ll fi nd Press, a family-owned and -run restaurant that has embodied Napa’s culinary landscape for over 15 years. It makes sense, then, that Press’s wine list is one of the fi nest in the region, if not the country. Since 2020, it has fallen on wine director Vincent Morrow to uphold founder Leslie Rudd’s legacy, and he continues to carefully tend to the restaurant’s abundant wine cellar — a cellar so large that it holds the world’s biggest collection of Napa Valley wines. While Arizona-born Morrow initially moved to California to pursue a soccer career, the world of wine eventually lured him in. By 31, he had achieved the title of master sommelier; worked as a senior sommelier at the three-Michelin-starred Benu in San Francisco; and helped man the cellars at the incomparable The French Laundry — Morrow’s CV is one with some weight. While his resume shines, taking on Press’s wine program had its own unique challenge: not just to uphold its stellar reputation, but also to add his own spin on the restaurant’s list. “There is a lot of history embedded in the restaurant, so changing it — or should I say, evolving it — wasn’t necessarily met with high demand from everyone involved,” Morrow says. “At fi rst, I wasn’t trying to change anything, I was just looking under the hood to understand what was working and what wasn’t — a lot was just organization. When we opened again [following

Covid-19] it was about getting a sense of what guests wanted, and then fi lling in the holes. It was important to me to really highlight [...] the cool stu ff [from Napa Valley] that isn’t available anywhere else.” And highlight it he does. Morrow describes his wine list as being “in the Napa sandbox,” by which he means a drink or a producer must have some sort of loose connection to the region. The IWA 5 sake, for example — which is very much not made in Napa Valley — passes Morrow’s strict guidelines because its maker, Richard Geo ff roy, began his wine career in the valley in the 1980s, moved to France with Dom Pérignon for 30 years, then started working in Japan making sake. “It’s as much of a Napa connection as we could possibly get for sake,” Morrow says. “First and foremost, it pairs wonderfully, but the connection shows the range of what the Napa Valley sandbox can produce.” To Morrow, though, it’s just as important that diners know how to properly utilize the skills of a sommelier as it is for him to recommend a good wine. “There is some vulnerability in it, but guests need to be honest and just try to explain what they like,” he says. “It is also super helpful when people are clear about budget. No one here wants a guest to feel uncomfortable with what they’re spending, whether it’s $50 or $500. One of the most confusing things for all of us is when someone isn’t willing to communicate what they want to spend. It’s not tasteful to ask a guest their limit — they need to communicate it.” pressnapavalley.com

Photos Morgan Bellinger, Eric Wol fi nger

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