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Winter / Spring 2006
Napa Sonoma Magazine

Yountville Revisited

This charming town had a core of culinary connoisseurs long before Thomas Keller arrived

By Carole Dixon

Nowadays, many visitors know the quaint, bucolic town of Yountville largely because of Thomas Keller and his world-famous restaurant, The French Laundry. But even before Keller and others—including Bob Hurley, Ryan Jackson, and Francisco Ramos—made a big splash in the town, Yountville had a core of locals who were obsessed with fine food and good living. The town’s original culinary pioneers have been around for 30 years or more, and paved the way for Keller and friends.

Sally Gordon transplanted herself from San Francisco three decades ago in order to find a place where she could raise her son and explore her love of food and wine. Gordon worked for many years as Domaine Chandon’s public relations and marketing director, helping to make that winery a household name. Ten years ago she opened her own restaurant, Gorden’s Cafe & Wine Bar, which became a cozy local favorite and a draw for tourists.

Ranch Market owner Arik Housley grew up in Yountville after his parents moved to the area in the 1970s. During the past decades, he has watched his market evolve from a neighborhood convenience store to a specialty market selling high-end wines and foods. Housley, who is also the Yountville Chamber of Commerce president, isn’t bothered by the growing attention and crowds. “Because of the friendly nature of the town, rarely do I ever have a tourist come in who’s rude,” he says.

Although many may think it was The French Laundry that made Yountville a dining destination, according to Gordon it was (now well-known) chef Philippe Jeanty who started the local food trend in the 1970s and 1980s at Chandon Restaurant and, later, at Bistro Jeanty. “People forget those things,” says Gordon. “There was a great little town here with wonderful restaurants—not just in the sense of culinary performance but in terms of serving the community and bringing people to Yountville as a destination, creating the economy and a foundation in the town.”

And Yountville’s reputation just continues to grow.

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