As of March 3, 2021, Napa County is currently under a Red Tier in regards to the State of California’s COVID-19 restrictions. There are no quarantine requirements for arrivals in California, however the United States has prohibited arrivals from several countries if you have been there within the last 14 days (see list here). Please note that this blog post serves as a reference for travel later in the future. Nonessential international travel is not recommended at this time.
Note: Sadly as of September 2020, Calistoga Ranch was completely destroyed by the Glass Fire. This blog post now serves in memoriam of the amazing resort we got to call home for a few days. Auberge Resorts plans to rebuild Calistoga Ranch and reopen later in the future, which we are all very much looking forward to.
We began our trip to Napa Valley with a visit to Calistoga. Calistoga is about 25-30 minutes north of downtown Napa, surrounded by countless vineyards and rolling hills. It’s one destination within Napa Valley to have a complete escape and get lost amongst the trees and vines with your spouse, your family, or even with your besties.
Calistoga Ranch had been on my wish list for a while, as I had seen so many gorgeous pictures and read fantastic reviews. What also made me happy is how the resort is tucked away in nature (What made Tor happy was being driven around in a golf cart to get to and from our lodge!).
Every room is its own lodge surrounded by trees, wild animals (pretty sure we saw a wild pig run alongside our patio!), and in our case, a creek. Our lodge featured two separate rooms – a living room with a double sided fireplace and a bedroom – with a large outdoor patio and our own private hot tub in between them.
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Shortly after checking in and with a glass of champagne in our hands, we headed up to the bathhouse by the lake for our decadent spa treatment. While I was tempted to get the Auberge Head To Toe treatment once again like in Mexico, this time we tried the Traditional Cure. Torrance and I got to soak in a warm bath together – outside, surrounded by trees – that was filled with volcanic ash (a preview for our Iceland trip, maybe?).
Normally Torrance and I do not experience spa treatments together, so this was a very romantic and relaxing way to begin our Napa Valley excursions. After a 20 minute soak, we were spoiled with a 60 minute Swedish massage that took away any tension left from our lengthy drive up from Los Angeles.
For our first night in Calistoga, Tor and I dined off property at Evangeline in town. Tor absolutely LOVES getting to visit a new town (I am the type who prefers to stay on property and be lazy), so we had the chance to explore downtown Calistoga for dinner. We dined at Evangeline underneath a string of lights as we indulged in salmon dishes and lobster risotto. After dinner, we went on a walk through the streets of Calistoga before coming across Calistoga Creamery for some delicious ice cream. We wanted to stay out longer, but we couldn’t make it a late night as we had a 4 am wake up call the next morning because….
… we had a sunrise date on a hot air balloon! Torrance and I previously flew on a hot air balloon in Italy on our honeymoon, but we had never done one in Napa Valley. We arrived at Calistoga Balloons just before 5:30 am when it was still pitch black outside. Unfortunately though, due to lingering fog and a bit of unpleasant gusts, we were told we wouldn’t be able to fly over Calistoga.
Instead, they were taking us about 30 minutes north to Hidden Valley where it was deemed safer to fly. Since this was also the morning of the solar eclipse, we weren’t too bummed about not getting to fly over Calistoga as now we would be in better weather for the beginning of it.
I do not fly very well, but I actually did surprisingly well on my first hot air balloon trip in Tuscany and so I wasn’t afraid to do it again. For some reason, this time I was extremely nervous because we went higher than on my previous ride, but it made the view incredibly worthwhile. After some serious reassurance from our pilot at 4000 feet up in the air, I finally relaxed a bit and got to enjoy the ride and the view all around us. After just under an hour in the sky, it was time to come down and get ready for the eclipse.
Back at Calistoga Ranch, we had a prime view of the eclipse at breakfast. Since there were several thin layers of clouds in the area, it made it even more possible to see the moon coming over the sun (with protective glasses of course) and it made our surroundings become even darker at totality. During totality, Torrance and I made some use of our hot tub as it was definitely chilly outside when everything went dark.
After relishing in the awe of science, Tor and I asked Calistoga Ranch if we could use one of their Mercedes Benz cars to drive to our first wine tasting of the week. The hotel has an incredible service where you can “borrow” a Mercedes Benz for the day to go wine tasting or drive to and from dinner (after signing a waiver, of course!). It’s on a first-come, first-serve basis, and we were lucky to snatch the last one of the day to drive to Cade Estate and Winery.
Cade Estate Winery is up atop Howell Mountain, making the drive up feel a bit off the beaten path (in a good way) and the view down below of countless vineyards even more beautiful. It’s the first LEED vineyard in Napa Valley, which labels it energy efficient and environmentally friendly. Side note: We were also intrigued to find out that Cade Estate is was founded by Gavin Newsom, the current Lieutenant Governor of California. We found that ironic since just two days earlier, Tor and I watched him on Real Time With Bill Maher and now here we were at his winery.
After indulging in a tasting of Sauvignon Blancs and Cabernets, we were given a tour around Cade Estate’s property and inside their wave cave (ironically by a girl also named Alyssa). I don’t know about you, but I LOVE LOVE LOVE wine caves. Yes, they are pretty chilly in there, but I absolutely love the smell of the cedar and oak from the barrels combined with the scent of wine. It’s definitely one of my favorite scents in the world.
Once back at Calistoga Ranch, we had some lunch by the pool and took a bit of a reading break (Tor was reading his scripts and I was reading yet another biography on Queen Elizabeth II) before we had to get ready for dinner.