By Robert Farmer
It is arguably the most power packed handful of square miles in California's Wine Country. Yountville: a tiny town along Hwy. 29, can be driven through in a matter of a couple minutes. But at a more leisurely pace, it can take a week to soak it all in. What a week that would be--filled with hours of wine tasting, spa time, and long casual dinners in some of the nation's best restaurants.
Yountville is home to several charming inns and a few world-class resorts. It boasts six Michelin stars among its dozen or so globally famous restaurants. And it's all contained within a few blocks radius. Yet in spite of its highly charged wine-and-dine reputation, Yountville manages to retain its slow-paced rural charm--never feeling too far from the roots that were planted in 1855, when George Calvert Yount laid out the city's plan and put the first grapes in the ground.
So it's not surprising that while many visitors are drawn to Yountville because it is home to Thomas Keller's French Laundry and his more casual Bouchon, still as many arrive to take in the joie de vivre of Wine Country as it can only be found in a town chock full of shops, boutiques and purveyors of the good life.
The town is in the throes of a master plan improvement, which will ultimately add a series of new hotels, spas, and of course restaurants--effectively jamming even more into its already packed four square-mile radius. And through December, the city and its surroundings come aglow during its 20th annual Festival of Lights, a series of celebrations and holiday-themed events.
By Robert P. Farmer
Part geological wonder, part destination to for the good life, Calistoga is one of the most popular regions of California's Wine Country. It first built up steam as a destination in the 1880s, when travelers made their way to the northern end of the Napa Valley to soak in the warm, sulfuric waters of the many area hot springs. In its later life, visitors grew fonder of the excellent cabernets and chardonnays being produced in the region. Today's Calistoga combines the best of all worlds, and throws in for good measure a great collection of excellent resorts and restaurants.
For a classic therapeutic experience, visit Dr. Wilkinson's Hot Springs Resort, or Indian Springs Resort & Spa. Notable luxury resorts include the beautiful and secluded Calistoga Ranch, and the chicly appointed Solage Resort & Spa. When hunger strikes, check out the ever-inventive Wappo Bar & Bistro, or the dependable comfort of Brannan's Grill.
Most Calistoga wineries offer tours, many are lengthy, informational tours well worth carving out an afternoon for. Prices for the tastings vary, but are typically between $5 and $15.