Visitors from all over the world come to Napa Valley for wine country vacations. Whether they’re looking for aromas, flavors, or breathtaking sights, both natural and man-made bounties await. What most travelers don’t know is that the Napa Valley is made up of many unique communities and towns like Yountville, Oakville, and St. Helena. These destinations demonstrate different viticultural areas for the Bordeaux varieties that Napa Valley is famous for, as well as distinct cultural pockets that make up fabled California wine country. One of our favorites at Beau Wine Tours is Calistoga, tucked into towering redwoods towards the northern end of the valley.
Nearby, you can enjoy the Petrified Forest, or soak in the region’s famous warm springs, long a vacation favorite for locals and celebrity guests. But the town of Calistoga demonstrates Napa Valley’s history of working in concert with the land—to live, to farm, and to celebrate the heritage of the area.
Below are some of our favorite wine tasting spots in Calistoga, for reasons as far-ranging as a winery’s work to preserve natural landscapes, to a wine estate’s connection to history—but what they all have in common is fabulous wine! Join us on a virtual tour of these Calistoga wineries perfect for your next wine country vacation.
2339 Pickett Rd
Calistoga, CA 94515
Kelly Fleming Wines is a great stop for any California wine country vacation. The vineyard and winery property, the winemaking, and the flavors that ultimately land in every glass all revolve around the gifts of the land. “Nothing else has that carved-out-of-the-forest feel,” says Vineyard Manager Mike Wolf, who brings his 30 years of vineyard management to Kelly Fleming Wines’ 12 acres of estate vines. Named 2015 Grower of the Year by the Napa Valley Grapegrowers Association, Wolf cultivates all of the fruit grown on the winery’s estate, which goes into their lauded Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc and Rosé bottlings. These wines are aged in 7,000 square feet of caves dug into the estate’s hillside near the winery itself, so proprietor Kelly Fleming and her team, including winemaker Rebecca George—whose apprenticeships have taken her as far as Australia and Burgundy, and to both Napa Valley and Sonoma County wineries–oversee every vintage from vine to glass.
The property itself occupies 300 acres near Calistoga; since only 12 have been planted to vines, Fleming was faced with the question of how to manage the rest. Much of the landscape has been left alone to maintain the health of the local Napa Valley ecosystem, but small portions have offered opportunities to cultivate other wine country standards like fig and olive trees. Their team farms other garden staples as well, which turn up at the winery as jams, oils, and even honey! Rescued donkeys patrol the property and make a scenic addition to the landscape for visitors to enjoy. While tastings are limited and require advance reservations—they include a tour of the beautiful property, winery, and wine caves.
225 Franz Valley School Rd
Calistoga, CA 94515
Previously Harris Estate Vineyards, Heritage School Vineyards carries on the standard of excellence and dedication begun by its former owners. Proprietors David and Linda Jenkins spent 20 years as dedicated oenophiles, traveling all over the world—France, Italy, and of course, California—to educate their palates through the best wine regions they could find. They didn’t want to invest in their own estate until the perfect opportunity arose, combining location, history, and proven vineyards. When the Heritage School Vineyards site came available, the Jenkins and their four daughters took over the 48 acres and created a Calistoga destination. Once home to the Heritage School for Boys, the historic site provided their label’s name, and now also hosts 12 acres of carefully cultivated Cabernet Sauvignon vines, an estate fruit source made up of three very unique blocks.
Managed by viticulturalist Josh Clark and famous winemaker Thomas Rivers Brown, the vineyards produce lauded Cabernet bottlings named for both their vineyards and their daughters. Missiaen’s Hillside of the Hillside Vineyard reflects the site’s rocky elevations, and the currently released 2013 vintage scored a 96+ from The Wine Advocate. Casey’s Lakeview of the Lakeview Vineyard offers bold flavors, and a cellar life of up to 25 years (not to mention a 95-point score from the Advocate as well). Julie’s Creekside of the Creekside Vineyard (another 95!) reflects the local terroir with full body and earthy notes. Finally, Hannah’s Indulgence is made from hand-picked fruit sources nearby, reflecting the Calistoga appellation. Each of these wines offers a unique flavor, and every one is worth a taste! To add Heritage School Vineyards to your Napa Valley wine country vacation itinerary, you’ll need an appointment in advance.
4331 Azalea Springs Way
Calistoga, CA 94515
You may have heard of vertical tastings, but Checkerboard offers a whole new take to your wine country vacation! The winery estate spans a slope of famous Diamond Mountain, with all the elements of the winemaking process, including the winery itself, the caves, the vineyard sites, and hospitality spaces joined by a mile-and-a-half drive. The vineyards sit at varying levels of elevation, including 600, 900, 1,200, and finally 2,000 feet–for a chance to taste the distinct fruit produced by each. Checkerboard’s bottlings reflect these differences, and every vintage has been managed from vineyard to glass by the label’s winemaker, Martha McClellan. At her disposal is an enormous cave complex, where barrels are aged at a single height under temperature control. There’s so much space, Checkerboard also bottles, hand-labels, and prepares shipments in the cave, so the wine is always kept under optimal conditions.
The most recently released vintage (2014) includes Cabernet Sauvignons produced by the Aurora, Coyote Ridge, and Nash Creek vineyards on Checkerboard’s estate. The Aurora is noted as having a palate of cassis and meat, while the Coyote Ridge is described with notes of “pink tellicherry peppercorn” and “abundant red fruit.” The Nash Creek offers bramble berries and toasted chocolate, but there’s even more to Checkerboard’s portfolio. The Kings Row bottling, also from the Aurora vineyard, offers berry aromas with a full body, leaving a “lengthy and lively impression” on the palate. Visitors can try these wines by appointment only, but it’s worth planning ahead! The luscious flavors and gorgeous sights of Checkerboard are a more-than-worthy addition to any Napa Valley wine country vacation and a must-see in Calistoga.
1091 Larkmead Ln
Calistoga, CA 94515
Frank Family Vineyards is truly a family affair – but this isn’t your typical Napa Valley family story. Rich and Leslie Frank may both have fallen in love with Napa Valley before they met. However, that wasn’t the only thing they had in common. Both had major media careers. Rich’s career culminated with his role as President of Disney Studios, while Leslie is an Emmy Award-winning journalist. Their son Darryl Frank, an ambassador for the wine label, also has a lauded career as a producer. He explains how the same fundamental philosophy that drives his success in entertainment drives his career in wine as well: “In television or movies, if you don’t have a good script, you don’t have a good show. With wine, if you don’t have good grapes, you don’t have good wine.”
The Frank Family Vineyards are managed with care and insight by winemaker Todd Graff, who consistently hones award-winning wines from their 380 acres across the Napa Valley. But what makes Frank Family Vineyards a perfect stop for your wine country vacation in Calistoga is the award-winning hospitality extended from their historic yellow Craftsman house – named Best Napa Winery by the Bay Area A-list for eight years in a row! Your group can try reserve wines, or upgrade to a paired tasting with wine educators. Frank Family has a wide portfolio to taste from, including wines like Zinfandel, Late Harvest bottlings, Port, and of course, Napa Valley mainstays like Cabernet Sauvignon. The winery even boasts its own selection of sparkling wines, crafted at the historic Larkmead building. The building, constructed in 1884, is considered a “Point of Historical Interest” by the state of California for its archetypal representation of California wine country’s past.
Let Beau Wine Tours tailor your tasting experience to your palate while showcasing the finest wines in Napa Valley. Contact our reservations team here and let us help you. Discover many, many more Napa Valley wineries here.