I recently spent a few days in Calistoga. Lucky me! We were there for a lovely wedding – you can be sure when the invite came in that we weren’t going to miss this one! What a great destination to tie the knot. We had a terrific time celebrating with friends and even managed to – gasp! – taste some wine.
Calistoga is at the northern end of Napa Valley and is well known for spas and mud baths and is surrounded by some of Napa’s best vineyards and wineries. It’s a laid back little town dotted with B&Bs, some good casual dining and lots of wine to taste. In the immediate area are Chateau Montelena, Larkmead, Frank Family, Schramsberg, Sterling – and some smaller, perhaps lesser known spots like a favorite of mine, Laura Michael. Laura Michael Wines is a small production, family owned winery just on the edge of town.
Calistoga is a great spot to explore the north end of Napa Valley for sure, but also to explore the Alexander Vally, which is home to some fine Cabernet and Zinfandel. And it’s only about 30 minutes to drive over to Healdsburg, the charming town that is right at the edge of the Russian River and Dry Creek areas of Sonoma. Or you can just wander up and down Napa Valley. St. Helena is 15 minutes away and Yountville is only 30 with lots, and I mean LOTS of wineries all around. Here’s a tip for you driving in the valley – The best way to get where you’re going north or south is to stay on the Silverado Trail and just use the crossover roads to zig zag through the vines and to any particular winery. Also, please don’t taste too much if you’re driving – get a car and driver instead.
The best thing about Calistoga is that it’s completely easy-going. We chose a B&B on this trip and had a perfect stay but you can also go high end and just soak up the spa time too. Here are two places to check out:
Right in the heart of town. Only 5 well-appointed rooms, it’s charming and amazingly welcoming due to warmth of owners Chris and Brent. Breakfast is terrific – as is the conversation during the daily wine tasting each afternoon on the wrap-around porch.
Intimate and California elegant. Fabulous spa. Great dining either inside or out and a pool that you can laze into all day. Just outside of town and one of the best resorts in the valley.
Here are some Calistoga sips:
Everyday Sip: Sterling Napa Valley Chardonnay $17
Clearly a Napa Chard with rounded flavor and more full bodied style. A little oaky and buttery. A good choice for some seared scallops.
Guest Sip: Schramsberg Blanc de Noirs $35
Lovely bubbly fit for any occasion. Toasty yet crisply acidic with subtle flavors of red berries.
Guest Sip: 2010 Laura Michaels Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Barlow Vineyards $45
A single vineyard treat at this price. Small volume Cabernet that shows off the warmer, riper nature of Calistoga.
Splurge Sip: Larkmead 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon $110
This is a fabulous wine. Larkmead sells on an allocated basis so you either have to get on the list or try the auction houses. Dynamic estate Cabernet. Certainly age-worthy, but this 2012 we had tasted great, especially after decanting and letting it open up for a couple of hours.