In our 28th year, Camp Napa Culinary presented an “insider’s” tour to Napa Valley’s elite small wineries, great kitchens and homes, limited to just 14 attendees. Hugh and his wife, photographer Teri Sandison, were the hosts for every event throughout the week. Highlighting the program were five participation cooking classes. Each morning we met at a different winery or at a great Napa Valley estate for participation cooking classes taught by some of Napa Valley's best known chefs, followed by a wonderful lunch. Then in the late afternoons we gathered at small Napa Valley wineries that are never open to the public, where we tasted some of Napa Valley's greatest wines.

Over the years, the programs were created for travelers wanting to combine a learning vacation with free time to pursue their own interests while in Napa Valley. More than 1,800 food and wine lovers have attended “camps” during the last 28 years, and many were returning “graduates.” Between our scheduled events, attendees had time to take the “cure” at a luxurious spa, visit art galleries, explore the historic towns of Yountville and St. Helena, and dine at Napa Valley’s great restaurants. The opening night party was held at one of Napa Valley's best restaurants, and then there were five more days in one of the world’s great wine and food regions.

Our Class Itinerary in 2019

Sunday: Reception and Dinner at the Charter Oak Restaurant
This evening we gather at the beautiful Charter Oak Restaurant, located just south of St. Helena. Co-owned by Meadowood Resort and its executive chef Christopher Kostow, this was formerly the much-loved TraVigne Restaurant. Chef Kostow is known for his refined and imaginative food (his Meadowood Resort restaurant is one of only two Northern California 3-star Michelin restaurants, the other being the French Laundry). At Charter Oak Restaurant the food is served family style, but each dish has Chef Kostow's signature flair. Gathering on the terrace, we enjoy an array of appetizers and wines. Then, as the sun sets, we feast on one example after another of Chef Kostow's wonderful food. Old friends meet and new friends are made as Hugh and Teri review the exciting programs planned for each day.

Monday: Morning Cooking Class and Lunch at a Napa Valley Estate, Afternoon Wine Tasting and Tour at Bond
This morning we meet at a newly constructed winery estate built by long-time students of Hugh's. We tour the estate, hear about realizing their Napa dream, and enjoy an informal appetizer party and lunch matched with great Napa Valley wines. Conducting the participation cooking class is one of Napa Valley's most talented chefs and cooking teachers, Morgan Robinson. Part of our program for the last five years, Morgan brings a sense of excitment into the kitchen that makes cooking so much fun. His all-new recipes are easy yet packed with complex flavors. The theme of the class is Modern American Cooking, highlighting steaks from the wood-burning grill, giant prawns, and chocolate cake with apricot glaze. This afternoon we visit one of Napa Valley's "cult" wineries, Bond. Never open to the general public, the winery is the inspiration of owner Bill Harlan. Last year we visited his famous Harlan Estate. Both wineries were designed by famed architect Howard Backen. Bond is the neighboring property and produces equally acclaimed Cabernets. Overlooking Napa Valley in a glorious setting, we are very fortunate to be able to visit the winery and to taste the wines. Evening free.

Tuesday: Cooking Class and Lunch at Hall Winery, Afternoon Visit to Brand Winery

This morning we meet at Kathryn and Craig Hall's spectacular winery just south of the town of St. Helena. A historic Napa Valley winery originally founded in 1885, today Hall Winery has a striking contemporary design and wine-making facility that produces some of Napa Valley's most highly acclaimed Cabernets. Our participation cooking class is taught by Chef Sarah Scott, formerly the long-time Executive Chef at the Robert Mondavi Winery. This is the seventh year that Sarah has been part of Camp Napa's program. An enthusiastic teacher, her all-new recipes are innovative and the food is delicious. In the afternoon we meet at a new winery, Brand, set in the rocks of Pritchard Hill. This is considered the Gold Coast of Napa Valley and is home to acclaimed Cabernet wineries including Chappellet, Long, Continuum, Colgin, Bryant, and Ovid. Brand's first vintage was 2009 from vineyards planted 1,500 feet above sea level. The stunning contemporary-style winery building, designed by architect Carlos Ferandez, perfectly blends form and function. Production is limited to only 2,000 cases annually. Philippe Melka (the wine-maker at Davis Estate, Hundred Acre, Entre Nous, Dalle Valle, among others) oversees production. Visiting the winery is a rare opportunity. Evening free.

