For you cabernet sauvignon aficionados (including my husband!), the Diamond Mountain wineries just west of Calistoga are for you. The volcanic soil, higher elevation off the valley floor, and influence of the ocean breezes result in wider temperature swings, which the cab grapes love.
The grapes in this picture are perhaps 1-2 weeks shy of harvest. The time of harvest is part science and part art. The sugar content of the grapes on the vine has to be just perfect. Then harvest occurs within a day or two. It's impossible to predict the exact date of harvest from year to year (it changes every year), and the vineyards can't even predict the harvest date accurately 2 weeks in advance.
But from all accounts during our visit over the Memorial Day weekend in 2005, it appeared the harvest and crush would start mid-September. It's an exciting time in the wine country. If you are in the wine country during the crush, do try to visit the wineries to witness the energy!
If you enjoy visiting the wine country, but you shy away from wineries requiring appointments, you need to change your ways. I, too, used to avoid those wineries - after all, it was just such an intrusion to be bound by a schedule!
When I visit the wine country now, I'll usually schedule an appointment at one winery. You get personalized attention, more wine for the tasting, no crowds (often you and your friends are the only ones there), and the wines are almost always superior.
Reverie Winery on Diamond Mountain, just east of Calistoga is one of these wineries that requires appointments. We were first taken into the wine cave where we sat at a large table and several wines were poured for us. Then we went out to the redwood grove, and several more wines were poured. The scenery was gorgeous, and the wines were outstanding. We were sold, and are now huge Reverie fans!
Just south of Calistoga on Hwy 29, look for the Diamond Mountain turn off to the west. A narrow road winds up the mountain to the Reverie Winery.
A highlight of my adventures in the Napa Valley was stumbling upon the valleys northern most vineyard. The Robert Pecota Winery only turns out about 12,000 cases a year. Robert Pecota and his two daughters run the show and tastings are by appointment only. My girlfriend and I were fortunate enough to catch one of the daughters, Andrea, setup for an appointment that never showed. We were happy to fill in!
At Golden Haven Spa couples can enjoy the mud baths together. I actually went with a girlfriend we went there in May 2003 it was still very cold and the mud was so warm it is a great experience and one you can't imagine until you sink into the mud.
After the mud bath you spend some time spaying the mud off you. It does go everywhere and takes some time to clean off. You then soak in a hot tub, then you are taken to a room and wrapped in blankets and left there to cool down. They dim the lights and you just relax.
Mud baths have been a tradition, a way of life in Calistoga since the time of the Mayacamas Indians. The combination of clay, peat and hot mineral waters in the mud bath relaxes muscles and joints, cleanses impurities, and leaves the skin soft and renewed.
Once you are in the mud an attendant comes in and puts a cool towel on your forehead and paints a mask on your face. You stay in the mud for about 10 minutes. It's so relaxing!
Last but not at all least we had a one hour massage which was spectacular since your body is already so relaxed.