Calistoga: A vacation in your own back yard PAT R I C I A C O R R I G A N
The hot tub at Calistoga Spa Hot Springs.
Patricia Corrigan photos
Castello di Amorosa
A bedroom in the original Sam Brannan cottage attached to the Sharpsteen Museum.
Editor’s Note: Writer Patricia Corrigan decided to explore a closeto-home destination and report back to her fellow Napa residents, travel magazine style. You already know that Calistoga is that pretty town of 5,000-plus perched on the northwestern edge of Napa County. But did you know that some 1.2 million people visited there in 2014 to grab time off the grid, get out of the routine, groove on the casual vibe? Calistoga draws visitors from all over the world who want to mellow out in mineral pools, tour world-class wineries, meet artisans crafting unique products, shop for clothing not found in malls and eat delicious meals. Living where you do, you can easily make the trip for a day, a long weekend or even a week. Here are highlights of a four-day trip to Calistoga late last year. If what you have in mind is doing a lot of nothing, you will want to do some of that in the four mineral pools (including a huge hexagonal hot tub with jets) at Calistoga Spa Hot Springs. The spacious pools are filled with warm mineral water that contains phosphorous, sulfur (with no odor) and magnesium, all sources of rejuvenation. This comfortable boutique hotel, with kitchenettes in every room, also offers a wide range of spa treatments. (For current room rates, special packages and details on spa treatments, see calistogaspa. com) Once you’re feeling like pampered royalty, drive to Castello di Amorosa, a winery tucked inside an authentically styled 13th century medieval castle just south of Calistoga. As we walked in, a man leaving after a tour remarked to his companion, “That was amazing.” And it is. A massive 121,000-square-foot
building, the castle boasts five towers, 107 rooms, a drawbridge, a moat, a torture chamber and even secret passages. In spite of the rustic feel, the winemaking is completely state of the art, with triple-jacketed fermentation tanks. What’s in the tanks? More than 15 different wines. (For a virtual tour of the castle, more about the wine and current prices for tours and tastings, see castellodiamorosa.com.) New to the Calistoga area is Coquerel Family Wine Estates, which specializes in small batches of Sauvignon Blanc. Clay and Brenda Cockerell don’t yet have a tasting room, but you can keep apprised of their construction schedule — and learn more about their wines — at coquerelwines.com. While you’re out, stop by Wine Barrel Furniture, just 10 minutes from the center of town. Artist Paul Block’s story is a good one. A chef at a winery in the ‘90s, Block asked for some of the empty barrels. His degree from the Parsons School of Design served him well, and in 1997 he made his first piece of furniture. (Have a look at his work at barrelrecycling.com) “Now, the idea of wine barrel furniture is huge, and it’s hard to get the barrels,” Block told us. Recently, he has turned to working with desiccated grapevines to make unique candleholders, sconces, chandeliers and table bases. Block said, “It’s the hardest wood I’ve ever come across.” Block always needs more vines for his work. And what about those vines and cuttings that don’t lend themselves to re-purposing? “People can use them for fuel in winter,” said Block, a committed environmentalist. “I set up a bin at the Cal-Mart grocery in town for recycling, where people can get the vines for free.” See Calistoga, Page 15