Insider Advice: If you're planning to visit San Francisco as well as Napa Valley, we highly advise that you visit Wine Country during the week (when Bay Area day trippers are working) and visit the City on the weekend when there are not 2.5 million commuters clogging up the sidewalks! Please ask us about our Semi-Famous Tasting Notes and over $100 of Complimentary Wine Tasting Certificates.
Sip and Savor: Wine Country Tours
Why drive down into the heart of crowded Route 29, when Calistoga offers wonderful wineries right here at the top of Napa Valley? Below are some of our favorites. Let us know your own wine preferences and we'll happily customize a tour plan for your individual tastes.
Luscious reds: Vincent Arroyo (707-942-6995) is a small winery offering big, full-bodied red wines. Friendly and laid back, the winery has gained noteriety for its Petite Sirah, its super-knowlegable staff and for its resident labradors. Please call for an appointment.
Wine and a Smile: If you want to really have a great time tasting some wonderful wine, visit Bennett Lane Winery (707-942-6684). They believe great wines start in the vineyard with great fruit. They look for vineyards with low yields, producing fruit with intense flavors and aromas. Bennett Lane Winery produces 100% Napa Valley red wine, including their proprietary blend, Maximus. This is a winery not to miss, with one of Napa's friendliest tasting rooms and some amazing Napa wine!
Local Classic: Helena View Johnston Vineyards (707-942-4956) is located just minutes away from Aurora Park Cottages in the shadow of Mount Saint Helena. Accompanying the beautiful views are picnic tables and the ambiance of a laidback afternoon. Charlie Johnston gets more fruit into a bottle than anyone else we have ever tasted. Their Cabernet Franc will really get your attention. Tasting and tours by appointment.
In the Neighborhood: Located in Calistoga close to Aurora Park, Zahtila Vineyards (707-942-9251) has picnic tables and beautiful rose gardens. Ask to try the Napa and Dry Creek Valley Zinfandels side by side for a very interesting taste comparison.
Small and Handcrafted: Lava Vine (707-942-9500) produces unique wines with intense character and bold elegance from grapes that are grown on volcanically derived soils.
Superbowl Style: The personal wine project of Super Bowl winning, NFL coach Dick Vermeil, Vermeil Wines (707-341-3054) produces stellar varietals, including the rarely seen Charbono.
Bubbly Brilliance: A cave tour at venerable sparkling wine producer Schramsberg (707- 942-4558) is a must-do for lovers of the bubbly.
Well-Known Winner: Popular and solid, Beringer (707-963-8989) offers wines for every palate and pocketbook. Ask us about scheduling an unpublished, Private, Reserve Tasting of some of the delicious, single vineyard Cabs.
Wine and a View: Located on a tree-covered knoll overlooking the Napa Valley, Rombauer Vineyards (800-622-2206) offers lovely views, walking paths, and tasty varietals (particularly the Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon). Interesting note: the owner is the great nephew of Irma Rombauer, the author of The Joy of Cooking.
World-renowned for its rejenvenating mud baths and hot springs, tiny Calistoga is home to more than 20 spas and massage centers. All are great, but we have a particular affinity for Lavender Hill Spa just down the road. Catering to couples, treatments at Lavendar Hill take place in charming, private bath cottages.
If you prefer to stay in your cottage here at Aurora Park, we highly recommend Special Occasion Massage (707-529-9401) Their trained therapists will arrive right at your cottage door, bringing everything needed for a truly rejuvenating and peaceful experience.
For its size, Calistoga has an amazing collection of restaurants. In fact, the town boasts the largest variety of restaurants in the Napa Valley. Here are a few with consistent rave reviews from our guests.
Right in Town
Brannan's Grill (707-942-2233). As you enter Brannan's, take note of our beautifully restored, circa 1880, solid mahogany Brubswick & Company bar. You are always welcome to come in for a glass of wine from our extensive wine-by-the-glass menu, or a cocktail and appetizer to start your evening.
All Seasons Cafe & Wine Shop (707-942-6828) features fresh wine country produce and Pacific seafood on its California-style menu. Its impressive wine list includes highly allocated and small production wines from California, Burgundy, Rhone Valley, Loire Valley and more.
Calistoga Inn (707-942-4101) offers a popular outdoor dining patio stretching along the right bank of the Napa River. A great option for lunch, the restaurant serves hearty beers from its onsite brewery.
Hydro Grill (707-942-9777) has the best burgers in town, great sandwiches and a terrific beer selection – including local Napa beers. On the lighter side — try the marvelous salmon salad.
Barolo (707-942-9900) offers awesome small plates and hearty pasta. We particularly enjoy their arancine, or Marco Polo's version of fried rice. Reviving after your drive up 29 to reach Calistoga!
