Weekend Wining in Northern Napa Valley
|Take the tram to Sterling Vineyards in Napa Valley, the mountaintop winery with the best views in the area. (courtesy, Calistoga Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau)|
A weekend of sipping wine, gazing at stunning landscapes, floating in heated mineral pools, and bathing in mud ranks high on my list of relaxing vacation ideas. The drive from San Francisco to Calistoga, in the northern section of Napa Valley, winds through mountains and farmland, past country stores and veggie stands. Whether a tourist or a California resident, a vacation in wine country should be printed in bold on your life list.
After driving for an hour-and-a-half from San Francisco, the small town of Saint Helena appears, with its quaint shops and restaurants. It's worth a stop here to stretch the legs and walk around a bit, do some window shopping, and grab a bite at the quintessential dinerGillwood's Café on Main Streetwhere the menu has plenty of options for veggies and meat eaters alike. Its breakfasts rock. The last half-hour to Calistoga passes quickly, and before you know it you'll be turning down Lincoln Street, Calistoga's main drag, with restaurants, hotels, shops, and spas lining the wide-open road and scenic mountains in the distance.
Check into your hotel and get settled before taking off on a wine-tasting adventure. As far as resorts go, you can't beat Indian Springs (707-942-4913; www.indianspringscalistoga.com)not so easy on the wallet, but worth every cent (rooms range from $175 to $575, depending on the room and season). The country-style cottages with private porches are roomy, comfortable, and clean. The Olympic-size pool, built in 1913, sits on a hill beside the hotel, naturally heated to 102 degrees by thermal geysers. You almost float in the mineral water, but the rafts and "noodles" surrounding the pool add buoyancy, perfect for draping over while bobbing around in utter relaxation. If you decide to save money and stay at a nearby hotel, you can still spend the day at Indian Springs by signing up for a spa service, which allows all-day access to the pool. The Indian Springs mud baths surpass most others in Calistoga. A perfect afternoon consists of a mud bath, massage, and dip in the pool, the ideal way to get ready for the evening of wining and dining ahead.
There are plenty of other lodging options around town, in the way of spas and hotels. The Calistoga Village Inn and Spa (707-942-0991; www.greatspa.com) offers more affordable, but less cute, lodging (rooms range from $89 to $169 per night) and spa treatments. Its mud baths, massages, and other services compare to Indian Springs but lack some of the special touches, such as the oh-so-refreshing cucumber citrus water. If you don't mind a five-minute drive to downtown, the Comfort Inn (707-942-9400; www.choicehotels.com) has reasonable rates and pleasant rooms, most with decks (rooms range from $109 to $240).
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication