Napa Valley collective debuts as a combination shop, café, and community “third space.”
There’s style galore at NO|MA House Café & Collective, which opened in late summer 2023 on St. Helena’s Main Street. The Napa Valley health and design visionary Ann Ernish-Backen conceived the light-filled place as a combination shop, café, and community “third space” (after one’s home and workplace) to hang out. “No Ma” stands for “North Main,” a nod to Main just beyond the busier block that includes the Model Bakery and Cameo Cinema.
There’s a whole philosophy behind what Backen hopes to achieve, but the blend of curated retail, light dining, and a comfortable setting for locals and tourists to unwind and connect appeals on its own. When I dropped by in mid-September, staff members were learning how to create espresso drinks and pour wine. The food offerings were slim, but a few weeks later the expanded café menu – tartines, sandwiches, grain bowls, larb lettuce cups, and similar fare – debuted.
Wines on Tap, from $10 a Glass
Most of the wines are served on tap from argon-protected kegs. During this writer’s mid-September visit, Allison Nunnikhoven, the winemaker at Château Boswell, paused from the staff training to pour comparison sips of Chardonnay from bottle (2021) and keg (2022). There was no detectable difference in texture or quality between the two. The Château Boswell Chardonnay is among the few pricey pours here; some wines (e.g., Trefethen Chardonnay, Tablas Creek Patelin Red) cost only $10 a glass. For craft beer and cider lovers, there are local ales from Mad Fritz Brewing and Old Caz Beer and cider from Bardos Cider.
The front of the house tilts more café than shop, but even the sofas, chairs, and Parisian-style tables are for sale, so the merging of retail is seamless. The selection of household items, books, clothing, accessories, and wine (including Backen’s Door by AEB Stanly Ranch Carneros Pinot) is well thought out. There’s even a compost crock so chic it could double as a purse.
Workshops and More
“Long-term,” said manager Joanna Vlahos, NO|MA House Cafe & Collective “will also be a space for workshops, education, and documentary viewing” on topics that might include organic farming or climate change.