Located in the northern part of Napa Valley, Calistoga is a great place to experience all there is to do in wine country. Surrounded by world-class wineries, you’ll find mineral spas, chic restaurants, luxury resorts and even modest inns and family-owned establishments. A vacation in small-town Calistoga can be what you want it to be, but tends to encourage a slower pace. To help you take advantage, I’ve put together my Guide to Calistoga – where to eat, drink and stay in one of the most relaxing areas in all of Napa Valley!
Calistoga is located about 75 miles north of San Francisco and roughly 25 miles north of downtown Napa. Since it’s in the northern area of the valley, not as many tourists make it all the way up, making Calistoga somewhat of a wine country gem. It’s much more laid back than other areas of Napa Valley with a small-town, authentic feel. Because it’s a bit removed from the hustle and bustle of weekend crowds in Napa, Calistoga makes a great place to unwind in wine country.
Where to Eat & Drink
Sam’s Social Club
When I stayed at Indian Springs Resort late last year, I ended up heading to Sam’s Social Club for both breakfast and pre-dinner appetizers/cocktails. Known for its California comfort food, Sam’s has a casual yet sophisticated setting that’s become a favorite of locals and visitors alike and I understand why. If you happen to visit at brunch, grab yourself a giant Bloody Mary and avocado toast. And don’t miss the Candy Cap Churros served with fresh whipped cream and caramel! Trust me, they’re a sinful yet memorable way to start the day.
Solbar is a Michelin star bar and restaurant serving up farm-to-table California fare. Located at the beautiful Solage Calistoga, Solbar is a great place to savor a drink on the outdoor patio next to a fire or enjoy locally-inspired fine dining. I hear the lemon ricotta pancakes are a must.
Located right downtown in Calistoga, Evangeline is a casual place for enjoying French food, with a Creole twist. The bistro is quaint, so most diners sit outside on the covered patio. You’ll find everything from Coq au Vin and Shrimp Etouffee to Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes and Fried Pickles. Then wash it all down with a tasty cocktail or local wine.
Where to Wine Taste
Although only a few minutes from downtown Calistoga, you’ll feel very far away once you arrive to Jericho Canyon. Visits are limited at this private winery, but if you do get an appointment, expect an ATV tour through the steep vineyards and a seated tasting in their cave. Their highly allocated selection includes rich and voluptuous Estate Cabernets and red blends.
As one of the oldest, family-owned grape growing estates in Napa Valley, Larkmead is rich with history, but it’s the wine that’ll capture your heart. Centered around single-parcel sites, the wines are beautiful examples of Napa Valley Cabernet, especially if you like a more restrained style. Read more about my visit here! (FYI – Appointment required).
Davis Estates is a beautiful and relatively new place to taste wine in Calistoga. A visit will take you through the restored barn and manicured gardens before ending with an intimate tasting experience. The food and wine pairings are divine, and the views from the porch swings are the cherry on top. Check out photos and info from my visit here. (FYI – Appointment required).
If you’re not one to make appointments in advance, head over to Chateau Montelena. This French-inspired winery is covered in ivy and makes for a great photo opp, but it’s the story behind it that leaves a lasting impression. Chateau Montelena is the winery behind The 1976 Judgment of Paris – one of Napa’s greatest success stories. If you don’t know it (or haven’t seen the movie Bottle Shock), Montelena’s wine beat out its French counterparts in the infamous blind tasting, putting California wines on the map. After your tasting, stroll through the garden to admire the beautiful grounds.
Where to Stay
With its modern farmhouse architecture and incredibly chic pool, the Solage is an upscale destination for a relaxed vacation in wine country. Private cabins with fireplaces, complimentary bikes and a renowned spa make it a perfect getaway spot. You may have a hard time leaving!
Indian Springs Resort & Spa
California’s oldest continuously operating pool and spa facility, Indian Springs is a great option for those looking for R&R close to town. With an Olympic-sized outdoor mineral pool and grounds dotted with hammocks and lawn games, the place oozes relaxation. Natural grounds and a quiet atmosphere make it a perfect spot for R&R. For more, read about my experience here.
Don’t get me wrong, all of Napa Valley is still very much a hot spot for tourists, especially this time of year. However, Calistoga offers all the rustic charm of a sleepy western town while still managing to be a chic yet laid back wine country destination. Have you been? If not, let’s go!