Napa Valley Conference & Visitors Bureau
River Terrace Inn, Napa
You'll find links to maps, spas, wineries, lodging, and the official Napa Valley Guidebook.
Calistoga Chamber of Commerce
Calistoga is a good place to "center yourself" while enjoying the healing benefits of restorative spa treatments that feature natural spring waters. It is also an excellent place to center yourself geographically when visiting the area. It's conveniently located in the beautiful, serene northern tip of the Napa Valley with immediate access to wine regions of neighboring Sonoma and Lake counties. Calistoga is the only location in the world that's 30 minutes or less from these attractions and famous places: Internationally-known wineries such as Chateau Montelena (of the 1976 Paris blind-tasting fame) and Sterling Vineyards (where you arrive via aerial tramway), award winning boutique wineries such as Zahtila Vineyards, Old Faithful Geyser, Napa Valley Wine Train, COPIA (the American Center for Food, Wine and the Arts), Culinary Institute of America at Greystone, spas with natural geothermal waters and mud baths, hot air balloon rides, big name entertainment, casinos, Safari West wildlife preserve (see cheetahs and giraffes), the Petrified Forest and much more.
The dozens of lodging options in Calistoga include natural hot springs resorts, elegant inns and cozy B&Bs.
WHERE TO STAY
Meadowood, St. Helena
$$$$$ / $$$$$
This private estate tucked behind a rolling vineyard in St. Helena is the perfect resort for those who want it all in one location. Exceptional service and attention to detail, tennis courts, croquet lawns, swimming, health spa, restaurants and onsite professionals including a wine educator and crouquet instructor are all here. A stay at Meadowood is beyond even Cinderella's wildest fantasy--after she was living in the palace. Even though our visit was timed precisely with a much-needed downpour on the Napa Valley, it didn't dampen our experience. In true Meadowood style, bellmen and umbrellas were at the ready to keep our couture dry and our "dos" in place.
At the end of the day, after attending the wine reception in the main lodge, walk to dinner in The Restaurant and then stroll back to your room and crawl into your plush bed--the kind that dreams are made of. Rooms are cozy but spacious, cottage-style yet elegant, and every amenity you may need is handy. Connecting rooms are not available, but two Lawnview rooms may be closed off with an exterior locking door.
This is the place neighboring super celebrities come to dine and work out, so be aware that proper attire is required.
The Spa at Meadowood
Reserved for guests and members of Meadowood, the spa uses only the purest, organically-grown products. Choose from an exfoliating treatment such as the Cabernet Crush or a Therapeutic Deep Tissue Massage. Be sure to add the Bliss treatment, which exfoliates and massages the hands and feet and is completed with a neck, head and face massage.
River Terrace Inn, Napa
$-$$ / $ - $$
With the Napa Downtown Trolley stop right in front of the lobby, full American breakfast buffet, and on-site restaurant and Wine Bar, you've got a great start to a wonderful getaway. In-room spa treatments, freshly cut flowers, imported Lanovera designer bath products, thick terry towels, and twice-daily room service pamper guests. When it's time to catch up on your beauty sleep, sink into the pillow-top mattresses and goose-down bedding.
Choose connecting rooms across from the heated, outdoor pool and you can quickly scamper discreetly across the hall in your robes. Or, for a more quiet evening, pick up a chick flick from the inn's lending library. The location, services and affordability make this a great find in the Napa Valley.
WHERE TO DINE
All Seasons Bistro, Calistoga
While the very nature of visiting Calistoga is casual, this bistro shines offering enticing dishes created around seasonal produce. During our visit in the winter of 2007, we chose Lobster Bisque with Truffle Oil, Roasted Monk Fish Wrapped in Prosciutto, Seared Diver Scallops with Saffron-Mushroom Risotto and Grilled Filet of Beef in a red wine glaze. Dessert continued to charm us with Warm Dark Chocolate Torte served with a blood orange ice cream and a Meyer Lemon Pot De Creme. Of course, wine pairing dinners are also available and guests or customers to the Wine Shop may choose from a large list including some from the owner's private collection.
The Grill at Meadowood, St. Helena
A casual setting with exceptional cuisine--produce grown at Meadowood just as it is with Meadowood's fine dining experience at The Restaurant. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served here, but expect surprising twists on American Classics such as Corned Beef Hash and Eggs Benedict.
The Grill is open to the public, registered guests, and members.
The Restaurant at Meadowood, St. Helena
Dining here isn't as much about eating as it is about the experience. It all begins with a warm greeting, followed by meals prepared with the freshest ingredients: produce picked from their own gardens and orchards. Prepare to be inspired!
Begin dinner by choosing local Dungeness Crab with Seckel pear, vanilla & sunflower seeds and Jerusalem Artichoke Soup with duck confit, Picholine olive, and sweet onions. Sample the difference between True Japanese Kobe and Point Reyes Grass Fed Beef. And finish with a Chocolate Pudding Cake of milk chocolate mousse, peppermint meringue, and cocoa nib ice cream. Tip: Ask to have your dessert and coffee delivered to enjoy in your room.
The Restaurant is open for dinner to the public, registered guests and members.
You can pick up some terrific bargains for a picnic at TRADER JOES in Napa, where the wine selection is quite impressive. After all, they're in the Napa Valley! OAKVILLE GROCERY in Oakville is well known, and therefore not inexpensive, but offers fabulous treats, wine and sandwiches. If you're on the north end of the Napa Valley, consider stocking up at CalMart, a grocery store with an extensive selection of cheeses, snacks and wines. If you're a guest at Meadowood, the staff is happy to create a picnic basket for you (cost).
