This was our first time staying in Calistoga and visiting wineries. I recommend staying in this area to visit the locations below. This ensures you aren’t wasting time driving from Napa proper. The itinerary below is for 2 days! See Napa Itinerary blog for other options if staying longer.
We landed in SFO around noon so we knew with driving up to Calistoga we could only hit a few places before we arrived at our hotel. As always our first stop was Gotts for burgers. The original is in Napa, but the other locations are still great. We traveled during the pandemic so we used mobile order and ate on the drive up. Can you tell we were excited to get wine wasted?
ROUND POND ESTATE
Round Pond Estate is located in the valley. The property is stunning. We were greeted by a masked eye smile and were seated right away. One of the distinguishing features was the long wooden table in the center of their gorgeous patio. Per usual, I researched and found this coveted table was for the Vintage Reds Tasting ($85/pp). The experience explored 4 of their coveted reds and an artisan board, which was so amazing. Our guide tailored the tasting to us and the weather. Since it was 94 degrees in the valley he recommended we do a few chilled wines then visit some of the reds. This is why I love properties like this. They cater to you and what they think is best and made us personalized menus. We were able to explore only for a second inside due to COVID. Their barrel cellar was below this glass ceiling. I hope in the future to visit when we can explore below. Do not forget the photo opportunity by their giant outdoor fireplace.
This was my first time drinking bubbles in Napa. Domaine Chandon is very well known and a beautiful property. They offer a few different tasting experiences. We chose the Prestige Flight ($48) and Single Vineyard Flight ($40). The servers brought them out on a tray with the flight info below. The bubbles were great but the experience left us wanting. The lack of customer service is normal for a more tourist type winery. By all means, go to visit just to notice the difference between “popular” properties and the hidden gems. The view was beautiful and we ordered their truffle popcorn ($8) and was amazing to pair with the bubbles. Just a wine snob tip, do not refer to the sparling wine as champagne. Champagne is a form of sparkling wine but comes from the Champagne region in France. In Napa you drink sparkling wine or bubbles, that’s it! Check out their boutique as well. Super cute t-shirt, flutes and fun table top books.
The Up Valley Inn was an adorable boutique hotel. We hit a little power outage hiccup when we arrived. The horrible Calistoga fires happened about 2 weeks before we arrived so short power loss was normal and it did not last very long. The concierge was overly apologetic but honestly we did not care. We hung out in our rooms in the dark for a while until the power returned. We really enjoyed this hotel. They had a great outdoor hangout space with hanging lights to sit and enjoy a glass of wine or beer. My favorite amenity was their 100% hot springs pool with geothermal heating. One night we had the place to ourselves and it was so enjoyable.
Solbar is a stunning restaurant with a fun vibe located in Solage, Auberge Resort Collection. The service was amazing, the pool was lite up and you sat under trees with sparkling lights. It was very romantic! I had this fabulous cocktail called the Billionaires Cocktail. It was a take on a whiskey sour and on top of the egg white the put a $ sign in angostura bitters. We all shared our selections. Our top favs were the scallops, black truffle tagliatelle, and the new york strip. Go for the ambiance, service and happy taste buds.
SAM’S GENERAL STORE
What an adorable breakfast spot. It is actually located in the Brannan Cottage Inn, which I will be looking into staying next time. Sam’s was a cute little spot with amazing lattes, breakfast sandwiches and avocado toast!!!! They had outdoor seating but we chose to sit inside since in CA the mornings are a little chilly… and I am from MN!
We hired Napa Driver Tours for the day. I have always used their services. Rod is always on time, drives your rental car and will recommend amazing spots for you, even set up reservations! Chateau Montelena has been owned by the Barrett Family for 50 yrs but the property has been around since 1896 first owned by the Tubbs Family. Sold in 1958 to York Wing Frank, who created a garden representing his homeland. The Chinese gardens are accessible to wine club members. The first generations of Barretts purchased the property in 1968. Chateau Montelena made its mark in the wine world for their Chardonnay, which won the Judgement of Paris in 1973. As a red drinker, this Chardonnay blows your mind.
I recommend getting reservations at the beginning of the day. We arrived early so we had the place to ourselves to take breathtaking pictures of the chateau. Due to COVID, we were unable to see the inside but the outdoor tasting with views of the lake and garden was worth it. Highlight of the visit was meeting Karla, the winery dog, and a quick chat with the owner Bo Barrett. Multiple experiences are offered. We chose the Taste of Montelena ($40/pp), which consists of five current releases, reds and whites, and takes roughly 45 minutes. Jay, our host, was knowledgeable and full of jokes and laughter. While the chardonnay did leave a memory, the Zinfandel was beyond fabulous. We walked away with a few bottles. At $40/ bottle you can’t resist.
PIAZZA DEL DOTTO
Whenever I bring newbies to Napa, I always need to introduce them to the Delicacies Tasting ($175/pp) at Piazza Del Dotto. This experience is the best food and wine pairing I have found. Why waste time eating lunch when you can taste at the same time. I have always found food pairing fascinating. The flavors do compliment each other and completely change your taste buds. Roxanna was a fabulous host. We sat outside in the gardens facing the fountain. Typically you are able to go into their caves and do barrel tastings but COVID restrictions halted this. You taste around 12-15 wines during this visit, so I recommend doing it earlier in the day. The 5 course tasting was beyond; caviar, tortellini, lobster roll and short ribs. In light of the shit show that 2020 was, they created a trio of wines; Revenge of the Corona Dragon, Battle of the Corona Dragon and the third is TBD. Obviously we purchased the collection. Expert tip: eat all of your food and drink lots of water. This tasting isn’t for the weak!
Silver Trident was adorable. The wine tasting room felt like a house. The owners are longtime friends of Ralph Lauren, so the entire place is curated with furniture, artwork, fixtures and more. Our host, Beth, was fabulous and so much fun. The fact that she could deal with our group took skills but I am sure we aren’t the first group to be having a fabulous time. We enjoyed the Perfect Pairings tasting ($40/pp) which included bite sized canapes that were amazing. The chef Sarah Scott knows her way to my taste buds. I left with a few bottles of wine including their Provencal-style bottle of rose. Its gorgeous.
This was our second time visiting Amizetta. We are now club members and had such an amazing experience, we bring all new guests here. Once on the property, they seat you on the terrace and enjoy views of Lake Hennessey and Pritchet Hill. Connor was an amazing host and was fun to shoot the shit with. He allowed us to relax, take photos and enjoy some amazing reds. I am a huge fan of their Cab Franc but if you visit in the spring be sure to purchase a bottle of their Sauv Blanc. You can read more about visiting Amizetta in my Best of Napa blog!
GOOSE AND GANDER
Goose and Gander is a must stop and eat. They have this amazing mushroom soup. I always ask to be seated outside as you are nestled under the trees and lights. The charcuterie board was so fun to mix and match flavors. We also enjoyed bone marrow, deep fried olives and pumpkin cheesecake.
Happy planning and comment with any questions!