A visit to wine country is always a delight for the senses, and wine lovers worldwide seek out the celebrated Calistoga wineries. Calistoga wineries have the accolades wine aficionados appreciate, but the relaxed small town feel that makes wine tasting accessible to all.
Calistoga hot spring spas are another reason visitors flock to this part of Napa wine country. Calistoga was California’s first wellness destination. It was founded in 1859 as a health spa by Sam Brannan, who founded the California Star, San Francisco’s first newspaper, and was California’s first millionaire. Calistoga quickly became famous for its geothermal waters -which exist in the rock formations below Calistoga- and to this day, people flock to enjoy the bubbling waters.
What is Calistoga Known For?
Calistoga, the traditional homeland of the Wappo tribe, is now a charming small town with Western heritage. This heritage can be seen by the horse ties still evident on rails in the center of town. Calistoga also has an on-trend new age health vibe, but their wineries are the biggest draw, and that is why most people visit Calistoga. And visitors will have no problem finding Calistoga wineries to tour!
The two main roads are a joy to drive. They are two lanes wide with no fast food restaurants to be seen. There are vineyard-lined driveways on Highway 29, and the Silverado Trail North will deliver you to some of the most cherished wineries in California wine country.
Taking a quick stroll down Lincoln Avenue, the main street running through this delightful town, you’ll encounter an abundance of wine-tasting rooms and trendy restaurants. You will also find spas – lots of spas.
Calistoga spas include hot springs and wellness resorts that offer mineral soaks, massages, facials, and the famous Calistoga mud baths.
Is Calistoga in Napa or Sonoma?
Calistoga is situated at the north end of the world-renowned Napa Valley. It is a 90-minute drive from San Francisco, Sacramento, and Oakland airports.
However, if you find yourself on a road trip driving south on Highway 5, take a right turn at Williams. Once you turn, go past the Robert Louis Stevenson State Park and enjoy one of the most verdant curvaceous drives that ends with the most stunning panoramic views of Calistoga.
As the tight corners end and the landscape opens, you will be treated to an incomparable view! The fertile lower valley tucked between the Mayacamas Mountains, and Vaca Range is filled with gnarly vines – rows upon rows of gnarly vines, as far as you can see. These vines will ultimately produce grapes for Calistoga’s envied and esteemed wines.
Approximately two-thirds of visitors to Napa Valley drive north from San Francisco. The drive from San Francisco is classic California, with grassy hills dotted with handsome native oak trees.
After driving over the Golden Gate Bridge (check that off your bucket list!), a drive around the Tiberon coast is highly recommended. This outing offers the most glorious views of San Francisco Bay from a completely unique perspective.
From Tiberon, you will pass the Napa River Wetlands full of endemic and migrating birds before reaching the southernmost town in the Napa Valley -Napa itself!
To get to Calistoga from Napa, simply head north and let the famous names of Napa Valley sink in. As you head to Calistoga, you’ll pass Yountville, home to Chandon. Oakville, where Robert Mondavi calls home. Rutherford boasts Inglenook and Grgich Hill, and finally V. Sattui.
V.Sattui, a historic winery with one of the most elaborate and delicious picnic options in Napa Valley, makes an ideal stop for an afternoon picnic. Finally, you’ll find Beringer in St Helena, the last town before Calistoga.
Is Calistoga near Sonoma Valley?
There are many reasons to enjoy Calistoga as your home base while in Napa Valley.
With Calistoga as your base, you can roam the entire Napa Valley, with over four hundred wineries and trendy little towns offering unique wine tasting options, fine dining, and on-trend Californian shopping.
A day trip from Calistoga to Sonoma Valley is also highly recommended. It is less than an hour’s drive past rolling hills covered in vines to reach Sonoma Plaza, the park that defines the center of Sonoma town.
The Plaza, shaded by enormous trees, is a great resting spot to enjoy a coffee and a bakery treat from the nearby Basque Boulangerie Café. Surrounding the Plaza is an eclectic mix of tasting rooms, restaurants, delightful art galleries, and beautifully stocked stores like Chateau Sonoma, a thoughtfully curated French gift store.
History buffs will spend hours at the Sonoma State Historic Park across the Plaza. The buildings, including Mission San Francisco Solana -founded in 1823-was the only Mission built after Mexico’s independence from Spain. The Sonoma Barracks, where the first bear flag was raised on July 14, 1846, proclaiming California’s independence from Mexico, is filled with valued treasures, artifacts, and photos from the past.
History and Culture of Calistoga Wineries
The jewel in the crown of Calistoga wineries is, without question, the impressive architectural masterpiece Castello di Amorosa.
