Winter / Spring 2006
This charming town had a core of culinary connoisseurs long
before Thomas Keller arrived
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.