Wednesday: Cooking Class at J Vineyards and Winery, Lunch at MacMurray Ranch
This morning we meet at J Vineyards & Winery located in the Russian River area of Sonoma county. Founded in 1986, this winery is one of the top sparkling and varietal producers in California, making, in addition to sparkling wine, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Pinot Gris. J is known for its contemporary winery and world-class hospitality. We meet wine-maker Nicole Hitchock, who explains the many steps necessary to produce a great sparkling wine. Then in the beautiful dining area with its open kitchen, Chef Carl Shelton shows us how to use sparkling wine for pairing with a wide variety of foods. Named by Zagat as one of the top chefs 30 years and younger, he has many culinary surprises in store for us. When the cooking class concludes about noon, we drive 15 minutes and meet at actor Fred MacMurray’s 19th-century ranch. He used the ranch for decades as a retreat from Hollywood, and the ranch is never open to the public. We meet his daughter, Kate, if she is available, and then tour the ranch with her and hear about the many famous movie stars who visited the ranch. Then in an amazing outdoor setting, we gather for lunch cooked by chefs from Sonoma's top restaurant, John Ash & Company. The rest of the afternoon and evening is free. For those wishing to explore the historic town of Healdsburg, we provide maps and a restaurant guide.

Thursday: Cooking Class and Lunch at Cakebread Cellars, Corison Winery Visit
This morning we meet at the famous Cakebread Cellars. Jack and Dolores Cakebread, and son, Bruce, and their families, are much loved in Napa Valley, and we are fortunate to be their guests at the winery. Every top chef in America has cooked in their wonderful kitchen and now you will too! We enjoy the opportunity to do a full-participation cooking class taught by their long-time winery chef, Brian Streeter. He is a gifted teacher and coauthor of the two Cakebread Cellars cookbooks. During the last two years, Cakebread has completed a major building design and expansion. As part of the class, we get an insider's tour of the new buildings, tasting glasses in hand! This afternoon we visit one of Napa Valley's great small wineries, Corison. The winery was started in the 1970s by famed wine-maker Cathy Corison, who leads us through the property, telling us about her many adventures along the way. Then we taste a wide selection of her wines, including rare older vintages with 20 years of aging. Evening free.

Friday: Morning Cooking Class and Lunch at Copia, Graduation Dinner at Vineyard 29
For our final morning of cooking, we gather at the Culinary Institute of America at Copia in the new 9,000-square-foot teaching kitchen! The 78,000-square-foot building opened in 2001 as the American Center for Wine, Food, and the Arts, funded by Robert Mondavi and Julia Child. It went bankrupt in 2008 and then reopened under the ownership of the Culinary Institute of America in October 2015. The building is named the "CIA at Copia." We meet this morning in the gleaming new kitchen, and under direction of Chef Josh we divide into two cooking teams. Each team is given a market basket (including produce picked that day from their extensive vegetable garden) and then creates a series of dishes for our lunch. Chef Josh is an inspiring instructor as he guides the teams. This is our chance to put to use all we have learned during our week together. Afternoon free. This evening we have our graduation dinner at one of the most talked-about small wineries in Napa Valley, Vineyard 29. Meeting at the spectacular winery north of St. Helena, we tour the winery, enjoy appetizers, and then have dinner in the beautiful wine library. Dinner is prepared by the chefs at Meadowood Resort, whose restaurant has a Michelin 3-star rating (the only other 3-star Michelin restaurant in Napa Valley is the French Laundry). This will be a fantastic dinner. Depending on his schedule, owner Chuck McMinn joins us. We dine late into the night above Napa Valley, trade stories of our adventures, and plan reunion dinners.

Saturday: Napa to Home
After last-minute morning adventures, those with flights depart for the airport, or you may stay on to enjoy the many other activities available in the Bay Area. Each year we do a new program, and we hope you’ll come back to see us again.