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Best Cooking Schools in Wine Country

Best Cooking Schools in Wine Country


The permit system for wineries in Napa Valley can be complicated. Some wineries are required to operate on an appointment-only basis, while others can welcome seemingly as many guests as they’d like; some can serve food and others can’t even allow guests to bring their own for a picnic. So it’s not surprising that there are very few wineries that offer cooking classes – the red tape is likely prohibitive for most.


However, there are a few places, both wineries and more traditional cooking schools that offer classes and demonstrations for would-be chefs visiting Napa Valley.

The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone

The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone (or CIA) is a professional cooking school located north of St. Helena that also offers classes to amateur chefs. One-day classes focus on topics like cheese, Italian food, one-dish meals, or seasonal cooking in Wine Country. Most classes are around six hours long and cost $250. Cooking demos (not hands-on) are also offered on weekends at 1:30 p.m. for just $20 and include a glass of wine. Pair a class or demo with a meal at the CIA’s Wine Spectator Restaurant to compare your skills to the professionals.

Whitehall Lane

Whitehall Lane, just south of St. Helena off Highway 29, is another winery putting a lot of energy into creating perfect food pairings and offering cooking classes in Napa Valley. They even recently hired a chef just to oversee this new aspect of the business. Chef Larry offers cooking classes in which he teaches guests the skills he learned cooking in restaurants throughout Italy, putting a regional spin on traditional recipes. Cooking classes can be customized and take place in the winery’s small but modern stainless-steel kitchen. For those who’d rather let someone else do the work, Whitehall Lane offers food and wine pairings, or chocolate and wine pairings, in its sleek second-floor tasting room overlooking the vines.

Cakebread Cellars

Cakebread Cellars may have one of the most extensive culinary programs in Napa Valley. Located on Highway 29 in Rutherford, they’ve been focused on the marriage of food and wine for nearly 40 years. Hands-on classes are offered frequently and focus on a particular cuisine or topic, like cheese, making pizza with kids, or the art of tapas. Each class starts with a tour of the winery and tasting of the wines; participants then roll up their sleeves and get cooking, creating a three-course lunch to enjoy with, of course, more Cakebread Cellars wine.


Just west of Napa in downtown Sonoma, the Ramekins Culinary School and Inn offers demonstration and hand-on classes for both kids and adults. Topics range from crepes and Thai food to holiday cookies or wild game dishes. The demo series often brings in local chefs, bartenders, and vintners for events like “Cooking with Beer” or “Feasting in France,” or special winemaker dinners. For an unforgettable culinary experience, book one of the four-day retreats, which include farm tours, cooking classes, and even a dinner at the famed French Laundry. Private classes are also available for special events like rehearsal dinners and bachelorette parties.


By Katie Hammel
Katie Hammel is a freelance writer and the commissioning editor at Viator.com. Her writing has appeared on Gadling, BBC Travel, National Geographic's Intelligent Travel blog, and BootsnAll. She tweets at @KatieHammel




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