I discovered the Oakville Grocery when I was 11 1/2 and touring California with my grandparents and my sister. A lover of history even then, I marveled at the rustic feeling of the place, which spoke to me of the courageous American pioneers I had read about in my native France.
My warm regard for the Napa Valley and neighboring Sonoma has remained with me ever since, and when the opportunity arose to acquire the store and adjacent Victorian house, I was eager to add them to my family’s collection
—Jean Charles Boisset.
It is this appreciation for the authentic, the historical, and the relevant that prompted JCB to take over what Leslie Rudd had begun, but he is guiding it in a new direction. In Boisset’s version of the Oakville Grocery, unveiled in 2019, what guests find is food that is locally grown, carefully curated, artistically displayed and free of pesticides or synthetic fertilizers. Food is not selected for its exotic qualities, as it was in the 1970s Oakville Grocery, or for its convenience, like in the 1950s, but for its purity, quality, sustainability, and locale.
With its view of the mountains to the east and the west, Jean-Charles has transformed the adjacent Durrant & Booth house into an interactive museum where guests can learn about the specific elements that make the wines of the Napa Valley so unique. Each of the 16 subregions in the Napa Valley appellation has its distinguishing characteristics as well as its history. Both the house and the store draw attention to the year 1881 when the Oakville Grocery’s roots first really took hold as a mainstay in the heart of the Napa Valley.
The Oakville Grocery has welcomed people through its threshold for at least 135 years. The little roadside business has somehow managed to survive revolutions in transportation, upheavals in the economy and the exodus of almost all of Oakville’s population. With one foot in the present and one in the past, the history of this humble but resilient store reflects the story of the Napa Valley itself.