On our road trip back home we decided to stop in a few places we like to break up the drive. Neither of us like to be in the car for too long, and aren’t in any rush 🙂
Our first stop was the Napa Valley. We loved it when we went through on the way down the coast, so decided to stop for a couple of nights on the way back up. I was having great difficulty finding an affordable hotel… turns out part of the reason was that it is Easter weekend. Who knew? I’ve lost track of the days of the week, never mind being able to keep track of when holidays are!
We eventually settled on a renovated motel in Calistoga called Eurospa & Inn. Renovated motel does not make it sound as nice as it is 🙂 It has a heated pool, a hot tub, a lovely outdoor breakfast area with a fireplace and fresh baked cookies every afternoon! The rooms are also nice, but ours is quite small, and not cheap by my standards, but very affordable by Calistoga standards!
I would definitely recommend it as the nicest, affordable place I could find; and we would stay here again when we return (and this is definitely a place I would return!)
We also really liked the cute little town of Calistoga. It doesn’t seem like much as you come through on the highway… as a matter of fact, we didn’t even really notice it when we came through last time. If you come in off the highway on Lincoln, there are tonnes of shops, restaurants and even tasting rooms. Our hotel was just a couple blocks away from Lincoln Street so it is a nice stroll to look around the town.
We decided to visit one winery, but there are so many to choose from! I looked back on the notes a guy had given me in the hot tub at our last stay in Napa, and we decided on Sterling Vineyards based on his recommendation.
Sterling Vineyards is unique, because after you enter the property you take an aerial tram up a hill to do your wine tasting experience.
Before I get ahead of myself, check out the beautiful entrance into the vineyard!
When you get to the ticket desk, you have two options. General admission for $29 a person. This includes 3 tastes of wine, the aerial tram to the top, and a self-guided tour through the winery. Your other option is the Silver VIP Experience for $39. At first we were just going to do the general admission, but then I thought… what the heck… this is the only winery we are visiting today let’s spend the extra $10 😉
It turns out that this was a good idea… we aren’t even really sure if we would have liked it if we only did the general admission. The extra $10 gets you a seated wine tasting experience after you do the general admission stuff. In my opinion, it is definitely worth it.
The tram ride up is about 3.5 minutes, and the views are lovely!
After you exit the tram you walk through a terrace that has another lovely view, then up to another terrace where they give you your first taste of wine. They give you a Sterling Vineyards glass that you can keep (although we forgot ours in the end…), and your first taste is of a Chardonnay.
Don’t worry, I’m not double-drinking… I’m just holding Steve’s while he takes photos 🙂
Then you walk a little further to a different terrace, and you try a merlot in your own personal glass. Neither Steve or I were fond of the Chardonnay, so dumped most of it in the little silver bucket before receiving our first red. The two people pouring looked pretty shocked… it seems not many people dump their wine 🙂
There are plenty of places to look at the view or sit and enjoy your wine. The Handsome Man wasn’t relinquishing the camera today, so there aren’t many photos of him… but he did agree to a selfie. Is it a selfie if there are two people in it??? I need a new word for this!
Next, you can go inside and see all the machines they use to process the grapes into wine. You also get to see the barrel rooms. I don’t know why, but I always think the barrels look pretty! Weird hey?
They periodically had TV’s playing videos explaining the wine-making process. This is where we learned something new! I did not know that they actually “toast” as in “burn with fire” the barrels before putting wine into them. The amount of time they burn the barrel, changes the taste of the wine. You learn something new every day!
I was astonished that you could burn a wooden barrel for 80 minutes and still have a barrel left! On the video they actually showed the fire burning inside the barrel. Fascinating 🙂
Next you can walk out and taste your final “general admission” wine which was a Cabernet Sauvignon. It was okay… but if we stopped here we would have been disappointed with the wines from this Vineyard.
When you are done with your “general admission” you get to this sign.
If you are wearing the fancy lanyard than you are allowed to continue up to the tasting room. There are quite a few stairs to walk up… but the exercise is good for me right?
The view from the top was quite beautiful. The original owner wanted to build it in the style of places he loved while visiting Greece.
At the top they seat you in their tasting room. It was a lovely afternoon so we sat out on the terrace, but they did have inside seating as well.
The waiter brings you out three more tastes of wine, which I can say are WAY better than the general admission wines. We liked all three… even the Chardonnay which I’m usually not a fan of!
At this point you also have the option of choosing a charcuterie platter for $25. Which we did of course. We were hungry, and little nibblies always enhance the flavour of the wine 🙂
The cheeses were delicious… but my favourite was the smoked duck. I didn’t even think I would like the duck at all… but it ended up tasting amazing. Steve promised me he would make me some at home… the park across the street is full of ducks… he was joking right?!?!
This is where he finally let me snap a photo of him… so it is going in the blog!
Our waiter was quite friendly and described the wines to us, as well as telling us a few tidbits about the area. He was quite funny… and I don’t think that is just because I’d tasted a lot of wine at this point 😉
When you are finished you walk through the gift shop and then head back to the tram.
We found this sign quite puzzling as clearly they want you to buy wine up here… one more word on the sign would have cleared it up… “open”. The vocabulary police are at it again 🙂
We enjoyed a lovely afternoon at this winery, and would recommend you do the silver experience when you visit yourselves!
One last photo as we left the vineyard… you are allowed to drive out, but Steve made me walk so he could take this photo. I guess he has a good eye, because it ended up being his favourite photo of the day!
I knew he would let me back in the car… I had our bottle of wine 😉
We headed back to our hotel and spent the afternoon lazing by the pool soaking up the last of our warm sunshine for a bit. I am sure as we head up to Oregon tomorrow that the temperature is going to start dropping!
We also took a stroll through the town and enjoyed a delicious but reasonably-priced dinner. I didn’t know if that was going to be possible in this area, but was happily surprised!
Tomorrow we head further up the coast on our way home.