There is something larger than life about Mark Pope, a.k.a. The Bounty Hunter.
The guy exudes self-confidence, knowledge, and has a palpable passion for life, especially for wine, kayaking, and the Old West.
In many ways, his wine catalogue business and his wine bar, in Napa town, are simply extensions of himself – for others to enjoy.
About Mark’s “Bounty Hunter Smokin’ BBQ and Wine Bar:” I name it every time friends, or friends-of-friends, email, seeking guidance for my list of “the Best Places to Eat in Napa Valley.”
It’s one of those special places – a small room packing a large wallop of good cheer, good food and a good time.
To say the Old West enthralls Mark is an understatement. He once ran a dude ranch in New Mexico; he collects Remingtons – the art kind and the rifle kind – and has a home on the Missouri River in Montana, which, he’s proud to remind you, Lewis and Clark once paddled by.
Mark has turned a fascination with frontier lore into a thriving business; at his wine bar, you can sit on a real western saddle that has been fashioned into a barstool. The place is old-west dark wood, filled with saloon curios and stuffed animals. Oh yeah, and don’t forget that it’s also spilling over with great food and great wine, too.
Choose from 400 wines displayed on the wall, many offered by the glass with a clever marketing pitch; if you like the wine you've ordered and decide to buy a fresh bottle to take home, the price of your by-the-glass wine will be discounted.
In addition to selling cult wines, the Bounty Hunter has developed nine of his own brands, each offering a wine with better value than the nationally branded equivalent. The names of these wines are so evocative of the Old West, and the labels so expertly designed, that you will want to order them as objects d’art. Broken Spur, Tin Star, Pursuit, and Justice are but four of the nine in-house cowboy wines.
Among menu selections, beer-can chicken is the hands-down MUST-TRY, called “the best chicken in the Bay-area,” by San Francisco Chronicle restaurant critic Michael Bauer.
This is a moist, deliciously spiced, whole chicken that is roasted “standing up,” (on a metal wire stand) with an opened Tecate beer can inserted into the cavity. As the chicken roasts, the beer naturally steams the insides of the chicken, adding a moistness to the meat that you have never experienced in a restaurant chicken.
Let me sing the praises, too, of the pulled pork, the shredded, barbecued brisket and the St. Louis-style barbecued pork ribs, served with a trio of house-made barbecue sauces and a terrific house-made coleslaw.
Over the course of the next year, the wine bar will morph into a space three times the existing size as Mark has acquired the building next door; look for some striking architectural changes to the wine bar, inside and out. In the meantime, it’s business as usual… “for the roundup of usual suspects.” Of which you should be one.
Bounty Hunter Smokin’ BBQ and Wine Bar, 975 1st St., Napa. CA 94559. Tel: 707-226-3976 or check out www.bountyhunterwinebar.com. Open seven days a week, Sunday through Thursday 11 am to 10 pm, Friday and Saturday 11 am to midnight. No reservations.
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In many respects, this series could be called Napaman’s Top 100 Napa Valley Attractions. These are the places I send family and friends, and which I personally endorse as being the Best of the Best of Napa Valley.