by Paul and Teresa Lowe
‘Sitting quietly, doing nothing, spring comes, and the grass grows by itself’
Life at a charming relaxing pace seems to come easily for Calistoga. Whether you’re visiting for the first time, or you’re a year-round resident, while moving through Calistoga there is something that seems to envelop your soul. There is little chance of escaping what many folks have been seeing and saying for decades and decades – ‘this is truly a special place.’
Related: Calisotga Photo Gallery
The 40 mile stretch of the Napa Valley is about an hour’s or so drive north of San Francisco and is the heart of wine making in the United States, and is also one of the top wine regions in all of the world. The region is known for its global award winning Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. In 1976 a wine vintage from the area won the Paris Wine Tasting, thus putting the Napa Valley on the world stage.
Calistoga is also famous for its hot springs, mud baths, spas and hot air balloon rides. Calistoga and the entire valley is a perfect getaway destination for the mild springtime months, and also just about any time of the year.
Tasting the fruit of the vines is why most folks come to Calistoga and the Napa Valley. The number of wineries to visit in a day depends on the wineries you choose. Locals suggest allowing about 90 minutes for each tour and tasting. Most wineries that offer tastings are open from around 10 AM until 5 PM-ish.
Wine connoisseurs say it’s good to drink what you like while wine sommeliers say it’s wise to know what you’re drinking and how best to taste your wine. Some wineries offer basic instructions on vino tasting to fully enjoy your experience.
A Place to Eat/Drink
Terrific casual cuisine, as well as elegant dining, is found just about everywhere you turn in Calistoga! Meals made from locally sourced farms and bakeries served at the ‘Sam’s Social Club Restaurant’ are over the top scrumptious. The house macaroni dish and roasted brussell sprouts are true standouts! The atmosphere and strong cocktails are also rather pleasant. Dinner reservations are encouraged. The wait can get a bit long on the weekends.
‘Bosko’s Italian Trattoria’/Wine Bar and Espresso is a popular dining spot with locals. Tourists, who stop in, are warmly greeted and made to feel welcome. The drinks are hearty and the pasta is fresh and quite delicious.
Picayune Cellars and gift shop is a spot in town that personifies the term beautifully eclectic and wildly delicious tasting wines and tea. Claire Ducrocq Weinkauf is the owner who hails from Auvergne, France, and is the only female winemaker in Calistoga. Picayune Cellars are by the way on the wine list at ‘ The French Laundry,’ – a Three Star Mechilen recognized restaurant in nearby Yountville.
A Place to Stay
Finding a place to rest your head in Calistoga varies from fancy resorts, boutique hotels, to home-like Bed and Breakfast rooms for rent. B&Bs can be a fun choice for folks who enjoy an open, friendly common living space and the conversations of other like-minded guests.
Gillian, Nick and son Max Kite (Professional Chef), are the innkeepers who operate ‘The Calistoga Wine Way Inn and the neighboring ‘Craftsman Inn.’ The Kite family prides itself on offering guests what they call ‘Calistoga hospitality.’ The stay includes quiet, private spacious rooms with really comfortable beds and very clean large bathrooms and a zen-like sitting garden. There’s also a hearty meal to start each day. No two mornings meals are the same. The menu changes depending upon what’s available at the local markets. Complimentary glasses of local brandy or wine are offered during the evenings. ($250.00 nightly-varies by season)
Calistoga is filled with history. The ‘Brannan Cottage Inn,’ a Bed and Breakfast.com Diamond Collection member is one such property that’s been around since the town’s beginnings. Calistoga was founded as a hot springs resort in the 1860’s by Sam Brannan, a journalist, and businessman and California’s first millionaire.
The property’s very personable Hospitality/Special Events Manager Kathleen Bakula says Brannan Cottage Inn is a rare place that transports guests to a time of early California but also provides super cool present day hi-tech amenities in each suite. The word luxury is thrown around a lot these days, however, Bakula says luxury is very real at the property. Just about every accommodation to meet guest’s comfort are attempted. Friendly conversations are no charge. Kathleen is super nice and has a bunch of funny stories. She’ll have you smiling and laughing all day long. Also inquire about her special high tea service. ($300.00 nightly-varies by season)
Calistoga was first visited by American settlers in the mid-1840s. The Upper Napa Valley was once the home of a significant population of Indigenous People, once called the Wappo People during the Spanish colonial era of the late 18th century.
Calistoga today is a charming town that’s truly rather small. Most of the restaurants, shops and other businesses are found on two crossing streets, Lincoln Avenue and Washington Street. Locals say walking or bicycling are perhaps the best ways to explore the town. Bicycles can be rented in town A car drive is also a delightful way to see the gorgeous countryside of rolling hillsides, mountains and miles and miles of vineyards. If you’re some who enjoys watching rescue horses romped through pastures while enjoying fine wine, the ‘Tamber Bay Ranch and Winery‘, is a rather pleasant and scenic stop. The wines are quite delectable. Have your camera handy!