This is the ultimate indulgence weekend. Start by tasting the spectacular Napa varietals as you drive and cycle through beautiful wine country.  Relax your muscles with a soak in Calistoga's geothermal hot spring pools, and  stroll through its Main Street, visiting the quaint stores and cafes downtown.  Savor the flavors and fresh ingredients at some top-notch wine country restaurants.Head home full of good food and good vibes.

Highlights

  • Taste the amazing wines of Napa
  • Explore the beautiful vineyards on a bicycle
  • Soak in the mineral waters or try a mud bath in Calistoga

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 San Francisco to Calistoga, via Napa Wineries Calistoga
Day 2 Self Guided Calistoga Wine Country "Sip & Cycle" Calistoga
Day 3 Calistoga back to San Francisco San Francisco

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: San Francisco to Calistoga, via Napa Wineries

The Chateau at Domain Carneros (Photo courtesy of Domain Carneros)
The Chateau at Domain Carneros (Photo courtesy of Domain Carneros)

You are heading to Calistoga today, a small town north of Napa that's famous for its hot springs and mud baths.  Start the day early from San Francisco, so you can fit in some tastings at the winery.

The drive from San Francisco to Napa is short (1 hour).  Your first winery stop today is Domaine Carneros, known for its award-winning sparkling wines and Pinot Noir.  Housed in an eye-catching 18th-century-inspired chateau, this winery is impossible to miss as you enter Napa.  It's first on your list because it can get quite crowded later in the day, so we would recommend an early visit.  Gaze out at  the rolling hills and gorgeous vineyards as you sip the bubbles from your patio table. (Tastings start from $35 pp)

Your second stop is just a stone's throw away.  Artesa Vineyard and Winery is one of the most extraordinary wineries in the valley.  You will drive along a back-country road lined with fields of wildflowers up a hill.  The road stretches on, dramatically leading up to what appears to be a castle atop the hill.  The winery structure, an architectural wonder, is built into the side of the hill, with reflecting pools and sculptures. There are a number of daily tours available to try the wines on offer, and you can choose one that will work best for your schedule and party. On the weekends, you can opt for the truly special treat of a Vino con Queso pairing, and enjoy artisan cheeses paired with reserve wines. (Tastings start at $10 pp). This winery is notable for it's world-class Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. 

Your final winery stop for today is Louis M. Martini Winery in St. Helena.  Founded in 1933, this was one of the first Napa Valley wineries to open after the repeal of Prohibition.  True to Napa's reputation for creating the best Cabernet Sauvignons, Martini offers an acclaimed portfolio of these spectacular reds.  The winery and grounds have been magnificently restored offering both indoor and outdoor tastings.  (Tastings start at $30 pp).

For a late lunch, there are many options in downtown St. Helena.  Some favorites include Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch for its farm-to-table restaurant.  Farmstead offers delicious food sourced from responsible farms.  For more upscale fare, try The Grill at Meadowood.  Lunch at Meadowood stands out for its fresh seasonal ingredients, and has a great wine list to match. 

After lunch, its time to head to your hotel and check out the hot springs.  There are a number of hotels with hot springs we can recommend. Many of them come with a spa package that includes mud baths, massages, and body treatments.  If your hotel doesn't have a hot spring, there are a number of day spas where you can indulge in their therapeutic benefits.

For dinner, you could consider splurging at Solbar, the Michelin-stared restaurant of the Solage Resort.  The dishes at Solbar are always made with flavorful, farm-fresh ingredients, and their own unique take on Californian cuisine.   Another favorite is a relative newcomer, Evangeline, a French & Creole bistro.  With a large outdoor patio, it's the perfect place to enjoy dinner under the stars.

Day 2: Self Guided Calistoga Wine Country "Sip & Cycle"

Castello di Amorosa (Photo curtesy of Castello di Amorosa)
Castello di Amorosa (Photo curtesy of Castello di Amorosa)

"Sip & Cycle" your way through the nearby wine country today.   This self-guided trip takes you through 4 different wineries.

First, head over to the Calistoga Bike Shop, which offers a vast fleet of rental bikes.  Once you have your bike, head to your first stop of the day, Castello di Amorosa Winery.  Castello di Amorosa is a recreation of a 13th-century Tuscan-style castle that includes a chapel, great hall, and open-air terrace.  You would be forgiven for thinking you've stepped into Medieval Italy.  This is an especially great stop for families with young children , as they love exploring the resident stone gargoyles and iron suits of armor. This winery is more than just looks however, with award-winning Cabernet Sauvignon and a dedication to crafting classical Italian-style wines. As you sip the fine product, kids get their own tasting of the winery's grape juice alongside you.  Reservations are required for the castle tour. ($30 pp).

