Calistoga Girls’ Getaway, Part Two

It always amazes me how much can be squeezed into a day and my Calistoga visit was no exception. After a good night sleep at Solage Resort, it was back on the trail for some more wining, dining and spaing.

We met Eden Umble, Public Relations & Marketing Manager for the Calistoga Chamber of Commerce, downtown at Café Sarafornia.  It is known in the area as a great place for breakfast and I can’t disagree. The menu was filled with the usual and the unusual and I decided to go for the latter. The Cheese Blintz and Apple Crepe combo was just what I needed to ease my morning sweet tooth and keep me fueled for the day ahead.

After we enjoyed some time learning more about the many varied accommodations, restaurants and wineries in Calistoga, we walked down the block to the tasting room for Kenefick Ranch.  Dr. Thomas Kenefick went from mastering Neurosurgery in San Francisco to operating on vines in Napa and he made the transition well.  His 2009 Pickett Road White (50% viognier, 25% Grenache and 25% marsanne) is wonderful, full of tropical flavors and florals like honeysuckle.  It was aged just a bit, but isn’t at all oaky.  On the other end of the spectrum, the 2007 Merlot (served at Solbar as well as French Laundry) is a complex fruit-forward blend of cranberry and raspberry, finishing with lots of cinnamon and allspice.

Our next stop was Vermeil Wines. For those of you who don’t know (and I freely admit football ignorance), Dick Vermeil coached football powerhouses from Stanford to the Philadelphia Eagles – one of the two teams he captured the Super Bowl with.  His team’s history can be watched in the movie “Invincible” and is captured in this tasting room/museum in downtown Calistoga along with the wine history. You can learn about it all from the vivacious Mary Sue, who goes back generations in Napa and specifically with Vermeil Wines.

The selection here is wide and varied. At the top of my recommendation list is the 2008 Vermeil XXXIV (named for the winning Super bowl) Proprietary Red which, despite being 82% cabernet sauvignon, is one of the fruit-filled reds I’ve had, almost to the point of being semi-sweet. And speaking of sweet, do not leave before sipping the Sweet Semillon. The 2009 is full of honey, apples and peach.

Lunch was at the Calistoga Inn & Brewery, where Rosie Dunsford took us on a tour of the hotel and restaurant she’s been part owner of since 1989. It’s an adorable place inside and out, but you won’t be lacking any gourmet food… or fine wine… or complex cocktails… or great beer here. Sam was my beer taster and picked the American Wheat Ale, a light beer served with a lemon wedge, as very good and the Calistoga Pilsner, with Saaz Hops, as a delicious stronger selection.  I stuck with the cocktail menu and choose the Tall Blonde (Bacardi Apple Rum, soda and a splash of pineapple), which was refreshing on a warm and sunny day.

The food at Calistoga Inn is also worth a trip.  The appetizers were Garlicky Oysters and Butternut Squash Soup (with a touch of yam and a bit of cream), a Turkey Brie sandwich on Grilled Foccacia, and a Risotto filled with fresh vegetables and cheese. Everything was delicious and we hardly had room for dessert, but had to take a few bites when the waiter brought over a Cheesecake made with the Lindy’s recipe and a Peanut Butter Pie with Fudge Sauce!

After lunch there was another spa on our schedule and I think this one may turn out to be one of my all time favorites. Lavender Hill Spa does Zen like no other. The cottage we were brought to was filled with soft lighting and relaxing scents. Jessica prepared our baths – Lavender for me; Magical Mustard for Sam – filled with salts in warm water.  We each had a little table with cucumber water, a soft scrub for our face and a moisturizer to apply after. Jessica came to check on us every 10 minutes, turning on the tub’s jets, bringing cool compresses and generally attending to our every need.

When our baths were finished, we walked up a few steps to the massage table where our feet were gently massaged before we each had our own masseuse for the full body massage with the fragrant oils. It was a hard place to leave, but after two hours we needed to get back in the car and head on the scenic road to Marin.

You can read more about my Napa trip next month on Girls’ Getaway.  In the meantime, I’m off for the beginning of what will be nearly two months across the Pacific Northwest.  The next week will be all Washington, beginning with some time in Seattle at the Hotel1000.

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