During my almost 20 years in the San Francisco Bay Area, one of my favorite and my most frequent weekend getaway was to the wine country North of the Golden Gate Bridge! Napa and Sonoma Valley are popular the world over and offer hundreds of wineries to explore all California wines have to offer – as well as beautiful landscape and great food. The more popular (and crowded) Napa Valley became, the more we looked for less busy alternatives – and Calistoga is one of them!
Calistoga is a small town at the Northern end of Napa Valley, about 1h30min from San Francisco by car. And while I wouldn’t call it a hidden gem, the longer distance from the city makes it a much less busy town than other places in the wine country. It also has developed a reputation for its hot springs and spas, making it a great destination to relax and be pampered.
More recently, it is becoming a luxury destination, with high-end resorts like Solange and the Indian Springs resorts. A new luxury resort managed by Four Seasons is under development, but won’t carry its name due to a no-chain ordinance. Rooms at the Not-A-Four-Seasons-Hotel are expected to start over $1,000 when it opens – luxury indeed! And, of course, you will have plenty of wineries and great restaurants to choose from!
What makes Calistoga very convenient is that you’ll find a number of wine tasting rooms right in town, along Lincoln Avenue, the main strip. You can walk from your hotel or take the local shuttle, enjoy some wine tasting before dinner and head home without having to worry about driving. There are also a number of smaller, family owned wineries within a short ride by bicycle – and most of the hotels will be able to help with a rental. You’ll also find some more unusual places like the charming Schramsberg Winery. They started in the 19th century and make the sparkling wine served by every Presidential Administration since Nixon’s famous “toast to peace” with China’s Premier Zhou Enlai. It’s worth a visit for the story and beautiful grounds as much as for the bubblies!
The luxury hotels all have their own spas and there are a number of independent ones in town, so you can rest, relax and be pampered, making it easy to forget your busy work life for a few days!
TravelTips: For a luxury retreat, Solange or Indian Springs are great destinations. If that’s above your budget, you can try the Mount View Hotel in the heart of town – a quirky boutique hotel with individually designed rooms and a pool, stumbling distance from the tasting rooms and restaurants. If you are on a budget, try the not-budget-feeling Comfort Inn on the edge of town – it offers nice rooms, a pool and sauna for some of the lowest prices in town (read my full review here). You can find the current prices for hotels in Calistoga here!
If you are staying at a luxury hotel, you might not want to leave for dinner. But if you do, there are very nice restaurants in town, like the excellent Bosko’s Trattoria for Italian food.
If you want to get away from the tour buses, want to explore by foot or on a bike and need some spa pampering to go with your wine tasting, Calistoga is a great place to go and well worth the slightly longer drive – enjoy!! You can find lots of additional details at the official Calistoga Site!