A Short Drive
Greystone at the Culinary Institute of America (707-967-1010) Featuring California's bounty from the land and sea, Greystone Restaurant at the Culinary Institute in St. Helena, is a both a taste treat and a visual feast. Each table offers a view of the chefs at work in the large, long, open kitchen. The beverage menu offers unique tasting flights as well as the chefs' favorite wines by the glass or bottle.
Terra Restaurant (707-963-8931) Husband-and-wife team Hiro Sone and Lissa Doumani's highly-rated St. Helena Franco-Californian with Asian accents "has it all"—"gorgeous, unusual, unforgettable" cuisine served by an "amazing staff" in a "romantic", "quietly elegant" stone-walled dining room;... "definitely a destination place that always delivers." — Zagat. Chef Hiro Sone was named 2003 "Best California Chef" by The James Beard
Tra Vigne (707-963-4444). The name (pronounced Trah-Veen-yay) means "among the vines." And while the Mediterranean-style enclave is easily accessible from the highway, it is in fact a place set apart among the vines, creating the illusion of an enchanted Italian village. The creations — from antipasti to pastas, entrees and desserts--pay passionate homage to traditional Italian cookery while importing the enriching element of American innovation. Call it "Neo-Italiano," if you like.
Bistro Jeanty (707-944-0103). This acclaimed French bistro in Yountville has the BEST tomato soup in the world (yes, we are throwing down the gauntlet on that one!) and their mussels are truly the finest in the Bay Area. They've definitely earned their Michelin star (three year's running) in our book.
Interested in more than mud and Merlots? The Calistoga area offers a number of attractions from the quirky to the grand. Here are a some suggestions:
Ca' toga Galleria D' Arte (707-942-3900). Featuring the works of artist Carlo Marchiori, this unconventional art gallery displays ceiling murals, wall decorations, art objects, sculptures and cast stone garden ornaments. On Saturdays from May through October, the artist also offers tours of his splendid home (Villa Ca' toga), decorated almost entirely in trompe l'oeil frescoes.
Petrified Forest (707-942-6667). A bit on the kitchsy side, The Petrified Forest is nonetheless an interesting destination. Trees felled and petrified by a centuries-ago volcanic eruption lie along a pleasant walking path. Snap a picture of The Giant, a 60-foot redwood buried over three million years ago at the ripe old age of 2,000.
Safari West (800-616-2695). Hidden in the hills west of Calistoga is a 400-acre wildlife park that gives visitors an African encounter — without the marathon plane ride and Malaria shots. Two-hour tours of the simulated Serengeti are held on real safari jeeps. Don't miss the fascinating bird aviary.
Up, up and away. Float above the vineyards and wineries of the Napa Valley in a colorful hot-air balloon. Calistoga Balloons (1-888-995-7700) provides a unique birds-eye view of our lovely region. Your flight experience includes balloon setup and inflation, an hour-long flight (weather permitting), and breakfast back on the ground.
Wine Tours. Nothing quite compares to a custom limousine wine tour of the beautiful Napa Valley. Whether you are just visiting, or live here in the Bay Area, a personal wine tour offers an incomparable way to see Napa Valley. Your guide will do the driving to some of California's finest wineries while you sit back and relax in your personal limousine and take in the scenic wonders of the wine country. We highly recommend Reserve Wine Tours (707-953-1763) and Beau Limousine (707-257-0887).
Calistoga Bikeshop (707-942-9687) Calistoga Bikeshop has a fleet of new rental bicycles that you can reserve for your visit. Riding bikes in Napa Valley is relatively flat and 100% fun! Calistoga has some very special riding experiences that you will want to make part of your stay in wine country. Be sure and ask Calistoga Bikeshop about their self-guided wine tour that is tailored personally to you.
Crazy Creek Air Adventures ( 707-987-9293). See wine country from a bird's eye view. Glider rides just north of Napa showcase vineyards, the largest fresh water lake in California, geothermal steam clouds produced by nearby geysers, and even the remnants of an ancient volcano.
Walk down the road a piece into lovely Calistoga and enjoy an afternoon strolling and shopping. Gift stores, coffee shops, and cafes line both sides of the street — beckoning you to shop 'til you drop. Extend your winery experience at the Calistoga Wine Stop (707-942-5556), One stop shopping for Napa and Sonoma county for very small producers, some of which do not have wineries or tasting rooms. They can pack it for you and ship it to ANY STATE in the U.S.A. and also foreign countries. Their 25 years of tasting in the same location gives them keen knowledge of what is available on the market. Attitudes (707-942-8420) Unique lifestyle clothing for everyday wear - from picnic clothes to party wear. Perk yourself up before or after your excursion at The Calistoga Roastery (707-942-5757). They custom roast and grind the "Aurora Park Blend" that is available in our cottages. Buy a bag (or two) to take home with you! Funke's (707.942.6246) - Joe's favorite source of aloha shirts, Funke's is the premier purveyor of fine resort and casual clothing for men and women.