Our second stop, Dutch Henry Winery, is on the famous Silverado Trail that connects Calistoga with Napa.  Dutch Henry is a family-owned winery that specializes in Bordeaux varietals like Cabernet Sauvignon as well as Pinot Noir and Zinfandel.  While you can't go wrong with any of the tasting options, the wine cave tour is a highlight.  The entrance of the cave resembles the houses in "Hobbiton".  However, as you enter, you will find over 4,500 square feet of wine storage in the giant cave.   As a part of the tour, taste 5 premium wines as well as a complimentary sample of the estate-grown olive oil.  ($45 per person) After your tasting, you can stay a bit longer and enjoy another glass as you play a fun game of bocce ball on the courts at the estate.

By now, you've probably worked up an appetite for lunch.  We are heading back to downtown Calistoga for a lunch break before continuing with the second half of the tour.  For a casual bite, you can check out the Clif Family Bruschetta food truck and winery.  There are many organic salads and yummy bruschettas available there for a quick lunch with a glass of wine.  Another good option is the Calistoga Inn Restaurant and Brewery, with plenty of outdoor seating on the patio and a beer garden along the Napa River.   Lastly, you can never go wrong with the iconic Sam's Social Club, located at the Indian Springs Resort. With plenty of outdoor dining options and a classic Californian wine country menu, there is bound to be something to please everyone.

After lunch, head over to Chateau Montelena Winery.  Besting French whites in the ’76 Judgment of Paris, a Chateau Montelena ’73 Chardonnay placed first in the grand tasting at the Inter-Continental Hotel in Paris. This acclaim gave rise to the California wine industry. It is not only the wines that draw visitors to Chateau Montelena.  The grounds of the vineyard are also serene and romantic.  Take a stroll through the Chinese gardens, and snap a picture of the sparkling sunlight on Jade Lake or the ivy-covered walls of the chateau.  (Tasting $40 pp)

Our last stop of the day is Benett Lane Winery.. This place is home to over sixty 90+ point wines, but you'd never know it from the laid-back, friendly feel of the tasting room staff.  If you love Cabernets, this is the place to be, and the staff is super knowledgeable and happy to answer questions about how the wines are produced.  

There are lots of ways to customize this day to exactly what you want to do!  If this is too much cycling, you can stick to the wineries north or south of Calistoga to make it a half day tour. 

Not enough cycling? You can extend the tour with a few more noteworthy wineries in the area.  Schramsberg Vineyards is one of the oldest vineyards in the region and is a must for sparkling enthusiasts.   Tamber Bay Vineyard is a great choice because you can see Old Faithful Geyser erupting in the distance.  Phifer Pavitt Winery is also a fine choice, and you will see one of the most beautiful tasting rooms in the valley (Phifer Pavitt requires an appointment).

Day 3: Calistoga back to San Francisco

Hot air balloon over vineyards (Photos courtesy of Calistoga Balloons)
Hot air balloon over vineyards (Photos courtesy of Calistoga Balloons)

It's your last day in the wine country today.  If you are looking for more adventure, there is no better way to see the whole valley than on a hot air balloon as the sun rises.  Your ride will start very early (before dawn), and by sunrise you will be soaring 2,000 feet above the valley.  Views of vineyards and mountains in the distance make for an amazing end to your weekend getaway.  Depending on the winds for the day, you might get a birds-eye-view of Castello di Amorosa winery, Palisade Cliffs, Mount St. Helena, Old Faithful Geyser, Sterling Vineyards, or Chateau Montelena, the winery featured in the movie Bottle Shock.  

Don't feel like waking up before dawn? The alternative is to enjoy a sleep-in and a late brunch and coffee at the Calistoga Roastery.  Wander through the quaint Main Street stores, or take a final dip in the mineral pool at your hotel before heading home.

Looking for more long-weekend getaways? Check out our top long weekend trips in Northern California.

Map

Map of Wine Country & Hot Springs - 3 Days
Map of Wine Country & Hot Springs - 3 Days
Yenyi
Written by Yenyi Fu, updated Jun 17, 2020