Calistoga Things to Do Tips by atufft Top 5 Page for this destination
Calistoga Things to Do: 27 reviews and 78 photos
Chateau Montelena from the air
I worked the tasting room of Chateau Montelena for a summer in the mid-80's and have tasted most of the Cabernet Sauvignon's bottled back to the 1974 vintage. The historic castle like facade was purchased and restored by James Barrett, an attorney from Southern California, beginning in 1972. The initial vintages were quite good, and Chateau Montelena's Chardonnay was one of the California winners in the famed 1972 Bordeaux competition hosted by Steven Spurrier. When I was there, Bo Barrett, his son, and a host of other talented wine crush workers produced the wine. Earlier Cabernet Sauvignon wines were 100% varietal, and while age worthy, tended to have diminished fruit after 10 years in the bottle cellar. The winery has vineyards in the Oak Knoll District, just north of the city of Napa (see Napa Tips), which produce fine Chardonay grapes, while at the estate vineyards, old head pruned Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes are grown. The winery's best wine in my oppinion is the Chardonnay, but the both the Napa Valley and Estate Cabernet Sauvignon are great wines during certain vintages. In addition to the tasting room, the winery grounds have a pond with a Asian style setting and a pleasant picnic area.
Address: 1429 Tubbs Lane
Directions: See website for details
View of Sterling Vineyards Winery from the Air
Sterling Vineyards has changed corporate hands many times, and today is just one of the wineries in the valley owned by the Diageo holding corporation, the second largest vineyard owner in the Napa Valley. Even so, Sterling has a heritage of accessible well built wines. The extensive vineyard holdings also allow for the production of nicely crafted vineyard designated wines, which one can taste on top the knoll with a great view of the valley below. The gondola ride to the top stops many for the price--$15 on weekdays, $20- on the weekends, but the deal is actually pretty good. Besides the Disneyland like quality of the ride up to the whitewashed monastic style winery building, the tastings are generous glasses of wine served at the table by waiters. I worked for a summer here in the 1980's, as a I did in many other wineries, and because the personnel are paid fairly well, the service is quite professional. Skip the self-guided tour though, as the history of the winery is pretty fake. But, because the winery is located near the top of the valley, and the gondola ride is pricey, the winery tasting experience is very pleasant. The gift shop sells all sorts of interesting things, but I'd take away only the reserve and vineyard designated wines. The regular bottles can be purchased cheaper at the local grocery store. I have been particulary fond of the Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay. These are nicely refined wines of good character that don't have to be cellared for long. The hours are from 10:30 to 4:30, except on major holidays, and so a good strategy would be to visit, and leave in time to visit Clos Pegase across the street, which closes at 5pm. Take the gondola ride line-up into consideration though.
Address: 1111 Dunaweal Lane, Calistoga
Directions: From St. Helena, proceed north on hwy 29 until Dunaweal Lane and turn right. The entrance to the parking lot is on the left down a rather long driveway.
Phone: 800 726-6136
Special Barrels at Storybook Mtn Vineyards
North of Calistoga, Hwy 29 turns into Hwy 128 and curves to go over a low point in the Mayacamas range to reach into Alexander Valley, one of Sonoma County's many great wine valleys. In this region, there are forests and the trappings of viticulture are out of sight off the main road. On the east side, just outside of Calistoga proprietors Jerry and Sigrid Seps have long produced small quantities of excellent Zinfandel wine. Storybook Mountain is named perhaps in part after the 19th century Grimm brothers that carved out the wine cellar caves that the Seps now use. This is one great secret for the winery tour. While the Seps have many devotees among those in the know, few tourists head for their winery and vineyards. Check the website for more details, but an appointment and visit are certainly encouraged. Visitors are likely to receive plenty of personal attention, and for red Zinfandel fans, this is a must visit winery. See the website for more details. For those planning to proceed over the mountain to Alexander Valley, find this an easy stop.