Visionary Dario Sattui built the castle to honor his Italian heritage and because he had a passionate desire to create something extraordinary. And extraordinary it is! It took over 30 years from planning to building, using only authentic medieval construction, to bring his realistically styled 14th-century Tuscan castle to fruition.
Castello di Amorosa
It is hard to comprehend the enormity of building this castle! There are three acres of rooms at Castello di Amorosa! There are 95 rooms dedicated to creating and caring for the winery’s award-winning Italian-style wines.
Visiting Castello di Amorosa transports you back to medieval Italy. Driving up a short hill, you will see iconic Italian cypress trees lined up and standing like sentinels stewarding the estate.
Upon arriving at the castle, you must cross the moat and impressive iron drawbridge. Walking past the Italian oak door, you’ll enter the Great Hall. Hand-painted frescoes and a 500-year-old Umbrian fireplace greet you. The room’s centerpiece is a massive table large enough for a decadent medieval banquet. Standing in the room, you feel as if you are waiting for the minstrels and Knights in armor to enter the room.
The rest of the castle is equally impressive. You will see it is thoughtfully decorated with furnishings from Europe. There are nearly a million antique bricks used in Castello di Amorosa.
The beautiful vaulted wine cellar is spectacular. But don’t get so lost in admiring every little detail. The wine tastings and pairings at Castello di Amorosa are superb and not to be missed by any wine lover.
Choosing which wineries to visit from the remaining seventy-plus Calistoga wineries and tasting rooms will be hard. You can drive onto the many wine properties in the area that announce they are open for visitors. While many require reservations, you can still visit most of the wine boutiques on the properties and take a bottle with you to savor next to the hotel pool.
Returning to town and walking down Lincoln Street is a pleasurable way to view the tasting rooms quickly. A few of our favorite stops include the family-owned Lawer Estates. Their small batch wines are sustainably farmed and are available in the wine shop. For those who adore a beautiful glass of bubbly, don’t miss their Sparkling Brut Reserve. It’s ideal for celebrating a romantic holiday with the one you love, a bridal getaway, or even a birthday. Ask your hotel for a champagne bucket filled with ice, and begin celebrating!
Picayune Cellars offers their Classic Tasting with five of their key wines on the front patio or in their private courtyard. Picayune also has an eclectic mercantile store with Native American and Western art, providing you with the perfect opportunity to find a meaningful treasure to take back home.
Romeo Vineyards and Cellars
Romeo Vineyards and Cellars is one of the most extensive wineries and offers delightfully shaded patios on Lincoln Street. The winemaker, Alison Green-Doran, is a pioneer female winemaker with training in France. She has produced superior wines since 1981, which will become evident at a Romeo wine tasting.
The wine educators at Romeo, serving Calistoga wines from the restored 1800s Carriage House, will provide one of the most personal, heartfelt, and fun wine tastings possible. They are well informed and will guide you through your wine tasting at your pace. You can choose from a white, Bordeaux, Cabernet, or Library flight tasting, and they will thoroughly explain each one. The chocolate pairing, like the much-anticipated dessert after dinner, shows off the talent of both the winemaker and the local chocolatier.
Calistoga’s Best Restaurants
Though Calistoga’s primary focus is on wine, it also offers fertile ground for many restaurants that feature fresh local produce in this relaxed California town.
With its long Mexican history, Calistoga had to have an authentic Mexican restaurant, and Pacifico Restaurante Mexicano, with its colorful Mexican décor, offers an extensive menu with perfectly prepared traditional choices.
The sumptuous seafood offerings include lime-soaked ceviche, fresh cod tacos, and tiger prawns sautéed with Mexican corn. And don’t forget to order a Millionaire Margarita pitcher or glass, topped with a Marnier float. Sangria is not on the bar menu, but special order it and savor their delicious layered sangria, which perfectly complements Mexican cuisine. And, of course, Napa Valley prosecco, and red and white wine provide a memorable Cali experience.
The Calistoga Inn Brewery and Restaurant, overlooking the Napa River as it passes through town, is a perfect location to stay and dine. The restaurant is casually elegant, with a large dining room perfect for group celebrations. For lodging options at the inn, you can choose from bedrooms in the historic Calistoga Inn or the private cottage.
The paved brick patio offers comfortable shaded seating under the trees from the river bank or near the indoor/outdoor bar. Stop for lunch to enjoy delicious burgers, pasta, and pizza.
Give the Basil Pesto Pizza serious consideration with ambrosial burrata cheese and toasted pines nuts enhancing the basil pesto base.
