Wine generally dominates as the beverage of choice in most of the Napa Valley. That’s because long, hard days of wine tasting are often followed by indulgent dinners with more pairings and older vintages, ideally served in elegant stemware with attentive sommeliers to sing their praises.
Not that you can’t find a great local beer or cocktail to enjoy in the heart of California’s wine country, but truly inventive drinks lists have been hard to find in these parts.
That’s changing, especially with the arrival of Goose & Gander in downtown St. Helena. Restaurateur Andy Florsheim had purchased local icon Martini House last year and reopened it this past April as Goose & Gander—a reference to the old English proverb: “What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.”
The restaurant’s multi-level space is boisterous, cozy and welcoming all at the same time. Goose & Gander serves rustic bar food alongside a 120-selection wine list—primarily priced from $32 to $196, with more expensive reserve choices. About 30 of the wines are offered by the glass (priced from $9 to $30).
Not surprisingly, the bulk of the wines are California selections—with lots of Napa and Sonoma choices—with a handful of French and Italian options, as well as Champagne and a few other Old World wines. The venue also offers three beers on tap, as well as five bottled beers, with prices ranging from $3 to $10.
Perhaps the biggest and best surprise is finding cocktail veteran Scott Beattie heading up Goose & Gander’s basement bar. Beattie, a Bay Area native, created a delectable bar program for wine country destination Cyrus in Healdsburg, Calif., when he helped open the restaurant in 2005. Beattie is known for his beautiful and delicious cocktails.
A Growing Bar Program
Entering the lower level bar of Goose & Gander—which Beattie oversees with fellow bar manager Michael Pazdon—is like walking into a vegetable garden. The 24-foot bar is covered in local herbs, produce and flowers, all of which are edible. The crop even includes sunflowers, which make a stunning garnish for drinks.
During the spring, summer and fall seasons, “we use anywhere from 10 to 15 different herbs, fruits and edible flowers in our cocktails. In the winter, we’ll focus more on local citrus,” Beattie says.
Beattie offers more than 40 cocktails at the bar, all priced at $11. They include the elegant Scarlett Gander, made with Hangar One Buddha’s Hand vodka, lemon, mint, galangal and cherries, and the Cucumber Collins, prepared with Square One cucumber vodka, yuzu, lemon, cucumber, huckleberries and seltzer.
Goose & Gander also features riffs on classic Tiki drinks such as the Painkiller, Planter’s Punch, Mai Tai and Hemingway Daiquiri. The bar also doesn’t shy away from the classics at what Beattie calls “no-frills prices.”
For example, Goose & Gander incorporates an offer of a $7 beer and a shot: “A can of Hamm’s and your choice of Fernet Branca, Encanto Quebranta Pisco, Rittenhouse Rye, or Buffalo Trace Bourbon,” Beattie says. “The late night industry crowd loves that!”
These drinks can be enjoyed before or after such small-plates fare as braised Manila clams with chorizo ($8), jalapeño poppers with cotija-piquillo filling ($7), and ceviche of halibut ($7). More serious plates include the grass-fed burger, topped with gruyere cheese, bacon and duck fat fries on the side for $15.
St. Helena “is definitely ready for a drink program like ours,” according to Beattie, “and it seems to be paying off so far.”
Not that Beattie and Pazdon are done with Goose & Gander’s cocktail offering. “We plan on expanding the drink program soon, from about 40 cocktails to about 60,” Beattie says, “and we’re even working on a book together.”