Some of the world’s best-known wineries and utmost authentic wellness experiences are located in Calistoga, the crown jewel at the top of the Napa Valley. With its unique combination of high-end options, immersion in local culture and down-home Old West feel, Calistoga caters to visitors seeking unpretentious, exceptional experiences.
You won’t find ubiquitous yellow arches or coffee cups emblazoned with a Greek mythological logo here. The reality is you won’t find chain stores at all, but you will discover unique and locally-owned businesses that only add to the town’s charm.
The resort scene is varied, from a historic hospital newly renovated as The Francis House, to quaint, family cottages and the iconic Indian Springs Resort downtown. The two Auberge Resort properties: Solage and Calistoga Ranch, raise the bar with the latter’s rustic lodges helicoptered into the forest to protect the environment.
Where Calistoga parts ways with the rest of the Napa Valley is in its quirky, rustic elements, beginning with Old Faithful Geyser, complete with Tennessee Fainting goats, and further out of city limits is a Petrified Forest to explore and better understand the wellness scene. The mud elements of wellness in Calistoga evolved from a volcanic eruption three million years earlier, when lava exploded and a burst of red-hot ash created the Petrified Forest. When mixed with geothermal mineral water, this ash, found throughout Calistoga to this day, creates a detoxifying mud utilized in several of the hot springs resorts and spas in Calistoga. The concept of detoxifying the body through the external use of volcanic ash mixed with geothermal-heated water is offered everywhere and in various formats.
For a small town, Calistoga can pack plenty into a visitor’s day trip – or longer itinerary, including milling flour at the historic Bale Grist Mill, or hiking the Oat Hill Mine Trail that ascends the Palisades. One of the quirkiest and not-to-be-missed events occurs the first Saturday of every December: the Calistoga Lighted Tractor Parade, when 60 bedazzled tractors, floats and farm equipment dance down the main street under falling “snow” flakes. Come the second Sunday of September, the Calistoga Harvest Table lines 1,000 feet of tables along the main street, where 800 guests enjoy dinner and regional wines under a harvest moon.
Calistoga wines are reason alone to make a visit, especially with Calistoga being the only AVA (American Viticultural Area) in the United States with 100 percent volcanic soil. With over 40 boutique wineries and a few larger, recognizable names such as Sterling Vineyards and Twomey (sister to the famed Silver Oak Winery), one particular winery in Calistoga stands out as the legend of Napa Valley winemaking: Chateau Montelena. Founder Jim Barrett’s oenological skills put Napa Valley on the world’s radar when its chardonnay bested France in a blind tasting known as the ’76 Judgement of Paris. There’s also an over-the-top Castello di Amorosa winery worthy of a tour. This replica of a 13th-century Tuscan-inspired castle was a dream-come-to-fruition by its eccentric 21st-century owner, Dario Sattui. Utilizing purchased materials from crumbling castles throughout Europe and with tools of the 13th century, builders created an architectural masterpiece with tours of its medieval dining parlor to its extensive torture chamber with a last stop in the tasting room.
Founded 140 years ago as a resort town for newly affluent Americans, Calistoga is now a welcoming town for any and all visitors who crave the healing power of a de-tox in mud and hot springs pools before a re-tox to taste world-class wines. Guests are guaranteed to walk away with a feeling of wellbeing. For more information visitcalistoga.com/