For dinner, savor culinary stars such as grilled Pacific swordfish followed by the classic molten chocolate lava cake. Top off your delightful meal with an extravagant espresso martini, dessert wine, or cognac. It’s the perfect ending.
You can choose the best wine for pairing with your meticulously prepared meal with a thoughtful and varied selection of Napa and international wines. The menu includes a beer flight of six tasters from their own Napa Valley Brewing Company and an impressive selection of handcrafted house beers.
Cocktails are a favorite at night with the original “Sunset in The Valley.” This cocktail has mescal, elderflower liqueur, lime juice, and bitters and is very popular.
You might opt for an impromptu picnic in one of Calistoga’s parks. Consider picking up a custom picnic basket from Sam’s General Store. The picnic basket includes wine glasses and a wine opener of course! You can even keep the straw picnic basket!!
The general store is located in the incredibly charming and historically significant Brannan Cottage Inn, the last remaining cottage on its original site built by the founder of Calistoga, Samuel Brannan.
Magical Calistoga Hot Water Springs
Calistoga’s healing waters became very popular in the late 1800s. The hot water from the springs was piped into spas along Lincoln Road, and hotels were built to accommodate the rapidly increasing number of spa seekers. By the early 1900s, a train transported health seekers to the Calistoga mineral spas for their “medicinal” treatments.
Today’s spa and wellness centers remain near the main road and are a “must-do” activity in Calistoga. Many of the most famous and popular spas are located in top-rated Calistoga accommodations.
Indian Springs Resort and Spa, a seventeen-acre property dotted with historic cottages and stunning Mission Revival-style buildings, offers it all: volcanic mud baths, mineral pools, massage, facials, scrubs, and the newly added Himalayan Salt Room.
As one of the original spas in California, their goal has long been to produce a sense of deep calm and rejuvenation. Unique to Indian Springs is the Buddha Pond, a geyser-fed pool surrounded by comfy lounge chairs, majestic palm trees, and flowering gardens.
The Buddha Pond is a special place, a retreat you can use at any time during your stay to relax, regroup and just be, not worrying at all about what the future holds. At night, stargazing by the pond will make this slice of heaven feel like magic.
Calistoga Spa Hot Springs is a boutique resort and spa in the heart of downtown Calistoga. The resort offers beautifully appointed guest rooms, many offering patios overlooking the outdoor gardens and four geothermal mineral pools. Have a massage before or after your mineral soak for a rejuvenating Calistoga spa experience in the beautifully landscaped setting.
The Roman Spa Hot Springs Resort, a Tuscan-style resort just a block off Lincoln Avenue, offers charming rooms surrounded by patios, a refreshing pool, and serene gardens. It is also home to the Baths at Roman Spa. The Baths offer the coveted Calistoga trinity: massage, mud, and mineral baths.
Consider experiencing their “Mud Adventure,” where you immerse yourself in Calistoga volcanic ash, peat, and the geothermal mineral water that bubbles up from below the spa! This spa also has side-by-side massages and baths for couples and friends to enrich the Calistoga adventure.
Moon Acre Spa and Baths at the Calistoga Motor Lodge and Spa believes in the perfect pairing. This spa has a fresh, unpretentious retro vibe and will appeal to fun seekers of all ages.
The perfect pairing is a soak in their outdoor geothermal pools, followed by a stress-relieving massage. You can opt to include CBD in your massage for superior therapeutic benefits.
The Motor Lodge offers pet-friendly Camper Rooms designed to make you feel as if you are “on the road again” in your camper van. They also have their new spacious Vista Rooms.
Pro Tip: Ask for a room overlooking the Vaca Mountains – you will not be sorry!
Calistoga, California, is the Perfect Weekend Getaway
Most visitors to Calistoga come for a quick getaway. Calistoga’s close proximity to San Francisco, Sacramento, and Santa Rosa airports makes this an easy and memorable weekend holiday destination.
Visitors love the cool spa vibe of Calistoga. Add in the excellent culinary choices and world-class wine tasting scene, and Calistoga is perfect for a romantic getaway, girls’ getaway, small party, or wedding extravaganza.
To experience the best that Calistoga offers, consider sipping on a glass of any of Calistoga’s premium wines from nearby vineyards while lazing around the pool after your spa treatment. Feel your shoulders drop, your breath becoming deeper as the combined effect of spa therapy and wine therapy combine to produce a state of blissful euphoria.
Undoubtedly, Calistoga wines, when matched with Calistoga spa treatments, will sustain you until your next visit back to this delightfully sybaritic locale.