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Thursday, June 10, 2010

Romantic Weekend in Calistoga, Napa Valley

Words by Courtney Kellar
Words by Autumn Millhouse
Photo courtesy of Mt. View Inn and Spa

Calistoga is the ideal setting for a romantic love story: enchanting castles, a secluded mountain setting, hand-crafted luscious wines, steaming mineral springs, mouth-watering delicacies and picturesque surroundings. Below is a complete itinerary for a weekend romantic hideaway or honeymoon.


Friday
Romantic Quarters - However you choose to arrive, make sure to check into the Mt. View Hotel & Spa located in the heart of Calistoga. Rule number one of seduction is setting the scene and Mt. View Hotel & Spa happily succeeds. This newly renovated art-deco, cosmopolitan hotel seduces every guest effortlessly. Set in a historical 1917 building, it boasts a variety of artist cottages, balcony suites and guestrooms. It is the backdrop to many love stories, including the romance between the proprietors, Michael & Stephanie Woods. Amenity-filled rooms, including winery suites which are paired with local romantic wineries, provide numerous packages to choose from all lovingly created by General Manager Andrea Hoogendoorn. Each package gives guests endless reasons to cuddle and kiss.

Vino & Cuisine - BarVino offers an extensive wine list, three-course menu specials and small plates with big bites. Once you’ve checked into your hotel, BarVino is conveniently located next to Mt. View Hotel & Spa with an entrance in the front lobby. The ambience is hip and modern which translates into a city vibe. Whether you’re a local hoping to escape or a tourist wanting to unwind, BarVino provides the best of both city sprawl and urban crawl.

Saturday
Morning Jolt - Start your morning off right and increase your personal karma by supporting a local poet who also owns the most popular organic roasting house in town. Coffee at Yo el Rey is the best in town and a great place to meet and converse with locals. Located right off Lincoln Ave, Yo el Rey also features local underground art on its walls. Some examples include large stunning photographs by local travel photographer Liza Gershman and poems hand written by the eccentric owner, J. Kirk Feiereisen.

Quintessential Romantic Wineries - Sterling Vineyards is “one of the more spectacular wineries in Napa Valley,” according to Frank Prial of The New York Times. At this hilltop winery, the reserve tour and tasting starts with a tram ride up the hill to the winery, where you will gasp at a nearly 360° aerial view of the valley. These stunning views are sure to set the perfect tone for your romantic day. Your experience at Sterling will also include a vintage wine tasting and an escorted winery tour led by an experienced guide.

Larkmead Vineyards embodies the picture perfect wine country atmosphere. Because of an astonishing 90 plus wines scored by Robert Parker for their 2006 collection, an on-premise wine dog, picturesque vineyard views and a contemporary interior, there is no need to go beyond Calistoga to experience Napa Valley. Make an appointment in advance and allow time to unwind, learn about wine and soak up the wine-country lifestyle.

On weekends every half an hour, there is a tasting tour at an incredible new winery: Castello di Amorosa, the castle of love. Allow yourself to be guided through this Italian-inspired castle to explore the stairway-filled towers, a medieval torture chamber, vast wine cellars and Italian artisan hand-painted murals. Castello di Amorosa is “where no detail was overlooked,” says The Boston Globe. If you have never had the pleasure of exploring ancient European castles, this is your chance to tour an accurately replicated version crafted entirely from select materials imported from Italy. The result has every ounce of character inherent to an authentic Italian castello.

Sunday
Relaxation & Leisure – Center your spirit and bond over the “couples indulgence” package to start your morning off right at Mt. View Spa where they practice the art of relaxation daily. Enjoy an array of hydrotherapy baths, personal steam rooms and well-deserved massages in their blissful green-friendly spa that is accessible by appointment to anyone seeking the sublime.
Calistoga is a walking town and allows you to spend a day without having to drive, which is rarity nowadays. After your treatments, start with walking down to the Calistoga Bike Shop and rent a bike for a self-guided bike tour. Pick up some picnic supplies at Palisades Deli, also located on Lincoln Ave, and hit the two hottest wineries within biking distance.

Newly-opened Lava Vine Winery & Tasting Room is the perfect spot to ride your bike, park and drink some amazing wine. Syrah is their signature hand-crafted wine, however the Viognier is worth noting as well and is my personal favorite. This small production winery has a laid back vibe, an outside seating area and friendly staff making your intimate tasting a delightful experience. The best part is that they hand deliver any wines you’d like to purchase to your hotel so you can continue biking without the hassle.

At the foot of Mount St. Helena resides a world-class winery that takes serious winemaking to a revolutionary level. Notoriously known as the inspiration for the recent movie Bottle Shock, Chateau Montelena remains grounded in a traditional beauty that honors its beginnings. At the legendary Paris Tasting of 1976, Chateau Montelena’s 1973 Chardonnay defeated the French Meursault-Charmes 1973. History was born and California wine started on the path to its well-deserved fame. Hidden behind the winery under layers of green ivy emerges a classic stone castle carved into the hillside, reminiscent of an old French chateau. More than a simple tourist attraction, it functions as a unique wine tasting facility. A serious winery calls for serious tasting, so make sure to experience the Library and Current Release Tasting, which feature some of the rarest and most highly-sought California wines.

Keep on Romancing!

About: Autumn Millhouse is a local travel writer, international trekker and self-proclaimed “hopeless-romantic.” Author of the hugely popular Romantic Napa Valley: An Insider’s Guide for Couples, she is currently working on two books with similar themes dealing with travel and romance. In Calistoga, her book is available at Copperfield Book Store, Solage Spa, Castello di Amorosa and Sterling Winery. Check out her blog here.

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