The northern Napa Valley town of Calistoga was named by Sam Brannan, who hoped the town would be the west coast equivalent of Saratoga Springs. It’s been a popular destination since the first mineral springs pools opened here in 1859. Today, people still come to take the waters, and many Calistoga hotels have full-service spas that provide countless ways to be pampered.
Calistoga is a low-key, unpretentious town with a laid-back main street lined with shops and restaurants. There are also several good wineries close to town. Chateau Montelena is one of the most appealing. Housed in a French-style chateau that dates from the 19th century, their 1973 Chardonnay beat the French at their own game in a 1976 blind taste test. The story was told in the movie Bottle Shock. The Chinese gardens surrounding the pond here are a pleasant place for a picnic.
The other must-see winery in Calistoga is Clos Pegase. Michael Graves designed the building in 1986 as a Temple of Wine. The grounds and courtyard are adorned with modern statuary and there’s modern art in the tasting room. The wine is very good, especially the Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir.
Lovers of bubbly should include Schramsberg on their itinerary. The tour here is one of the best in Napa Valley, and you’ll see the 19th-century tunnels dug by Chinese laborers. The tour ends with a tasting of some of the best California sparkling wines.
The best hotels in Calistoga.
Set on 157 rolling acres at the north end of the Napa Valley, Calistoga Ranch is the most luxurious of the Calistoga hotels. It’s a sister property of the beautiful Auberge du Soleil resort in Rutherford and a member of the Leading Small Hotels of the World group. The 48 cedar-shingled bungalows here — called lodges — have indoor and outdoor living spaces, including outdoor showers. Deluxe and one-bedroom lodges have outdoor living rooms with fireplaces. Two-bedroom lodges are 2,400 square feet and have two individual suites, each with private bath and entertainment center. All the accommodations are spacious, private, and really do a great job of showcases the area’s tremendous natural beauty. If money’s no object, Calistoga Ranch should be your first choice.
Solage Calistoga is the second best hotel in Calistoga. The 89 green rooms here are modern and well equipped with polished concrete floors, fireplaces, and outdoor patios. Solage Calistoga also has a huge heated swimming pool, a fitness center, yoga studio, and a 20,000-square-foot spa that makes the most of the local mineral water and hot springs. The bocce courts are a nice place to while away a beautiful summer afternoon. Other thoughtful touches include the free bicycles and telescopes available for guests to enjoy during their stay. And you can even bring your dog.
Indian Springs Resort and Spa was developed in 1861 by Sam Brannan. It’s the oldest continually operating spa and pool in California. If you’re looking for a Calistoga hotel where you can soak in the mud, this is your best bet. The Olympic-size, geyser-fed, mineral pool dates from 1917. It’s 92 degrees in summer and 102 in winter, and it‘s open from sunrise until midnight. Guests can choose from cozy cottages that were built in the 1940s or rooms in the Spanish-style lodge. The current owners bought Nance’s Hotel in 2004 and completely renovated the property, which is now the lodge. Indian Springs is walking distance to Calistoga’s shops and restaurants.
The 16 inviting cottages at Cottage Grove Inn have fireplaces, two-person whirlpool tubs, vaulted ceilings, porches with rockers, and hardwood floors. Curl up by the fire in one of the over-stuffed chairs. The wet bar and mini fridge make it easy to enjoy the local wine in your room. You can walk to Calistoga’s restaurants or take one of the complimentary loaner bicycles. Continental breakfast and late-afternoon wine and cheese are included and are served in the lovely breakfast area. Cottage Grove Inn is a great spot for a romantic weekend away. And with rates starting at $250 a night, its one of the less expensive Calistoga hotels.
Meadowlark Inn is situated on a 20-acre private estate not far from Calistoga. Guests can walk through the meadow and forest and enjoy the country atmosphere. The property is also home to the owners’ European sport horses. There are plenty of places to relax outdoors and take in the beautiful scenery. The large, mineral pool is clothing optional. Many of the rooms here have four-poster beds, French doors that open onto private patios, and marble bathrooms. Several cottages with kitchens are also available. A gourmet breakfast is included in the rate.
Those who prefer a downtown Calistoga hotel will enjoy the Mount View Hotel and Spa. Located in a 1917 building that’s now a National Historic Landmark, Mount View has 20 rooms and 12 suites to choose from. For a romantic getaway, opt for the Artist Cottage with private patio and Jacuzzi. Behind the hotel, there’s a heated outdoor pool with private cabanas. The day spa on the ground floor offers every treatment you could want. There are two restaurants on site — Bar Vino, a wine bar and trattoria, and JoLe, a contemporary restaurant that focuses on organic ingredients.