Oxbow Cheese Merchant:
Order a glass of sparkling wine, a flight of reds or a pint of Deschutes Black Butte Porter and request a cheese board to match. The cheese staff here is knowledgeable, the selection well curated and neatly maintained. Cheeses from Northern California creameries make up the majority of the 275 to 300 cheeses— not surprising given the venue’s heavy visitor traffic — but you can also count on spotting some of the top new arrivals from Europe, like Quadro di Bufala and Bufala Nera, two exquisite Italian imports from water-buffalo milk. There are also some of the flawless Swiss wheels from importer Caroline Hostettler. We recommend the new Bellwether Farms Blackstone, an aged peppercorn-studded cheese from cow’s and sheep’s milk and the luscious Tomales Farmstead Teleeka, a three-milk blend.
Oxbow Cheese Merchant, in the Oxbow Public Market, 610 First St., Napa; (707) 257-5200
St. Helena is known for its reds, so it’s not surprising that this grocery store and deli has been challenged to become a cheese monger as well. So they’ve crammed the shelves with little-known, low-production cheeses from around the world and hand-selling them. Monger Dylan Sharp says he’ll have 200 choices in peak summer season — but still reveals many treasures that even cheese aficionados won’t know. Pick up a wedge of Bio Urchruter, an organic Swiss alpine wheel or Omorro Amanteigado, a Portuguese varietal as scarce as some of Napa Valley’s cult Cabernets. Sunshine also has what may be the planet’s best collection of Andante Dairy cheeses from Sonoma.
Sunshine Foods, 1115 Main St., St. Helena; (707) 963-7070
You know JCB (Jean-Charles Boisset) for his wines. Boisset, scion of a prominent Burgundian wine family, had an unlimited budget when creating his swank fine-foods emporium in Yountville, and spent it well, installing parquet flooring, gold-leafed shelving, Pierre Frey wallpaper and a swooping Baccarat chandelier. Cheese buyer James Ayers (previously with Sunshine Foods) has filled his cases with gems like Swiss Hornbacher, and Mad River Blue. Complete your glam picnic with high-end crackers, some hand-sliced meats and a bottle of JCB sparkling wine.
Atelier by JCB, 6505 Washington St., Yountville; (707) 947-7106