While winter in other parts of the world can be a bit, well, frightful, winter in Napa Valley is something special. The busy harvest season has calmed down, there are less crowds of people, and everyone is feeling a little more relaxed and joyful as the holidays and New Year draw near. All these reasons, and more, make winter one of the best times to visit the quaint town of Calistoga, a charming community in the northern region of the Napa Valley known for its relaxing hotels and inns, intimate restaurants, world-class wine, and therapeutic hot springs. Oh, and did we mention it’s surrounded by some of the most picturesque landscapes in Northern California? Sounds dreamy, doesn’t it?
In case that’s not enough to convince you, if you visit between December 5, 2020 and February 7, 2021, you can take advantage of the Calistoga Winter in the Wineries Passport and receive complimentary tastings at 15 of the finest wineries throughout Calistoga and the surrounding regions, like Lake County and St. Helena, plus complimentary corkage at participating restaurants and discounts at Calistoga lodging, spas, and shops. The Passport is only $60 per person and is valued at over $400 in wine tastings alone. What are you waiting for? Pack your bags and kiss those winter blues goodbye, because a winter weekend in Wine Country awaits.
Welcome to Napa Valley’s “Up Valley”! Before you check in to your hotel in Calistoga, plan to venture 30 miles north to start your weekend by wine tasting in Lake County. This laid-back region, home to over 30 wineries, is certainly one of Northern California’s best kept secrets, and as a Passholder, you’ll get to enjoy complimentary tastings at three of its top wineries. Stop at Six Sigma Winery to sip tempranillo and cabernet sauvignon in the middle of a 4,300-acre working ranch. Besides wine, you can purchase ranch-raised meat, local cheeses, and crackers — all the fixings to make your own picnic to enjoy with your wine. Nearby, the boutique Fults Family Vineyards showcases a variety of limited-production red wines from their tasting room, which looks out over the 45-acre property. Savor your time in Lake County by also reserving a tasting at Boatique Winery, a beautiful estate vineyard and winery that features olive trees, picturesque grounds, and an antique wooden boat collection.
Now, it’s time for the scenic drive back to Calistoga to check in to your accommodation. There are plenty of options when it comes to places to call home in and around Calistoga (with discounts available on lodging and spa treatments for Passport holders), so you really can’t go wrong. Plan to stay at The Bergson, a charming boutique hotel in the heart of Calistoga. Each of the 21 rooms and suites features elegant decor and luxurious amenities designed to unwind, such as fireplaces, jetted tubs, feather beds, and plush bathrobes. Nearby, the Calistoga Spa Hot Springs is another good lodging option in town, where contemporary rooms are set amidst a peaceful setting. Book a spa treatment, like a mud bath or a massage, then follow it with a dip in one of the four geothermal outdoor mineral pools.
Also noteworthy: the playfully designed Calistoga Motor Lodge and Spa, featuring retro-inspired rooms and suites (some of which are pet-friendly), a spa, a geothermal mineral pool, and a convivial vibe; the Aurora Park Cottages, where a stay in one of the private cottages includes complimentary breakfast and bike rentals; and the Bungalows at Calistoga, home to three chic, inviting Wine Country bungalows that sleep up to four people.
End your first day with dinner at Evangeline, a popular French bistro “with a Creole soul” in downtown Calistoga. The covered garden patio is a lovely place to savor comforting bistro classics like steak frites, as well as creole-inspired dishes like gumbo and shrimp étouffée. Or, consider eating at Veraison, a bistro and wine bar offering a seasonally-driven menu and wines from around the world. As with all of the participating restaurants, a Passport gets you complimentary corkage on a bottle of wine from any of the participating wineries.
If your hotel doesn’t offer complimentary breakfast, be sure to pay a visit to Cafe Sarafornia for a comforting and satisfying meal that will set you up for a full day of wine tasting and exploring.
After breakfast, head to your tasting appointment at Chateau Montelena, located two miles from downtown. This historic estate features an ivy covered stone castle built into the hillside, as well as a picturesque Chinese garden, complete with bridges, a lake, and even swans. Enjoy a complimentary tasting with your Passport, then be sure to leave time to explore the grounds before venturing down the road to your next stop: Tamber Bey. This equestrian training facility and sanctuary, home to more than 20 horses, is also a working winery and tasting room, where you can sample single-vineyard, single-varietal wines and Bordeaux blends while admiring the horses.
Or, if you feel like getting out of Calistoga, head eight miles south to visit Beringer, located in St. Helena. One of the most historic properties in Napa Valley, Beringer has earned a reputation for its cabernet sauvignons made from sustainably-farmed vineyards throughout Napa. Afterwards, head over the hill to Pope Valley Winery for a tour, tasting, and Bocce ball at this historic, family-owned winery, or stop into any number of wineries in and around Calistoga on your way back, such as Clos Pegase, Girard, Hans Fahden, Madrigal Family Winery, and Von Strasser (all part of the Passport series).
After all that wine, head back into town to fuel up with a panini sandwich or light bite from Sam’s General Store, then venture out for an afternoon of shopping. Stop by Blackbird for artisanal finds for the home and tabletop, as well as toys and games for kids. If a unique, handmade gift is what you’re after, you can also call ahead to visit Calistoga Pottery, where you’ll find a wide variety of pottery items made by Jeff and Sally Manfredi, who have been making pottery together for 40 years. For a great selection of men’s and women’s clothing, jewelry, shoes, and housewares, check out Sugardaddy’s Consignment, a popular local thrift store. All of these stores, and more, are offering 10% off of regularly priced items to Passport holders.
If more wine is what you’re after (hey, it is Wine Country, after all), then stroll over to Tank Garage Winery, a winery and tasting room inside a converted 1930s gas station with a youthful, welcoming vibe and a focus on small-lot, natural wines. You can also check out T-Vine Winery, a friendly tasting room featuring wines from some of the last remaining old-vine, heritage vineyards in California.
For a casual dinner (and a break from the wine), stop into Lincoln Avenue Brewery for brews on tap, satisfying pub fare, and a lively atmosphere. There’s also the popular Calistoga Inn Restaurant & Brewery, where you’ll find an expansive patio and a diverse menu featuring everything from elevated pub fare, such as garlic crusted calamari and prosciutto and fig pizza, to hearty, seasonal mains, including wood grilled rack of lamb and butternut squash cannelloni.
It’s almost time to head home, but before you leave, grab a pastry and coffee from Sam’s General Store then walk over to Picayune Cellars for one last wine tasting before hitting the road. Or, plan for a rejuvenating late morning spa treatment at Mount View Spa, MoonAcre Spa, or the Spa at Solage as you prepare to bid Calistoga, and the lovely Napa Valley, adieu.