Calistoga, Napa Valley

We live close to Napa Valley, close enough for same Fairfield hotels to call themselves Napa-Fairfield. This is stretching the point somewhat, but is certainly a lot more honest than Ryanair’s attempt to classify Prestwick as a London Airport.

Last weekend my wife and I went away for a couple of days to the spa town of Calistoga at the far end of the valley. The town’s visitor centre describes it as offering “Hot Springs, Cool Wine, and a Warm Welcome”. The town was created as a resort in the late nineteenth century by a gentleman called Sam Brannan. He opened a hotel in 1860 and described it as the “Saratoga of California”; Saratoga being the pre-eminent East Coast spa of the time. The story goes that one night after a few drinks he instead used the phrase the “Calistoga of Sarafornia” and the town had the name it bears to this day.

There is a diner on the town’s main street which uses the second part of this spoonerism and calls itself Sarafornia. We ate breakfast there on Monday and I had a wonderful French toast; whole meal bread soaked in orange brandy batter. It is almost a typical American diner, but its location in Napa Valley leads it to include champagne and assorted champagne cocktails on the menu. Likewise the coffee shops serve wine as well as the expected tea and coffee.

We dinned at a superb restaurant named for the aforementioned founder. It was one of those places in which food, drink, and service were all impeccable. The only defect was that in the bar there was a large screen television and I could see it flickering from the corner of my eye.

There are a multitude of places to dine in the town, but none of them are familiar names as a 1996 city ordinance bans all chain restaurants. So there is not a Starbucks or McDonalds to be seen.

We drove back down the Silverado trail, avoiding the more traveled highway. We stopped at several vineyards including Luna, producers of a superb Sangiovese we had drunk the night before.

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Published in: on 10 October, 2007 at 14:57  Leave a Comment  

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