Once the grapes have been picked and the latest vintage is resting in tanks, the majority of tourists bid adieu to the Silverado Trail, and Calistoga becomes a quieter place.
Although it sounds almost counterintuitive, winter is one of the best times to visit Calistoga’s various wineries, as the craziness of harvest has wrapped and tasting rooms have a bit more elbow room. While you can easily book a tour or pop into a tasting room on your own terms, a fun way to visit Calistoga’s diverse wineries this season is through the Winter in the Wineries Passport. From December 1, 2018 through February 3, 2019, the $60 passport gives you access to free tastings at wineries, as well as discounts at Calistoga businesses and hotels. Avoid the winter blues. Pack your bags for a long weekend of wine tasting in the winter wonderland of Calistoga.
Once you’ve checked into your hotel, W.H. Smith Wines in downtown Calistoga is the perfect way to get acquainted with the town and the area’s wines. Owner Bill Smith was one of the leaders in the creation of the Howell Mountain AVA, and his cabernets from the area exemplify why the region was deemed worthy of its own designation.
Insider Tip: Prep your olfactory senses with The Wine Sensory Experience, a guided seminar that helps guests learn to better identify aromas and flavors in wine.
1367 Lincoln Avenue, Calistoga, CA 94515, (707) 942-1194
The majestic Tuscan-inspired 13th century castle was built as an homage to 4th generation winemaker Dario Sattui’s Italian heritage and is a sight to behold amidst the Napa Valley landscape. Here, sangiovese grows alongside some of Calistoga’s popular varieties in the picturesque vineyards, another nod to the winery’s Italian roots.
Insider Tip: Castello di Amorosa partners with local Napa Valley restaurants to offer free corkage for Amorosa’s wines. Purchase a bottle to bring to dinner later that evening.
4045 North Saint Helena Hwy, Calistoga, CA 94515, (707) 967-6272
TEMPORARILY CLOSED – Next, swing over to another classic producer: Sterling Vineyards. Take in the wintry landscape and picturesque winery — the architecture emulates the style found in Mykonos, where founder Peter Newton used to live — as you ride to the top on their aerial tram. Built to transport staff and guests to the winery without impacting the hill, the gondola offers some of the best views of the area.
Insider Tip: Make sure to taste the merlot; Sterling claims their 1969 vintage was the first vintage-dated, single varietal merlot in all of California (previously it was only regarded as a blending grape).
1111 Dunaweal Lane, Calistoga, CA 94515, (707) 942-3344
End your day by doing a complete 180, style-wise. Tank Garage Winery, located in a converted 1930s gas station, experiments with pet-nats, skin-fermented whites, funky blends (sangiovese and gewürztraminer, anyone?) and cool, eye-catching labels — a total antithesis to the established classical producers of the area.
Insider Tip: Although tastings take place at their Lubrication Bar, ask to see the secret back room. This velvet wallpaper-lined speakeasy is normally reserved for Wine Club members, but if you ask nicely, they may let you have a peek.
1020 Foothill Boulevard, Calistoga, CA 94515, (707) 942-8265
Created by renowned architect Michael Graves, Clos Pegase offers another unique, design-centric environment for enjoying Calistoga’s range of wines. The winery sources from their four estate vineyards, which total 450 acres, where classic Bordeaux varieties as well as pinot noir are the focus.
Insider Tip: While most wineries offer vineyard tours, as Clos Pegase does too, their winter-friendly Connoisseur Cave Tour experience takes guests through their underground caves, ending with a wine and charcuterie tasting in the Cave Theater.
1060 Dunaweal Lane, Calistoga, CA 94515, (707) 942-4981
Winemaker Chris Madrigal’s grandparents were one of the first Mexican families to settle in the upper part of Napa Valley when they arrived in the 1930s. Their farming influenced Chris’ father, who started cultivating wine grapes, and third generation Chris established Madrigal Family Winery in 1995. Petit sirah is a specialty here, as is cabernet sauvignon.
Insider Tip: Just because the weather isn’t cooperating doesn’t mean you can’t have a picnic. The winery’s Calistoga Lifestyle Winery Lunch experience — complete with a wine tasting — moves into the winemaking facility during inclement weather.
3718 North St. Helena Hwy, Calistoga, CA 94515, (707) 942-8619
Make new friends of the four-legged variety at Tamber Bey, which is situated in the middle of an equestrian training facility and sanctuary. The tour not only covers the winemaking facility but the ranch as well, where guests can see the horses up close (up to 45 of them reside on the property).
Insider tip: Skip the cheese: Tamber Bey offers a pairing of savory cookies with their wines.
1251 Tubbs Lane, Calistoga, CA 94515, (707) 942-2100
Calistoga’s diverse wine experiences don’t hibernate once winter comes. There’s plenty to see, do, and taste in the colder months, especially when taking advantage of the tasting passport. Visit the Winter in the Wineries Passport website for a full list of participating wineries and lodging. Bundle up and have fun!