Destination Napa Valley: Greystone CIA

Good evening everyone! I am busy getting ready to head to my mom’s tomorrow for Christmas, so I am posting about one of my favorite meals of this past autumn, a post you may remember from Emily’s blog. I loved this part of our last wine country trip, so I hope you don’t mind rereading if you have already seen it. I will be back tomorrow with my review of Wine Secrets. I am done with work until MONDAY!!!!


Travel is one of the things that makes my world go round, and the travel I do often focuses on three things, food, wine, and the outdoors. Our most recent trip was to San Francisco for the Foodbuzz Festival, a gathering of food bloggers where eating, drinking, and blogging talk filled the days. Following the festival, my husband and I took our second trip in two months to California’s wine country.

Wine country in November offers a sharp contrast to the East coast. Autumn was alive and well, but the temperatures were near 70 making it easy to wander around vineyards and to take hikes along the Sonoma coast. All of the outdoors activity made for extra large appetites, and I was more than willing to take part in wine country cuisine.

On the last day of our trip, we had lunch reservations at the Wine Spectator restaurant at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in St. Helena. The history and architecture of the CIA building is interesting and impressive.(The following information was provided on a handout at the CIA Greystone building. Completed in 1889, Greystone Cellars was once the largest stone winery in the world. After a phyloxera epidemic and prohibition kept the winery dormant until after the Great Depression when the winery was passed amongst several owners before gravity-flow winery was back in production. In 1950, the Catholic teaching order, the Christian Brothers, purchased the winery to increase the production of their well known wines, brandies, and ports. In 1990, just after an earthquake that made a portion of the building unusable, the Christian Brothers brand was acquired by Heublein, Inc. Through the generosity of Heublein, the CIA was able to acquire the building, surrounding grounds, and the 15 acre merlot vineyard for roughly 10% of its $14 million dollar valuation in 1993.The 90 foot high entrance atrium displays flags that represent the major wine producing regions of the world.

CIA Greystone Napa Valley   Greystone Napa Valley CIA


The food and beverages were outstanding and local, as you might expect from one of the most well known culinary schools in the country.

I started my meal with a Lost Coast tangerine wheat beer which was light, fruity, and refreshing, a perfect contrast to all of the wine that we had tasted earlier in the day. We also ordered “Today’s Temptations”, a selection of the chef’s choice of starters which included smoked salmon lollipops, dates with blue cheese, polenta with a beautiful roast tomato sauce, and shots of cauliflower soup.

Lunch at the CIA Greystone Napa Valley Culinary Institute of America, Greystone

For my entree I ordered two appetizers, pumpkin empanadas with pumpkin seed salsa, cumin-lime crème fraiche, and cilantro salad and an apple salad with spiced walnuts, endive, shaved celery, and walnut-Dijon vinaigrette.

CIA Greystone lunch image

My husband had the pan roasted day boat scallops.


Everything was delicious, and it was a fun experience to watch chefs in the open kitchen as they moved briskly about preparing food.

image CIA Greystone coffee

After lunch, we took some time to wander around the building. A chef’s dream-come-true culinary store with every tool and gadget imaginable resides on the first floor of the main building. I stayed away as we had limited ourselves to carry on luggage! You can also view the Vintner’s Hall of fame and the grand entrance. While we were visiting, all of the students were gearing up for a big event with chefs from around the country. I wanted to stay!

Even if you don’t consider yourself a huge foodie, I would definitely recommend a visit to the CIA Greystone and the surrounding area. In addition to food and wine tastings, you can take a walk through a petrified forest, visit a geyser, and spend a lot of time in the great outdoors taking in beautiful scenery and fresh air.

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Tags: CIA, Dining out, Food, Napa Valley, restaurants in wine country, Travel, wine country, wine tasting

  1. Tracie @Hollafoodzone’s avatar

    whoa! your pumpkin empanadas with pumpkin seed salsa stopped me dead in my tracks! It looks like the perfect day to me – I’ll definitely make a point to go to the CIA Greystone the next time I’m in Napa!


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