Recently we went up to Calistoga for a night to celebrate my husband’s birthday. My in-laws were kind enough to watch our daughter for the night and so we started out on a Sunday morning to meet up with a driver I had hired for the day.
We met our driver at about 10:30am and headed straight to our first tasting at Caymus. This vineyard is a little off the beaten path (which I love) so not on the main road. We pulled up and it was absolutely beautiful. The gardens were serene and flowers fragrant. We found a lovely seat near the vineyard gate and sat for our tasting. We tasted 5 wines and I have to say we liked 4 out of 5 which is pretty strong for a first stop.
Next we headed out to V. Sattui market to grab some sandwiches so we weren’t sloppy drunk before noon. I had been here before, but was surprised by how busy and popular it has become. It was flat-out crowded. We ate a quick lunch (which was delicious) and then were on our way for our appointment for a Cave Tour and Barrel Tasting at Del Dotto’s Venecian Estate.
When we arrived, we were surprised with the traditional old-Italian opulent decor. We met with our guide and were off to the absolutely stunning caves for the next 90 minutes. First of all- I apologize for not having any pics of the caves. They were not allowed. Second- I MUST tell you about the chandeliers. There were 5 massive crystal chandeliers dimly lighting the brick-walled caves. We were told each cost around $200k. Ouch.
Our tasting and tour was really interesting, informative and fun. Our guide taught us so much about the barrels and the oak. Did you know French Oak is the BEST oak? I think I may have heard that, but on this tour I got to taste the difference. We tasted a wine from the same batch where the only difference was the barrel- one in French Oak, the other in American Oak. The wine in the American Oak barrel was much more smoky, less smooth. It was reminiscent of a bourbon if it were a wine. The French Oak wine was much more silky and smooth. It was amazing that the same wine could taste so different based off the barrel. After going through somewhere around 10 barrel tastings, the group was a bit tipsy and giggly. We went back to the tasting room where our guide showed us an awesome decanter (we bought one of course) and started us off with some meats and cheeses before bringing us out some pizza made from a pizza out back on the estate. PIZZA. What wine tour do you know ends with pizza?! So good.
After Del Dotto, we headed out for a quick stop at Merryvale where we tasted some more wines, made a new BFF with an adorable Vizsla that came in and checked out the massive Barrel Cave. We then headed back to our hotel at Indian Springs Resort where we caught some relaxation in the mineral pool before dinner.
For dinner, we went around the corner to the Michelin-starred Solbar. It has a very modern vibe and romantic patio seating with heaters, fire pits and even blankets. We started off with an amuse bouche of a chilled ginger soup with crab and toasted rice puffs. Great first bite. I then had the asparagus soup which was outstanding and the salmon with grilled corn and zucchini as my main. It was really fantastic and the service was excellent.
The next morning we walked into town and enjoyed some coffee while checking out the adorable shops. We then packed up and drove down to St. Helena where we had lunch at The Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch. Unfortunately, we were early and they hadn’t opened yet so we walked around. Next door was the first restaurant we had ever been to in Napa Valley way back in 2003- Tra Vigne. I was sad to see it had closed down, been abandoned and overgrown. It was an adorable stone building with a garden and a courtyard and now the garden was taking over everything. So sad to see such a wonderful restaurant from my dining past gone. A bit eerie.
Anyways, we went back over to Farmstead and had a fantastic lunch. We started with grilled artichokes and deviled eggs. Both fantastic, but I have to say the artichokes were SO good we made them again at home that night. They were smoky and full of flavor. I then had the beet salad and split a side of mac n’ cheese. The beet salad was really refreshing and herbaceous. The beets and arugula rested on a silky pool of the smoothest goat cheese I’ve ever seen. The mac n’ cheese was so intensely rich and creamy. I had about 2 bites and the rest came home.
It was a short trip to Calistoga but well worth it. It’s such a beautiful area and although only about 90 mins-2 hrs away it feels like another country. It’s stunning, has great food, nice people and incredible wines.