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Walnut Creek Magazine

As the Napa Valley Reawakens, PRESS Restaurant Reemerges

Mar 31, 2021 03:09PM ● By Fran Miller

It was a rainy Sunday afternoon in Paris when six wine business friends gathered at the iconic bistro L’Ami Louis for lunch. One of the men raised his glass, stating, “To great wine, great food, and time to enjoy great friends.” This simple toast resonated deeply for late vintner Leslie Rudd, and the memory of that day, coupled with his passion for the best artisanal ingredients and love of fine Napa Valley wines, brought about the vision and foundation of PRESS. Since May 2005, the restaurant has evolved into a refined, modern American restaurant under the purview of Chef Philip Tessier, its culinary philosophy rooted in the terroir, and celebrating the people, land, and wines of the Napa Valley.

  

It was another rainy afternoon in December 2018 when Tessier first met PRESS restaurant proprietor Samantha Rudd on what would become their first of many meetings of the minds. Today, Rudd and Tessier have assembled a dynamic team of industry veterans to lead PRESS, while putting a larger focus on mentorship in order to cement the restaurant’s legacy for years to come.

Philip Tessier

PRESS’s claim to fame has long been its largest collection of Napa Valley wines in the world. The list celebrates current vintages as well as older wines going back more than 50 years. With more than 1200 selections, the restaurant has become the ideal place to taste one’s way through the decades and deeply explore the U.S.’s most legendary wine-growing region. And under the leadership of Tessier and some new faces, the restaurant has also become the ideal place to taste the best of Napa Valley cuisine. 

Vincent Morrow

Rudd is proud to announce the addition of Vincent Morrow as wine director and Michaela Kelly as assistant general manager. And Tessier’s role has been expanded to partner. Morrow, a Master Sommelier before the age of 30, honed his wine knowledge working at renowned wineries such as Ridge Vineyards, and at lauded Bay Area restaurants that included Gary Danko, Benu, The French Laundry, and most recently Chef Claude Le Tohic’s ONE65. Morrow looks to build on Leslie Rudd's original vision: to curate a cellar that is timeless in its breadth and depth of Cabernets and hidden gems, and a cellar that also includes lesser-known varietals produced in the region.

Michaela Kelly

Kelly, a former sommelier at Chef Grant Achatz’s acclaimed The Alinea Group in Chicago, joins PRESS as assistant general manager. Kelly purposefully moved to PRESS first for its wine list. Working at a restaurant that has the largest Napa Valley wine list in the nation, she expects to receive the best education for local wines and producers that were never available in Chicago. 

Completing the staff refresh, long-time PRESS kitchen team member Annie Yamamoto has been promoted to pastry sous chef.  

“I have always believed in the importance of having a strong team, and now more than ever, PRESS is the perfect example of the power of people,” said Rudd. “The team is beyond impressive in their individual accomplishments, but most importantly, they work together in an inspiring way. Our vision to put the Napa Valley on a pedestal extends beyond the walls of the restaurant into the community — the craftsmen, farmers, and wineries that make this place so special. I could not be more proud to work alongside the people at PRESS.”

PRESS became an important resource to the community during the pandemic. Tessier set up “Feed Our Families” in partnership with the Boys & Girls Club of St. Helena and Calistoga, providing more than 16,000 meals, along with other partner restaurants, to feed local families hardest hit by the pandemic and by the devastating LNU and Glass wildfires of 2020. They established a great relationship with Chef Christopher Kostow and the farm team at Meadowood, purchasing and providing an additional outlet for its vegetables and produce, in an effort to preserve the farm and its team since the restaurant burnt down.

PRESS, 587 St. Helena Highway, St. Helena

 

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