A Tour of Calistoga: Top five things to do (part 1)

Calistoga is a small town treasure in an otherwise big and populated wine community in Napa Valley Photo: Image: (c) Christy Sharp Photography

SONOMA, SEPTEMBER 7, 2013 – Calistoga is breathtaking year-round, there isn’t much mystery there. Nestled between the mountains at the very north end of the Napa Valley, Calistoga is a small town treasure in an otherwise big and populated wine community.

1. Wine Tasting

SEE RELATED: California & Wine Month: A perfect pairing

It should be no surprise that the number one thing to do in Calistoga is taste wine. What you may not know is that there are a lot of small, artisanal wine producers hidden away. Here are a few wineries not to be missed:


Amici Cellars, Party Patio, Calistoga. Image: S Perkovich


SEE RELATED: The best historic winery tours in Napa and Sonoma

Amici Cellars: Amici Cellars has been run by a group of close friends for almost two decades. At Amici they focus on quality, not quantity. If you opt for the tour, you can get a real behind-the-scenes experience.

Nearly 100% of the time, one of the “Amici”, or owners, will host the tasting.

Tasting suggestions: try all of their Cabernet Sauvignon and the Chardonnay. Seated tastings by appointment only.

Bennett Lane: Bennett Lane is a boutique winery located at the north end of the valley, specializing in hand-crafted Napa Valley wines. They are a working winery, which gives guests a unique opportunity to see the day-to-day operations and winemaking process. Harvest is a perfect time to visit and experience their tour.

SEE RELATED: Lake County Winery Review: 10 must-try wineries

Tasting suggestions: Reserve Chardonnay, Maximus and Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. By appointment only.

Canard Vineyard, Calistoga. Image: S. Perkovich

Canard Vineyard, Calistoga. Image: S. Perkovich

Canard Vineyard: Rich “Duck” Czapleski has owned Canard Vineyard for over 25 years. For most of those years, Rich sold his highly sought after fruit to the big wineries of Napa Valley.

Since 2008 he uses the fruit for his own wine as well. The tasting room is their personal home. It doesn’t get much cozier and artisan than this.

Tasting suggestions: Bordeaux blends: Adam’s Blend, The Rescuer, and if you can get your hands on any, their Cabernet Franc. Extremely limited appointments available.

Carter Cellars: Carter wines are sampled at the Envy Wines tasting room. It is a warm and friendly atmosphere offering spectacular views of the Mayacamas, Pallisades and St. Helena mountains.

There is an outdoor picnic area in this intimate location and picnicking is encouraged.

Tasting suggestions: Cab Cab Cab with a splash of Merlot. Don’t miss The Grand Daddy and The Three Kings. By appointment only.

Phifer Pavitt tasting room, Calistoga. Image: S. Perkovich.

Phifer Pavitt tasting room, Calistoga. Image: S. Perkovich.

Phifer Pavitt Wine:

The winery is housed in a repurposed nineteenth century barn, full of memorable details including light fixtures made from “historic barbed wire.”

An unusual tasting ‘bar’ is fashioned from a fallen slab of black walnut wood with naturally jagged edges.

Tasting suggestions: they only make two wines here - Date Night Red and Date Night White; try them both. By appointment only; seated tasting; tours available.

2) Soar Over Napa Valley

Amazing, breath-taking, picturesque and surreal are only a few of the words that come to mind after hot air ballooning.  Calistoga Balloons is the perfect partner to cross this thrilling item off your list. Soak in the majestic mountain landscapes and vistas while you soar over spectacular 360-degree views of Napa Valley vineyards.

Every picture you take can be sent as a postcard: Napa is beautiful, wish you were here, xo. Information: http://www.calistogaballoons.com; 707.942.5758 to make a reservation. Individual tickets start at $185 per person.


3) Dine Like Royalty: Fabulous Food

It is no secret that Napa Valley is known for its four-star restaurants. Yes, there are a few of those in Calistoga, but there are also a few undiscovered treasures worth a mention.


Calistoga Kitchen, Napa Valley. Image: S Perkovich.


Calistoga Kitchen: This charming restaurant has a very intimate atmosphere.  The menu features ingredient-driven food using the bounty from local growers, purveyors and winemakers from the region.  Don’t leave without trying an original concoction from the organic juice bar.

Not to be missed brunch items include huevos rancheros with ranch gordo beans, house made guacamole, and roasted jalapeno, and French toast with fresh strawberries, blueberries and organic maple syrup. Calistoga Kitchen is open for lunch and dinner and Sunday brunch. 

Jolè: Jolè is a contemporary American Restaurant that is owned and operated by husband-and-wife team Matt and Sonjia Spector, chef and pastry chef, respectively.

Choose from four, five or six-course wine-pairing dinners. Sample dishes such as local salmon with yellow, blue lake & romano beans, dill, salmon roe and bacon wrapped veal sweet breads with fingerlings, crimini mushrooms, toasted hazelnut, and marsala. Wine pairing tasting menus start at $80 per person.


Jole Restaurant, Calistoga. Image: Jole


Solbar at Solage: The first thing you will notice upon arrival at Solage is the surrounding breathtaking mountain ranges. At Solbar their theme is “Where Napa Cuisine Takes Center Stage.”

Put your Napa senses to the test with dishes such as black truffle-roasted Mary’s chicken with David Little’s potatoes boulangères, Sausalito Springs watercress, and lovage cream and steamed Alaskan halibut green chickpeas, almond butter, romesco smoked poblano peppers, and pickled sultanas.

For an extra Napa Valley treat, ask the Sommelier to pair Napa Valley wines perfectly with your meal.

Coming soon: A Tour of Calistoga (part 2), which will highlight the best places to stay, relax and rejuvenate.

Related article: Wine Country Weekly: Review of Downtown Napa (part 1)


Calistoga Balloon. Image: (c) Christy Sharp Photography


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Sherrie Perkovich

Sherrie is a perky, music and wine-loving, Northern California local that seeks out and spreads the word about San Francisco experiences as well as unforgettable wine-related travel experiences.  She is CMO of The Grape Hunter USA, where they focus on helping artisan wineries and developing unique wine travel for consumers. Follow her on Twitter @BigNoseWino

Sherrie is a San Francisco local that fancies herself an extroverted fine dining, wine drinking, know-it-all.  If it’s happening near SF, Sherrie is in on it.  Follow her columns,  for the widest range of Out and About San Francisco ~ San Jose treats and Wine Country Weekly.  


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