Restaurant bites elevate outstanding wines at Napa Valley winery’s St. Helena cottage.
Most Napa Valley wineries that pair wines with food serve tasty enough morsels, but the ones served at Jean-Noel Fourmeaux’s St. Helena cottage come from the kitchen of downtown Napa’s La Toque restaurant. Chef Ken Frank’s specialty is creating combinations that illustrate the subtle ways food elevates already outstanding wines and the reverse. With his Chateau Potelle offerings, Frank accomplishes both missions in miniature.
Chateau Potelle makes whites that include a Mt. Veeder Chardonnay. The focus, though, is reds, among them Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon from Mt. Veeder, a Zinfandel from Sonoma County’s Moon Mountain (just west of Mt. Veeder), and from the separate, orange-labeled Jean-Noel Fourmeaux tier, the lush Cab-heavy Red Blend from Mt. Veeder’s Saffron Vineyard. Fourmeaux favors grapes grown at higher elevations for all his wines because the cooler temperatures result in a slower ripening pace that yields more concentrated flavors.
Festive Indoors or Out
Contemporary art decorates the white-walled rooms of Chateau Potelle’s bungalow, and playful touches like the colorful replica French hot-air balloons suspended from the ceiling keep the mood festive. Some tastings take place under a Moroccan open tent surrounded partially by crepe myrtles that bloom a bright pink in summer (lead photo).
When he’s not checking out vineyards, working in his winery, or traveling to France to the real Chateau Potelle, a medieval castle his family has owned for centuries, Fourmeaux often shows up at his tasting room. Impish but not to a fault, he takes joy in upending expectations, starting with the initials that form part of his winery’s name. An irreverent play on the way the French designate categories of wine, they stand for what this small operation delivers on all levels: very good sh*t.
Why go: whimsical sensibility; Cabernets from mountain fruit; small bites that elevate the wines and vice versa.
VGS Chateau Potelle appears in 3 St. Helena Wineries with a Personal Touch.
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This story originally appeared online in 2017; it was most recently updated in 2023.