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French Laundry-Trained Chef Takes Winery Fine-Dining Up a Notch

It’s not a restaurant, but there are multiple tasting menus

Soft shell crab
Del Dotto

The Del Dotto family, notorious for their opulent style, caves and barrel tastings, has opened up a third winery in Napa Valley, Piazza Del Dotto Winery and Caves. Though the opening comes two years later than the original target— partly due to a full rebrand following local controversy —it now aligns with the family’s 20th anniversary since opening their first winery, Historic Del Dotto.

Del Dotto Executive Chef Joshua Schwartz cut his teeth during more than 10 years with Thomas Keller at The French Laundry, Per Se, and Bouchon. He was scouted (and subsequently poached) by proprietor Dave Del Dotto, who often lunched at Bouchon and favored Schwartz’ dishes over the other chefs. It’s now been a decade since he joined the Del Dotto brand to launch their culinary program.

The Piazza offers two wine and food pairing experiences, sourcing most ingredients from their own five-acre culinary garden, plus curing all meats and pickling all vegetables in-house. The lighter of the two options, inexplicably called “Poppers” ($60), pairs five Piazza wines with five gourmet, Italian-inspired bites, like crispy frog legs and house-cured bacon with black truffle in sfoglia (egg pasta dough).

Del Dotto
Del Dotto

For the truly hungry, the “Delicacies” tasting ($95) is filling enough to replace lunch. Taste through seven wines, from sparkling to port, and five courses of small plates, from a delicate starter of caviar to a rich goat cheese torte for dessert. The standout dish: a Maine Lobster Roll on toasted brioche, which — like all breads served at Piazza — Schwartz and his team make from scratch.

Located north of Yountville off Highway 29, the Piazza is designed to transport visitors to the Tuscan countryside, with over-the-top, floor-to-ceiling marble, Murano glass chandeliers and antique fountains, all brought over from Italy. It’s also the first Del Dotto winery that invites winery patrons outside, with gardens, and caged birds like pheasants, doves, peacocks and heritage turkeys. (Phase two of the project is currently underway, which includes 24,000 square-feet of caves covered in marble.)

While it’s possible to make an appointment for a standard wine tasting at the bar ($45) with cheese, Schwartz’ menu makes a compelling case for skipping a traditional restaurant (and throngs of Napa tourists) for lunch. Piazza Del Dotto is open daily by appointment from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.