Calistoga, California: A weekend in wine country

Napa has a reputation for being somewhat stuffy and old fashioned.

Well, maybe we did it differently, but we found it to be nothing of the sort (and to be fair, we were in Calistoga, rather than Napa itself – but still: wine country).

A trendy motel, a spa that doesn’t take itself too seriously, design-led wineries with stunning architecture and interior design, some amazing restaurants… My much-researched itinerary for a weekend in Calistoga is below – tried and tested, and all within walking distance (i.e. in Calistoga) unless stated otherwise.

HOTEL

Book into Calistoga Motor Lodge, a recently revamped roadside motel. Modern and convenient, it has a full spa attached, as well as three mineral pools (Calistoga is famous for its geothermal pools, fed from natural underground hot springs).

Calistoga Motor Lodge | Travel guide to California's wine country: Calistoga
Calistoga Motor Lodge | Travel guide to California's wine country: Calistoga
Calistoga Motor Lodge | Travel guide to California's wine country: Calistoga

I suggest booking for two nights, and booking a spa treatment during your stay (preferably in the morning – afternoons are for wine, after all!).

My backup options for accommodation are worth sharing too:

Indian Springs

A little pricier and higher end, but looks stunning, with geothermal pools of their own.

The Bungalows at Calistoga

Super cute cabins – recently renovated, and a great location down a quiet side street. This place books up super early, so book well in advance.


RESTAURANTS

Farmstead

My number one restaurant recommendation is actually outside of Calistoga, in St Helena – I’d recommend stopping in on your drive to/from Calistoga. We had a late Sunday lunch at Farmstead, and it was impeccable. Ingredients are fresh from the Long Meadow Ranch, farm and vineyards, and the space is stunning (it reminded me of Soho Farmhouse, in a big barn). There’s also a coffee shop and farm shop on site – just dreamy.

The cafe @ Long Meadow Ranch | Travel guide to California's wine country: Calistoga

Sam’s Social Club

We ate here for dinner and brunch, and both were great. Loved the space – super high ceilings, retro swimming club decor, stunning patio with fire pits.

Sam's Social Club restaurant  | Travel guide to California's wine country: Calistoga

Sam’s General Store

A small cafe in a traditional clapboard house, complete with wraparound porch. Good for breakfast and coffee.

Veraison

We had a lovely (if a little pricey) dinner here. Great wine, oysters on the half shell, fresh and local fare.

Buster’s Southern BBQ

If you need a break from the fanciness of wine country, Buster’s is the down-to-earth eatery for you. Casual, affordable and fast, it was just what we needed to line the stomachs before multiple tastings!


WINERIES

Olabisi

Olabisi is a tiny tasting house that we happened to stumble across – we were lured in by the stunning interior (which was so unlike anything else we experienced in wine country) and we stayed for the wine (everything we tried was delicious) and personable service.
10/10 – would definitely go again.

Olabisi wine tasting room  | Travel guide to California's wine country: Calistoga

Clos Pegase

The Clos Pegase winery has won architectural awards, so I was super excited to visit this one, despite the short drive (less than 5 mins from downtown Calistoga). It is stunning – larger than life, with huge aloe vera plants out front, the highest ceilings, topiaries and a patio that’s a perfect suntrap, overlooking the vines. Great service and absolutely delicious wines, Clos Pegase is pretty high end.
10/10 – would definitely go again.

T Vine

This winery is super rustic – housed in a barn, with tractor seat stools and views across vineyards. They also serve ice cream and cheese boards alongside the wine, which were very welcome once we were several tastings down!
7/10 – might go again.

(T Vine also has a younger sister winery, Tank Garage, housed in a vintage petrol station, but we didn’t like any of the wines and felt it was just trying a bit too hard to be young and hip…
4/10 – wouldn’t hurry back to Tank.)

T Vine winery  | Travel guide to California's wine country: Calistoga

Hall Wines

Another winery recognised for its architecture (which is almost as important to me as the wine, I reckon!), I’m dying to visit Hall. It’s is a short drive from Calistoga, and I have it on good authority that it’s a winner.


WELLNESS

While staying at Calistoga Motor Lodge & Spa, you’d be crazy not to visit the Moonacre Spa. Massages, mud treatments and soaks in the kitsch bathhouse – just the detox you need after all that wine.

Moonacre Spa @ Calistoga Motor Lodge  | Travel guide to California's wine country: Calistoga
Moonacre Spa @ Calistoga Motor Lodge | Travel guide to California's wine country: Calistoga

The perfect activity to wake you up and sweat out some of the alcohol: A hike along the Oat Hill Mine trail. The trailhead is super close to Calistoga Motor Lodge, and the trail winds at a gentle incline through trees and above vineyards. It’s an out and back route, so you can easily tailor the distance.

Oat Hill Mine hiking trail | Travel guide to California's wine country: Calistoga
Oat Hill Mine hiking trail | Travel guide to California's wine country: Calistoga