When we talk about California wines we’re all familiar with Napa Valley, but have you heard of Calistoga? When people hear wine country, they probably imagine an older crowd sitting around in a stuffy winery sipping on $300+ bottles of red wine, listening to someone educate them with descriptive words they don’t understand. This isn’t exactly our idea of a vacation. We were lucky enough to get introduced to the quaint little town of Calistoga right outside of Napa Valley, still in wine country.
Calistoga is small and wholesome yet surrounded by all the beauty of wine country. Everywhere we’d turn we would bump into a grape vine, winery, and great people who made us feel right at home. Looking up to the sky on an average day, you are guaranteed to watch hot air balloons float above you and the rolling hills surrounding. This town has everything we were looking for, from bike riding to spa services, and plenty of wine of course. Not to mention, a number of other fun places just minutes away. Here are a few of our favorite spots while hanging out in wine country.
EAT + DRINK
Clif Family Winery
Hands down our favorite spot that we spent the majority of our eating and drinking time was Clif Family Winery located on St. Helena. St. Helena is located just right next to Calistoga. The more active people have the option to take a bike ride over from Calistoga, but we stuck with driving because we knew our bellies would be way too full of goodness (always bring a DD of course!) after this experience.
Walking up to Clif, you’ll notice a food truck outside. This is where a good portion of the magic happens. Mainly known for their “bruschetta” (we put this in quotations because it’s more like a flatbread), the mushroom option is a must. Although, they change seasonally, we were told this one typically always stays on the menu because its a favorite amongst everyone. To keep it healthy, we got our greens with one of their delicious salads. Considering they’re so friendly, they surprised us with some cookies and brownies. Do not skip dessert here!
Don’t forget to also grab a bottle of wine. We sat down with a bottle of “The Climber” to compliment our meal. They also supply the traditional wine tastings as well if you want to test them all out, which seems like the best route to take.
Calistoga Motor Lodge and Spa
The main reason for our visit to Calistoga, Calistoga Motor Lodge and Spa. This hotel gives you the camp out feeling with the big comfy bed and overhead rain showers included. Inside the rooms you’ll find your kitchen table converts to a bed in case you have some extra slumberers joining you.
Upon check-in you’ll be asked if you would like coffee (personal pour over device included in room) or tea. We always go with both. Make sure you grab yourself one of the polaroid cameras behind the desk to borrow for your stay and capture all the moments. There is also a large array of snacks and bottles of local wines to grab and take back to your room, we know how hungry we get from traveling.
Our favorite part besides for the bed and shower, the pool. One large mineral pool naturally warmed up from the hot Cali sun. We were lucky enough to grab a daybed and spend some mornings lounging around. Then at night you could find us right back out there, either catching sunset in the hammocks, or keeping warm by the fire pit (grab some s’mores and jiffy pop at the front desk!) followed by unwinding in the hot tub.
Not all wine tours are the same. Raymond Vineyards was sure to prove that to us. We were greeted by an albino peacock trying to call for his mate, and interactive art to take playful photos. Heading into the tasting room, what seems to be tacky to some was entertaining and a great time for us. Raymond truly shows people, not to take life too seriously. With photos and bobble heads of french bulldogs just about everywhere, we grabbed our glasses of wine and went into the sensory room where you can smell and touch different objects that replicate flavors in wine.
Although there are plenty of play options around wine country, wine tours were definitely our favorite. Visit our Eat & Drink guide to see some of our other favorite wineries.
Hike & Bike
Even though we love wine drinking, we love being active even more. Luckily for us, Calistoga Motor Lodge and Spa provided Priority Bike’s super comfortable and easy to ride cruisers, to take around town and explore the towns close by. What we thought would be a short bike ride into town turned into a few hours worth of exploring different back roads and grape vines. With no destination in mind, we pulled down every little side road we could find to hop off the bike and take pictures and explore.
Calistoga Motor Lodge and Spa also has a limited number of Plush Picnic backpack lunch boxes. They offer to pack a lunch up for you or you can stop by Cal Mart and pack your own (Backpack even has a spot to hold your wine bottle!)
This comes in handy as well for the small hikes around Calistoga. We spent a day exploring Oat Hill Mine Trail to get a different perspective on Calistoga. This was an easy hike with plenty of shade to take a seat under a tree and enjoy lunch.
Whenever enjoying the outdoors, remember to Leave No Trace.
Although we were staying in Calistoga, we couldn’t help but find ourselves still jumping over to the town of St. Helena to explore more wineries, eat lunch and dinner, and explore local shops. Woodhouse Chocolates is one of Oprah’s favorites, so you know it must be good. Here we got to learn about chocolates instead of wine and couldn’t help but buy a box to take home. Right next door at Olivier, you’ll find our other favorite tasting outside of wine and chocolate, Olive Oil. Sounds strange we know. But you’ll find little pieces of bread and pretzels to walk around the shop and dunk in all different flavors of olive oil and even some mustards.
Wrapping up the day we couldn’t resist going to dinner at Cook. Known for their homemade pasta and ever changing menu, we left with full bellies and happy hearts. We’re still salivating over how fresh and delicious the pasta was.
BASICS BUDGET: ~$300 PER PERSON
Based on expenses for 2, including room, eats + drinks. Gas, travel + shopping not included.
Check out our Eat + Drink and Stay guides (Coming Soon) for added bonuses on how to enhance this experience.