Address: 3835 Highway 128, Calistoga
Directions: Call or e-mail for specific directions, but the vineyards and winery are just off Hwy 128 north of Calistoga.
Crush Facilities at Robert Pecota Winery
At Saint Helena, the Napa Valley narrows, particularly near Meadowood where there's an butte of obsidian where arrowheads are sometimes found. At the box end of the valley, at the foot of Mount Saint Helen there's a broad alluvial plain where the volcanic soils are deep--a great place to grow red grape varieties. At this end of the valley encroachment of San Francisco Bay fog is rare, summer day temperatures often quite hot. Winter frosts are hard, and sometimes snow caps the mountain. In this region, Robert Pecota began as a grape grower and then later became a wine maker, and the vineyards named after his daughters provide the basis for some unique wines. In addition to the Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Merlot--great wines sold at reasonable prices--Robert Pecota has also been a long time producer of an excellent Sauvignon Blanc, and a concentrated dessert wine, the Muscat d’ Andrea. This small family winery of considerable heritage deserves a visit, and unlike the winery tours at the larger upper valley wineries like Sterling or Clos Pegase, the visitor will have a chance to actually meet the winemaker and enjoy a vineyard tour. Visits are by appointment only, so call or e-mail. See the website for more details.
Address: 3299 Bennett Lane
Directions: Pass Calistoga's main street on Hwy 128 for about 3 miles before turning right onto Tubbs Lane. Proceed ¾ mile on Tubbs Lane and turn left on Bennett Lane. Take Bennett Lane ½ mile and look for the stone entrance on the left. There is no sign.
Other Contact: email@example.com
The mountains between Calistoga and Santa Rosa, leading through the Anderson Valley, are full of petrified forest rocks, but the best place to appreciate this geology is at the privately owned Petrified Forest. See the link below. This place has the distinction of having been visited by Robert Lewis Stevenson and is described in his "Silverado Squatters".
Directions: See web link for a variety of directions, depending upon where you are coming from.
Clos Pegas Winery
I was among the first crew of hospitality workers here, taking tour groups around the winery, explaining my philosophy of winemaking. What makes this winery worth the visit though is the architecture of the building designed by Michael Graves, a Post Modern architect from New York who also designed part of the Whitney Museum. Jan Shrem, the eccentric Jewish-Japanese publisher had plenty of money and lots of artwork to put into the new winery, so he arranged a design competition judged by an impressive panel of well-known artists from San Francisco. Graves put a lot of effort into his design, envisioning a neo-Grecian waterfall tumbling down the knoll that was on the property. Shrem had full intentions of doing the entire plan, but the local established heirarchy of other deep pocketed winery owners didn't like the idea of deforesting a knoll of old growth oak trees, and so put the kabash on that part of the plan. On top the knoll, the Shrems have their home which resembles the winery in having relatively high and small "picture" windows framed in Honduran mahogany that also carefully framed what would be seen outside. The Winery building has a lot bright colored stucco with massive columns that tends to rebell against the modernist simplicity, elegance, and open feel of many other winery buildings of the valley. Despite it's apparent size, the Shrem's run the winery with a love of art and mythology, and as a small business. Naturally, I didn't last long in such an environment, as Shrem was himself rather modest in his tasting ability. I have however frequently used Clos Pegas for tours and the wine in tastings with my wine appreciation classes. The wines are nicely packaged with Jan's artwork on the label, and for the most part are accessible early on with little need for bottle aging. I have in the past been quite fond of the Sauvignon Blanc, a varietal that grows well in the warm climate of the upper Napa Valley. The tasting room is open daily from 10:30 to 5pm. There's a place to picnic there as well.
Address: 1060 Dunaweal Lane, Calistoga, CA 94515
Directions: Take Hwy 29 from St. Helena toward Calistoga, and turn left on Dunaweal Lane. Check my images, and you won't have a hard time finding this massive orange building.
Phone: 707/ 942-4981
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