Where to picnic? Meadowood recommends Robert Louis Stevenson State Park (Mt. St. Helena), Cuvaison Winery (Calistoga), Bothe Napa Valley State Park (St. Helene Parkway), Bale Grist Mill Historic State Park (St. Helena Hwy), St. Clement Vineyards (St. Helena), Lyman Park (St. Helena), Rutherford Hill Winery (Rutherford), Yountville Park (Yountville), Diamond Oaks Winery (Oakville).
COPIA adds that Louis M. Martini Winery (St. Helena), Hall Wines (St. Helena), Charles Krug (St. Helena), and V. Sattui (St. Helena) are picnic friendly.
WHAT TO DO
Lavender Hill Spa, Calistoga
Who hasn't heard of the famous mud baths of Calistoga? And yet, honestly, do you want to dip into the mud that has been used by others? Although we're assured it is safe, we opted for a spa that is as squeamish about such an experience as are we.
It would be a mistake to miss this lovely spa set back on Foothill Boulevard. The unimposing entrance conceals the intimate bath cottages containing dual whirlpool baths. But don't fret: you'll only be sharing if you book a treatment with a close friend.
Your bath attendant will escort you to your cottage, departing to provide you privacy while you disrobe and slip into a bath of volcanic mud, mineral salt, seaweed or a seasonal choice. When we visited, a chocolate bath was available, and how could we resist such a zero-calorie temptation? After your bath, you'll be escorted to a private treatment room where you'll receive your choice of a facial, massage, or reflexology treatment. We sampled a combination and were delighted with not only the quality of the treatment, but the warmth and sincerity of the staff.
Vino Van Tours
When you want a true wine expert, Tom Delaney is your man. Rather than drop you off at a winery and hang out by his van, he'll go with you and key the winery staff into the types of wines you most enjoy. With over 400 wineries in the Napa Valley, you'll appreciate his ability to select the wineries with the wine you'll want to take home. Why stop at a winery that specializes in a dry Merlot when it's a Riesling you prefer?
Think you can't afford a wine tour? Consider this: when touring with Tom, many times your tasting fee will be waived--which, at $10-15 per person, can quickly add up. Rubicon Estate now charges $25 per person just to enter the estate, whether you taste their wine or not. As a Wine Club Member, Tom can bring in three guests daily and take you directly to the Reserve Tasting Room for the good stuff.
Make your trip to Napa Valley a memorable and productive one; call the expert.
If you wish to walk through some lovely gardens, COPIA recommends Chateau Montelena Winery (Calistoga), Chimney Rock Winery (Napa), and Frog's Leap Winery (Rutherford).
Sequoia Grove Vineyards (Rutherford), Del Dotto Vineyards (Napa), and Miner Family Vineyards (Oakville) all have wine caves to explore.
Our group favored Riseling, Pinot Noir, Port and Late Harvest wines. Overall, a general desire for a sweeter white and a dry red with minimal tannins were our top choices. With that, these were the wineries Tom chose for us:
Bell Wine Cellars, Yountville
This little jewel is known primarily by those "in the know." While the tasting room is under construction, their wines are fabs. Try the 2005 Viognier and 2003 Claret. (Admittedly, at publication there are only limited cases remaining.)
Domain Chandon, Yountville
If you love the bubbly, this is a must stop. We recommend the Ambassador Tasting and Tour, which includes a guided tour of the winery and a tasting of five select wines--sparkling and still. The favorite in our group was the Chandon Riche, which is included in the tasting.
This is also the only winery with a restaurant on premise that is open to the public. Of course, wine pairing menus are offered. (We visited this one on our own.)
Prager Winery & Port Works, St. Helena
This driveway is easy to miss, and you don't want to pass it! Look for the big yellow Sutter Home Winery; Prager is the driveway just north of the Sutter property.
There are a half dozen ports to choose from, but we couldn't leave without taking home the 2004 Tomas Napa Valley Port and the 2002 Aria White Napa Valley Port. We also tucked into our bags the Port Chocolate Drizzle.
Rubicon Estate, Rutherford
Ordinarily, it costs $25/person just to walk in the door (called a "Guest Fee) of this beautiful winery. But when you enter with Vino Van Tours, Tom can bring in three people at no cost--and take you to the Reserve Room for tastings exclusive to Club members. The wines we enjoyed most were from the Reserve list. Hands down, the 2002 Rubicon (at $125 and in very limited quantities) was our favorite. Featured in the September 2006 issue of Wine Enthusiast as one of the "Quintessential Cabs: the World's Best Cabernet Sauvignons to Buy Now." Described by Rubicon as, 'approachable now, and can be cellared in optimal conditions for 15 to 20 years'--if you can wait.
Trefethen Family Vineyards, Napa
We really mopped up the wines here, arranging to have several shipped home. Our favorites were 2005 Napa Valley Dry Riesling, 2003 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, and the 2004 Late Harvest Napa Valley Riesling.
Combine this Tour with a Visit to San Francisco
Click on the link above for our suggestions on what to see in San Francisco.
Room Rate Key
Rooms Begin At / Room Described
$ - under $199
$$ - $200 - 299
$$$ - $300 - 399
$$$$ - $400 - 499
$$$$$ - $500 and up