More than 1 million years ago, a Mount Konocti volcano erupted in Northern California, spewing volcanic ash for miles.
But unlike most volcanic events, this one was a good thing.
That’s because the now-city of Calistoga was just about 20 miles from the site of the eruption. As a result of the eruption, naturally warm, mineral-rich springs called thermal geysers formed and volcanic ash was deposited on the land.
Natural hot springs like these have long been heralded for improving circulation, promoting sleep and relieving stress. And while the idea of sulfuric volcanic ash as a health aid may sound odd, it has been shown to disinfect the blood, aid the oxidation reactions in the body, protect cells and stimulate collagen production.
Today, people come from all over the globe to experience the water’s and the ash’s medicinal, cosmetic and meditative properties via spa treatments, especially Calistoga mud baths. And though it’s not in our actual backyard, Calistoga is just a 75-minute flight from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport into its sister city of Santa Rosa. It is easier for us than most to take advantage of the area and all it has to offer.
To truly experience the area right, Indian Springs Calistoga is a must.
The seeds for Indian Springs Resort, as it is known today, began with Calistoga founder Sam Brannan, who built the first version of the resort in 1861. All guests on property are able to take advantage of the resort’s complimentary bicycles, bocce ball courts, shuffleboard, croquet, fireplace lounge, walking labyrinth, hammock-filled garden and—of course—the private hot springs during their stay. The main mineral pool is Olympic size and open until midnight so guests can float under the stars. They also have an adults-only pool, which is smaller but offers all the same therapeutic properties.
Then, there is the spa, where mud is a main attraction. Indian Springs is one of the only locations worldwide able to mine and hand-sift their own ash. Most spas that offer mud baths need to combine ash with peat as filler and import mineral water, but all of their ingredients are naturally occurring on property. For guests seeking more traditional takes on spa services, they also offer massages, facials and extensive body treatments as well as chardonnay bubble baths and even goat milk baths.
Beyond the space and spa, Indian Springs also boats one of the most popular eateries in the area. Named Sam’s Social Club in honor of Brannan, it features seasonal menus and one of the prettiest dining patios in the region. Every course is crave-worthy, and many ingredients are sourced locally.
The Restaurant at Auberge de Soleil boasts a similarly impressive patio, with views that rival those in Sedona. There are vineyards and greenery as far as the eye can see as well as glorious mountain ranges in the distance. The only thing as memorable as watching a sunset from the restaurant is indulging in a meal onsite. Auberge offers a ever-changing standard menu as well as a chef’s tasting option that will take you on a culinary adventure across the Western United States with thoughtful ingredients, interesting flavor profiles and absolutely sinful desserts.
And while the wine pairings at each venue are exquisite, given Calistoga boasts from of the most acclaimed vineyards and wineries in the world, don’t miss the chance to experience them firsthand.
Any trip should start with Schramsberg. Not only was Schramsberg among the first wineries in the region, it was the very first to dig into Napa’s hillside to create wine caves. Yes, caves. The vineyard offers daily cave tours, which culminate in a candlelit wine tasting underground. Each tour is limited to just 12 guests.
Nearby is Clos Pegase Winery, which is similar in that it also features a cave experience. The ultimate way to experience Clos Pegase, given its sheer size and seemingly limitless tasting options, is via an all-inclusive tour and tasting. This tour allows guests to learn about the winery’s history, visit the production area and conclude in the seductive and romantic cave theater for an intimate tasting experience.
Chateau Montelena is another must. Many may know the name because it was featured in the 2008 movie “Bottle Shock,” starring Bill Pullman, Chris Pine and Alan Rickman. The show-stopping Chateau is even cooler than the film portrays. Draped in bright green ivy, it resembles an English Gothic castle, and its tasting room is perched on the top floor to allow for a true elevated tasting in more ways than one.
From there, the next stop will get you even higher, but not because of California’s recently passed recreational marijuana laws. Internationally beloved Sterling offers guests a sky-high winery experience—literally. Perched atop a hillside, guests take an aerial tram to the winery. From the moment visitors depart the tram, they are greeted with wine. Elevated walkways, on-site art galleries and motion-activated flat screens that provide detailed information of all the vineyard has to offer abound.
And, finally, no trip to Calistoga would be complete without a visit to Prisoner. Though the winery space is relatively young—built just a few years ago, in fact—it is among the top destinations in Calistoga, given that Prisoner Wine has become a go-to option on menus across the United States, especially in Arizona. There are many on-site options, but one well worth an advance reservation is the Prisoner Makery Experience. Beyond a tour, it features a personal guide and access to the vineyard farm, copious tastings and then a multicourse wine-pairing lunch overlooking the open-air kitchen.
For more information, visit visitcalistoga.com.