Napa Valley is a gourmand’s paradise. A quick 45 minutes north of San Francisco (sans traffic) over the Golden Gate Bridge, across the barren hills of San Rafael and Galinas and then onto Route 37 along San Pablo Bay and its cooling breezes that ultimately moderate The Valley‘s ideal growing climate. The City of Napa is the Valley’s southernmost gateway to endless wine tastings thanks to more than 400 vineyards spanning roughly 50 miles anchored by posh inns and retreats along with an extremely high concentration of Michelin rated dining. But where do you turn if you just want to drink in the ambiance and not drain your bank account?
Head to where the Silverado Trail (now a road) begins on the valley’s northern end in Calistoga. Downtown Calistoga, a walkable historic district with local shops and restaurants like Calistoga Roastery (a frequent haunt of Pearls Before Swine illustrator Stephan Pastis), Solbar, and Sam’s Social Club are interconnected with Queen Anne style Victorians (some of which are B&Bs) gracing the side streets. Unhustled, more laid back, off the “scene-and-be-seen radar”, Calistoga has been a renowned spa destination ever since mineral mud baths became popular back in the late 1700s during California’s Spanish colonial era. An 8 minute stroll from the village center up Lincoln Ave. brings you to The Sunburst Calistoga. Once a single-story 1950s motor lodge, now all 50 rooms rehabbed to retro modern with boutique perks like mini bar snacks restocked daily including in-room Kuerigs armed with regional gourmet roasts, reliable Wi-fi, and most blessedly, daily access to their mineral pools.
The Sunburst Calistoga taps into the area’s fissures deep below the earth’s surface providing a natural source of 180 degree water heated by seismic activity feeding their 2 pools and spa tub. By the time it reaches the pools, temperatures range from 80 degrees in the main pool to 104 in the jacuzzi. All are open 9 am to 10 pm each day for guests seeking a blissful soak or a few laps. Although chlorinated for sanitary reasons, you can still detect a greenish tint and sulfuric aroma to these waters rich in silica, sulfur, sodium, calcium, magnesium, potassium, and iron. Beyond the toasty hot water euphoria and muscle relaxation that comes with it, these minerals also revitalize skin and normalize your metabolism. As an added bonus, your body absorbs these needed minerals much more effectively through the skin than swallowed concentrated supplements.
During your stay, wine tasting adventures can begin next door at Lava Wine and progress down Silverado Trail to Brian Arden Wines. You’ll soon discover there are only so many swirls, sips, and spits you are going to want to do before deciding on a bottle and savoring with friends. This is totally doable if you slow down your wine tasting journey by taking a bike following Calistoga’s one of many designated bike routes to further afield vineyard. By no means an endorsement for biking while drunk, keep in mind that Portland Oregon has more bikes and breweries per square mile than anyplace in the U.S. and they haven’t met the apocalypse yet. Here’s my theory: Biking minimizes alcohol intake since your travel time drastically lengthens and you’re too busy enjoying the ride to sip a few more glasses. Should you take this approach or hike the Oat Hill Mine Trail across the street from The Sunburst, you’ll be rewarded with awe inspiring views and a deeper sense of place.
Photos courtesy of The Sunburst Calistoga and Steve Mirsky. Coverage made possible by participating in a sponsored stay.