The Wine Country’s Best Values In Fine Dining

(Click here for a more complete listing of the Wine Country’s top-rated restaurants.)

We’ve come to the end of 2010 and restaurant critics have released their lists of best restaurants for 2011. We’ve looked at two leading sets of restaurant ratings and have come to some basic conclusions about which highly-rated restaurants offer consumers the greatest values.

We started our review with the Michelin Guide and were pleased to find 16 Wine Country restaurants earned Michelin stars for 2011. These top restaurants are listed below in star order:

Restaurant Location Michelin Stars
The French Laundry Yountville 3 Stars
The Restaurant at Meadowood St. Helena 3 Stars
Cyrus Healdsburg 2 Stars
Applewood Inn & Restaurant Guerneville 1 Star
Auberge du Soleil Rutherford 1 Star
Bouchon Yountville 1 Star
Étoile Yountville 1 Star
Farmhouse Inn & Restaurant Forestville 1 Star
La Toque Napa 1 Star
Madrona Manor Healdsburg 1 Star
Mirepoix Windsor 1 Star
Redd Restaurant Yountville 1 Star
Santé at the Sonoma Mission Inn Sonoma 1 Star
Solbar at Solage Resort Calistoga 1 Star
Terra St. Helena 1 Star
Ubuntu Napa Napa 1 Sta

Next we checked the Zagat Guide ratings for these Michelin-rated restaurants. We used Michelin in conjunction with Zagat because Michelin ratings reflect the opinions of professional restaurant reviewers while Zagat ratings reflect the opinions of hundreds of consumers. In effect, to form our conclusions as to the “best values” in Wine Country dining, we relied on Michelin’s experts pick the top restaurants and on Zagat’s consumer ratings to gauge the value offered by these same restaurants.

Of course, what constitutes “value” is open to debate. Zagat rates restaurants according to four measures: food, décor (which we take to be short for ambiance), service and cost (the estimated cost of one dinner with drink and tip). Zagat scores for food, décor and service are measures of customer satisfaction while scores for cost are measures of what consumers paid for the satisfaction they received. Dividing satisfaction by cost and comparing the result across restaurants gives a relative indication of value.

Further complicating the picture is how important are each of Zagat’s measures of satisfaction. Are satisfaction with food, décor, and service equally important? We think not. For our analysis, we weighted food scores as 60% of total satisfaction, and décor and service scores as 20% each.

We divided these weighted satisfaction scores by cost scores to arrive at a single score representing the value each Michelin-rated Wine Country restaurant offers consumers. Then, without regard to how many stars Michelin awarded each restaurant, we ranked all 16 Michelin-rated restaurants by our own calculation of value.

Ranked from highest to lowest value, our own rankings of the Michelin-star restaurants are shown below. (We are not showing the Zagat ratings for these restaurants because they are accessible only by Zagat subscribers and we do not want to infringe upon Zagat’s proprietary rights.)

  1. Solbar at Solage Resort
  2. Ubuntu Napa
  3. Bouchon
  4. Applewood Inn & Restaurant
  5. Mirepoix
  6. Redd Restaurant
  7. Farmhouse Inn & Restaurant
  8. Terra
  9. Auberge du Soleil
  10. Étoile
  11. Santé at the Sonoma Mission Inn
  12. Madrona Manor
  13. La Toque
  14. The Restaurant at Meadowood
  15. Cyrus
  16. The French Laundry

These 16 restaurants are by no means the only Wine Country restaurants worthy of your consideration. Please see the “Top Restaurants” lists on our website for a more comprehensive compilation of top-rated restaurants.

DISCLAIMERS: (1) Our ranking of the 16 Michelin-rated restaurants by the “value” implied by Zagat ratings is simply another way of looking at these restaurants. Readers should not infer from these ratings that any restaurant on this list is somehow “better” than another. All Michelin-rated restaurants are of exceedingly high quality and worthy of patronage by discriminating consumers. (2) Our weighting of Zagat ratings is somewhat arbitrary. Different weightings might lead to different conclusions. Your own weighting of food vs. décor vs. service may differ from ours. (3) Our ranking of Michelin-rated restaurants by Zagat ratings does not imply endorsement of either Michelin or Zagat ratings. Readers are left to their own opinions regarding the value and use of all restaurant rankings and ratings. (4) The Zagat ratings used in our assessment were published by Zagat in early November 2010 and may have changed since then.

Click here for a more complete listing of the Wine Country’s top-rated restaurants.