One of the most famous Calistoga wineries is Chateau Montelena one of the original winners (along with Stags Leap Wine Cellars) of the legendary '76 "Judgment of Paris" wine tasting that put Napa Valley on the world's wine map. The winery and this historic event are about to be commemorated in a new movie "Bottle Shock"
First time in the Napa Valley?
A number of our calls, from people planning their wine country vacation, start with the question how far are you from Napa? We then ask them if they have ever stayed in the valley before to which the answer is invariably no.
When you live a long way away its a natural assumption to think that the town of Napa is the hub of the valley and the right place to stay. For some, seeking a larger town center, a walk to the theatre or cinema and a wider shopping selection Napa can be the right choice. However, as a larger town with industrial roots it is not the rural wine country ambience that many people are actually seeking. For that you need to look, what the locals refer to as, up valley.
A little geography:
At the very top of the valley sits the small country town of Calistoga. Despite its roots as a spa town for vacationers it remains the most authentic of Napa Valley's small towns. Here the valley narrows down to give stunning vistas of the Palisades cliffs as you look to the east down the main street of Lincoln avenue. To the west the view is of the gentle wooded slopes of the Mayacamas range.
The next town south is St. Helena. Known to the locals as the Rodeo Drive of Napa Valley its the place to shop for that special, expensive, something! St. Helena also offers some outstanding dining experiences.
Moving further down valley you pass through the villages of Rutherford and Oakville, with a number of more rural lodging choices, until you reach the small town of Yountville. Riding the coat tails of the world famous French Laundry (the only restaurant we cannot get you a reservation for) the town has attracted many great restaurants as well as larger lodging establishments and a scattering of smaller bed and breakfasts.
Where to stay?
For us, as locals, we would recommend an up valley stay to get the rural wine country experience. Clearly, our favorite town is Calistoga, we live here after all! However, you can also have a very enjoyable stay in one of the other up valley towns.