WHEN THE SMALL PLATES arrive to our prime table at the front of TORC’s dining room in downtown Napa, I’m relieved when I can taste the food delicately placed on the white china. After two full days of wine tastings, my palate is exhausted from sips of bold cabernet sauvignon and bites of creamy cheese. My senses have been overwhelmed by the lush valley and the crisp air, floral and grassy with the promise of spring. The blood orange sunset outside streams through the restaurant’s windows and spotlights our table.
Napa Valley is home to roughly 500 wineries, and as first-time visitors, my girlfriend and I have been in a state of sensory overload since we arrived. Luckily, our mid-March trip places us in wine country outside of the peak harvest season (August through October), leaving us little competition for space in the tasting rooms and restaurants. They were busy, but not packed, and we rarely had trouble making reservations. We had space to linger, to snap photos and spread out on sun-flooded patios.