CIA At Greystone
By Jeff Marinelli
And Westin Verasa Napa
Greystone, the Culinary Institute of America’s prestigious outpost in the Napa Valley, is a gorgeous tufa-stone edifice, the retrofitted former site of Christian Brothers Winery in St. Helena. The architecture is Romanesque; grand arches, cathedral ceilings and jutting towers set the scene.
CIA at Greystone is not only among the world’s most professional and ongoing culinary educations, it also serves as a meeting place for the Napa Valley, hosting festivals, seminars, dinners and tastings.
“St. Helena has been known to be the heart of the Napa Valley,” notes Charles Henning, managing director of the CIA, “and this spectacular structure that Greystone has been since 1889 has been a gathering place for the community ever since.”
The CIA bought the property in 1993 after an extensive search throughout the West Coast. “Northern California was the place,” adds Henning. “It had agriculture, a lot of creative people, and California is attractive to people. It’s the land of milk and honey. We needed to be at the forefront, where things were happening.”
The property also houses several historic collections worth a see, including Brother Timothy’s impressive corkscrew collection. Just this year, the institute opened its Vintners Hall of Fame, a self-guided tour in the once-upon-a-time Barrel Room, where visitors can learn the history of California’s wine pioneers, from Andre Tchelistcheff and John Daniel, Jr. to Robert Mondavi and Jess Jackson.
The Hall of Fame tour also includes the Breitstein collection, a curated assembling of 200 bottles of wine that details the history of California winemaking. Finish any visit with a cooking demonstration, Spice Islands Marketplace shopping trip or meal at the CIA’s renowned Wine Spectator Restaurant, featuring local and seasonal ingredients cooked in bold, world flavors.
For any overnight stay, consider the Westin Verasa, Napa’s first four-star condo-hotel, a Craftsman-style, luxury accommodation along the Napa River just a stone’s throw from the city’s bustling downtown (which includes the Oxbow Public Market and Farmstands). The luxe retreat is home to Ken Frank’s new iteration of La Toque, among Northern California’s finest places to eat.
Photo credit: Keith Ferris/The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone.