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Wine country question - I really did search first!

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What is the best site to figure out what vineyards are where and which are the most fun to attend... I think we'd like fab mom and pop places or smaller vineyards that we can't just taste here in VA easily. Or base of operations will be pretty far north - 3 days at a hotel in St. Helena and then 3 days at a hotel in Calistoga.
The info is overwhelming. Our friends who have been are all into big name super expensive reds and that's fine but I can buy them here if I feel like splurging and don't know if it's really my style anyway.
THANKS!!!!
Sorry but I really couldn't find great info on the boards (not saying it wasn't there). And if someone has great food ideas, I'd love those too - I know I'm being greedy. Other than the Italian one I just saw, when you search the two towns there's pretty much nothing since 2007 and I know quality changes. You chowhounds are the best! I'll help if you're ever in OH or VA...

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  1. Hmmm ... I know we had a discussion about Calistoga just last week, and St. Helena comes up all the time. Maybe the search engine went wonky on you. Try again. I'd do separate searches for "Calistoga restaurant" "Helena restaurant" and "Napa winery small."

    In addition, when you get your search results, right under the number of results line there's a bar that lists the number of results in different categories, including "places" -- if you click on that it will give you a listing of all the places people have noted, and if you click on each one you'll get more info about the place and a list of threads where that place is linked or mentioned.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Ruth Lafler

      thanks. will try again. i got millions of hits from 2002 to 2005 and literally like NOTHING after. maybe it was a funny search day. i couldn't imagine no one asked!

      1. re: Ruth Lafler

        You know, it is surprising when you try to use search sometimes nothing comes up. Often people don't mention the town when discussing well-known restaurants.

        One alternative is to search the places data base by town like this search for Calistoga
        http://www.chow.com/search?Search.x=1...

        Then look for restaurants like this for Wappo which has recent linked reports attached.
        http://www.chow.com/places/27306

        While there are records for many of the wineries with links to websites for those two towns in the Places database, it seems the restaruant info needs to be added.

        One casual little take-away place I'd like to try in Calistoga that gets a postive mention now and again is Busters BBQ
        http://www.chow.com/places/28214

        St Helena restarants that are often mentioned on the board are
        Martini House
        Tra Vigne Restaurant
        Go Fish
        Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen
        Meadowood Napa Valley
        Terra Restaurant

        So if you search on those you should get some info.

        Wherever you go, hope you report back so we have fresh info to help others like yourself.

      2. Well, for figuring out where they are, I like Wine Country Maps http://www.winecountry.com/maps/ especially the Napa Valley interactive map linked there, it has lots of great information in there about what is close to what, and helps you figure out where you are geographically when you're thinking about going to these places. Here are a few good threads to get you started: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/503020 and http://www.chowhound.com/topics/480600 both have some good suggestions for smaller wineries.

        2 Replies
        1. re: JasmineG

          Thanks both. Researching I did find more. No idea why it didn't work at all last time - although this time it first said it didn't like my request of last 2 years. Maybe my computer is moody! :)

          1. re: AMFM

            Computers can be that way. It looks like because of multiple edits and board lag, part of my first answer got lost. After your search, go back up to the search options and resort the search by relevance. That resulted in some helpful looking threads popping up to the top, especially the "napa winery small" search.

        2. Be sure you're using "Search this board" and not the main search.

          This search string will find the recent useful topics:

          title:winery napa

          http://www.chow.com/search?search[que...

          1. thanks all for being so nice! and helpful. looks like there are plenty of great places up near where we will be - and will definitely check out bakeries for loaves of bread. good advice.
            i definitely want to check out the open house at diamond ridge - we'll be there july 11-13th weekend. and have people tasted at phelps with/without "membership"? they certainly push it on the site.
            looks like the solbar ,we're staying 3 nights at solage calistoga where it is, is getting ok reivews too. and one night at the hotel is good! we get bikes there - so if sober enough hope to check out the town. course if we're not sober enough for bikes...
            where does one "get a driver?" like cabs in the city? dumb question i'm sure the concierges could answer but... it's our tenth anniversary trip without kids and while i hope to have great fun, no stupid tragedies are necessary.

            5 Replies
            1. re: AMFM

              Yep, I tasted last month at Phelps without a membership, and had a great time tasting there. You have to pay without a membership, but the price is about what is elsewhere in the valley, and the wines were great, and the setting is fantastic. Two people can also share one tasting, which is also nice. It's also a great place for a picnic, I know that you can reserve the picnic tables there, just check the website. One thing that I would recommend (for a lot of places, actually) is to bring along some crackers or something with you, because I was in need of a palate cleanser in between tastes the last time I went tasting, and wished that I had something like that with me.

              1. re: AMFM

                In mid-May we did a blending seminar and tasting at Phelps. We tasted all their wines (we even requested a couple they didn't have out and they got them for us, no questions asked). We blended our own Insignia, and had a couple of glasses of their Insignia (maybe more), the final one out on their terrace. It was very interesting, a lot of fun, and an absolute bargain at $25 each. I highly recommend it.

                1. re: JPAub

                  That's interesting that Phelps has regular blend-your-own seminars (looks like weekdays only and call ahead to be sure you get blending rather than another topic). I've encountered those only at special events.

                  http://www.jpvwines.com/hospitality.html

                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                    we're doing a wine appreciation seminar (figured it couldn't hurt to learn more and it appears they're good at the seminar thing) and an insignia blending. sounds fun. they're up to $30 each though. but considering the prices of other things a bargain. gasp - $65 each for the tour and tasting (with cheese/canapes) at quintessa but still!

                    1. re: AMFM

                      That seems very high for what Quintessa is offering.

              2. Some of my favorite "mom and pop" type vineyards:
                Frank Family Vineyards (the tasting is always fun and informative)
                Praeger Winery and Port Works
                Pride Mountain Vineyards

                I also love V. Sattui, where you can only buy the wine at the vineyard (but the tasting room is huge)!

                6 Replies
                1. re: rahir

                  Most of V. Sattui's wines aren't so tasty. Detailed discussion of some exceptions on the Wine board:

                  http://www.chowhound.com/topics/381428

                  1. re: rahir

                    WAHAHAHHAHA!!!!
                    Ok, I'll give you Frank Family. Here is the lowdown: same winemaker as Rombauer
                    (way over the top fruit bomb Zin and Chard) and super popular. They hardly count as a family vineyard just because the word family is in their name. Also the other vineyards that are mentioned above are not mom and pop operations. V. Sattui is a circus. It gives California wineries a bad name. I find it hilarious/heartbreaking that theyhave a sign in front of their winery proclaiming them winery of the year. If you really want to taste what Napa Cabernet is supposed to taste like, visit Corison winery on 29 just past Grgich or Honig off Silvarado trail. For the love of god stay away from V. Sattui unless you wanna to be another face in the "we don't know what this is all about , we just came for the free wine" crowd.

                    1. re: wineweasel

                      The nickname they're given in the link Robert Lauriston provided is great.

                      1. re: wineweasel

                        Well, I'm sorry to say I disagree (to a point). I've gone several times and always enjoy the Gamay Rouge and the sweet whites. Yes, it's a madhouse inside, but I find it's worth it. To each his own, I guess!

                        1. re: wineweasel

                          I don't see the point of recommending Corison. The style of Corison's wines couldn't be further from the ones mentioned as preferences for Rahir. Plus which, I like Corison's style and want their prices to stop climbing so eventually my income will come in line with their price point.

                          1. re: SteveG

                            The purpose of suggestion Corison is sipmly that it is very good although "varietal" and thus not popular. If you are interested in what Napa cab used to taste like before the high alcohol fruitbombs of late.

                      2. just came back from napa and had great meals! went to:

                        martini house
                        la toque
                        ad hoc
                        redd

                        9 Replies
                        1. re: rickym13

                          redd and martini house look good and like they'd appeal to my NON-chowy eats no veggies, meat and potatoes hubbie. he's going to be hard here. but it's our tenth anniversary and we should both be happy. okay with casual places for a number of meals but want a few special ones!
                          thanks for the advice!
                          anyone been to press? was suggested by the concierge at harvest grill when i mentioned the picky hubby.

                          1. re: AMFM

                            i had one amazing dish at martini house!
                            “Steak and Eggs”
                            Grilled Prime Sirloin with a Soft Centered Egg and Spinach Ravioli
                            Roasted Button Mushrooms, Pearl Onions and Hobbs Smoked Bacon Lardons Cabernet Glaze

                            its got poached egg inside the spinach ravioli and when you poke it with your fork...egg yolk runs all over your steak! major yum

                            best overall meal for us was lunch at redd....i guess all the stars lined up. we were joined by our friend who just happens to be sommelier at bouchon and let him picked wine to go with our meal. he picked 3 different wine along with kistler chard that i took. we were there for 4 hours just shooting the breeze...what a way to spend the afternoon :)
                            i also love the room of redd...when you are there from 1pm to 5pm...its like your own place with no one else around and time and world just stopped for that time....what a feeling!

                            1. re: AMFM

                              I think your hubby will like Martini House. You might want to check the daily menus at Ad Hoc and see if one looks like it might appeal to him. Bounty Hunter in Napa might be fun.

                              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                thanks. didn't know that one (bounty hunter). will continue to check ad hoc - what they had up the other day wouldn't cut it. he loves good wine, good steak, italian, he just hates veggies. it's lame. and makes it hard to eat nice places with him. i mean he loves indian but ALWAYS orders chicken vindaloo indian hot, you know! :) he likes the components not to touch. i blame his mother - we're about to go to her house and the food will be AWFUL!!!! so now he's not brave. thank goodness so far my kids (5 and 2) eat like me! LOL

                                1. re: AMFM

                                  If he is looking for meat and potatoes, he might like the Rutherford Grill. They do have some nice side dishes that you might find more interesting, like the wild rice salad. They make a tasty main dish salad that I like from their leftover rotisserie chicken, I think they call it Hacked Chicken salad. Kind of sweet sour crunchy, nice with a glass of Trefethen Riesling. It is kind of a local favorite, shares a parking lot with Beaulieu Vineyards right on highway 29, I often eat at the bar. I like it for lunch best. The wine list often has some interesting wines by the glass. I used to find it a better value (especially when I had an expense account!), the prices have crept up in the past few years, but still pretty moderate for the valley.

                                  1. re: dkenworthy

                                    Rutherford Grill is owned by the same corporate group that owns Houston's. We love the ribs at Rutherford Grill, burgers, and my husband loves their ribeye. Like Houston's, they don't charge corkage. Be warned, however, that the waits for a table can be quite long unless you hit them during off hours.

                            2. re: rickym13

                              Also check out Ubuntu. Vegetarian in Napa city but does'nt leave you wanting a steak. very creative interesting meals had there, and decent wine list. Made Frank Bruni's best new restaurants of 2008 list coming in at number 2. (For those of you who don't know who Frank Bruni is, I pity you.)

                              1. re: wineweasel

                                i'd have to go alone. but really would love to eat there so may do it anyway!

                                1. re: AMFM

                                  You can send hubby to Cole's Cop House a couple of doors down.

                                  -----
                                  Ubuntu Restaurant & Yoga Studio
                                  1140 Main Street, Napa, CA 94558

                                  Cole's Chop House
                                  1122 Main St., Napa, CA 94559

                            3. I got pretty good results by searching on the wine towns: Oakville, Rutherford, St. Helena, Calistoga.

                              1. http://winodepot.invisionzone.com/ind... - Napa
                                http://winodepot.invisionzone.com/ind... - Sonoma

                                Obviously the Napa list is far more thorough... it is actually pretty deffinitive, imo.

                                1. Since you are starting in St. Helena, there is a great wine store on Main Street called St. Helena Wine Center. While they have their fancy wines, they stock a lot of small productions. (They have a handful of spirits, for example, and they are all hand-picked.) They don't sell anything they don't drink, and they are great on about telling you where to go locally that's different. (There's a great free map that you can get that shows all the wineries, even those off the beaten track.) Also, JV Wine in Napa (looks like a liquor barn, owned by Vallergras) has a great higher-end section with wine tastings on Friday and all the locals hang there. I met the guy there from Parador (really delicious napa cab/tempranillo), and learned about Amici, and on and on. Tastings are $2. It sounds crazy, but it's like hidden Napa, and it's not fancy, and you get all the tips on where to go. For a few suggestions, try Saintsbury in Carneros, Quintessa (book it) on the Silverado trail (Charles Thomas formerly of Cardinale is making wines there), and Hess Collection (see the modern art collection, watch the video of Mt. Veeder) (high-end Mt. Veeder cabs are awesome and you won't find them, though you'll find the cheaper ones). But your guys at St. Helena wine center? They'll steer you right.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: lbc2

                                    Thanks! Heard to tour quintessa. Have had Hess wines - should check that one out too. My list is getting long! :) The debate now is which to tour and where to just taste.

                                    1. re: AMFM

                                      AMFM, if you've narrowed down the 100's of possibilities to a couple of dozen solid nominees, you might look at the fairly detailed descriptions of tasting facilities, indexed by winery name on the site napawineproject.com--of course it's one person's impressions but some of the variables will be sorted for you.

                                  2. you all are awesome. i know we are going to do elyse and stag's leap on the way up from SFO and then be north of there. it'll all work out if i can get a few dinner places that please the hubby and i don't hate TOO much - even a challenge here in VA. when we lived in the midwest more places that did great food left some plain things on the menus for unadventurous dining partners which was GREAT. but we'll manage. after 10 years of marriage we can compromise! thanks.
                                    booking everything will be my project the next few days while i'm trying to avoid the MIL while at her house with the kids.
                                    Last question -- I swear - anyone know anything about that open house at Diamond Creek Bill Hunt mentioned back in a May post? I'm hoping we're in the right weekend but I don't know how to go about it. Thanks.

                                    11 Replies
                                    1. re: AMFM

                                      The Diamond Creek Open House is invitation only. You need the actual printed invitation to enter the grounds. Extremely limited production of wines and some of the most expensive in the valley. (BTW, you won't be tasting more than a microscopic swallow of their wines anyway at these events.)

                                      Hope you have a great trip. Do you have a list of your wineries and restaurants now?

                                      1. re: maria lorraine

                                        should by saturday or sunday at latest will post when i have it finalized. and then ask for adjustments!
                                        thanks for the info...

                                        1. re: AMFM

                                          well restaurants...
                                          St. Helena hotel:
                                          tuesday - mustards grill
                                          wednesday off - likely rutherfords, cook/ad hoc if they look good that day or the pizzeria at tra vigne
                                          thursday- go fish
                                          Calistoga hotel:
                                          friday - press (anniversary night)
                                          saturday - maybe solbar since it's in our hotel and we'll be late out that day? still need ressies for this day
                                          sunday - probably busters or wappo grill or check out joLe unless places aren't open on a sunday
                                          monday - heading back to catch the redeye from SFO so who knows!

                                          anything SO awful that i should change it? terra and redd and a lot of places look great but my husband would literally be ordering whatever was the red meat with everything else pushed to the side EVERYWHERE. it was starting to look like a lot of hangar steak for him!

                                          1. re: AMFM

                                            Well, there's definitely nothing awful there although the Go Fish selection sounds a little odd for the husband?

                                            Consider swapping it out with the underrated Hurley's Restaurant and Bar. We really like his rib-eye, but they also have some tasty wild boar and venison if your husband wants something that doesn't moo.

                                            For Wed, you get more bragging rights with Ad hoc (Wed is fried chicken night, isn't it?) Rutherford is a great place for the carnivore and lively, casual crowd. That's an easy pick. But I will root for the underdog at Cook instead. The seating area is about as large as a garage, but it does a nice impression of a cozy hole in the wall that only the locals know about. Braised short ribs for him. Chicken chop for you.

                                            Unless you're really in a mood for a pizza you can custom make in a casual kid-friendly environment, I'd pass on Tra Vigne Pizzeria. If you're in the mood for pizzas, consider replacing Tra Vigne for Azzurro Pizzeria and Enoteca in downtown Napa instead. Can't make your own pizzas, but some really tasty higher-end thin-crust pies.

                                            For Saturday, consider Bleaux Magnolia. It's not authentic Creole, but it's still good eating.

                                            And finally, you should take your husband to Ubuntu and flip a coin. Heads you go to Ubuntu. Tails you go to Cole's. Making chicken noises and flapping your arms usually helps.

                                            1. re: napaeats

                                              he eats seafood - and the mac and cheese with shrimp was something he'd order. essentially i just review the menu and see what he'd order. he likes a number of different things - he actually doesn't want to eat a steak and fries every night. he loves fried calamari. it's all pretty pedestrian. he pretty much likes the chain fare we make fun of.
                                              you mentioned some new ones though - so i'll check them out! thanks!
                                              he won't eat braised short ribs. too stringy and all. he's REALLY picky. i know the few things he'll eat - i was looking for pizza (so your suggestions are good). or an italian place that had a shrimp fra diavlo or something similar. so i just read the menus. it's hard because so many are "samples" and change daily - although i appreciate the local/fresh aspect. ugh.
                                              plain, spicy, no veggies (or visible herbs - i think he had a bad run-in with the color green as a kid). brew-pub food essentially. chowhound boring. good thing he has other redeeming characteristics! :)

                                              1. re: AMFM

                                                bleaux magnolia looks interesting - thanks! maybe sunday brunch too! although napa may be far from calistoga.

                                                1. re: AMFM

                                                  Depends on how you are driving back, but your meat-eating, chain-loving hubby might appreciate Jonesy's Famous Steak House at the Napa Airport
                                                  http://www.jonesysfamoussteakhouse.co...

                                                  This falls in the frozen-in-time category ... the 50's. Jonesy’s is famous for their steak grilled under river rocks and the hash browns covered with a slice of American cheese and grilled onions. There are green onions sprinkled on top, but those could always be held.

                                                  Here's the Place record with a few reports including mine.
                                                  http://www.chow.com/places/20601

                                                  This is truly a place you won't find a tourist ... or with minor exceptions ... chowhound.

                                                  1. re: rworange

                                                    Griddled, actually, not grilled.

                                                    Except for whatever flavor is imparted by the local rocks, that seems like the kind of food tourists from most parts of the US could easily find at home.

                                                  2. re: AMFM

                                                    My best friend was married to a guy with tastes like your husband. When they made their pre-nuptial agreement it included that he would try new foods and she would not be a food snob.

                                                  3. re: napaeats

                                                    i think fried chicken night is monday?

                                                    1. re: rickym13

                                                      If you're talking about Ad Hoc, I believe the fried chicken will be tomorrow, Monday, It's every other Monday and occasional Wednesdays, according to the reservation person I spoke with.

                                          2. For your husband's pleasure, I would say go to Press. Let that be your big deal dinner. Most any restaurant in Napa Valley is going to have some sort of approachable meat entree, except for TFL, AdS, La Toque or Meadowood.
                                            I haven't yet been to JoLe in Calistoga which just opened like 2 days ago, but when you are there, look at the menu du jour and see if it something for you both. In Calistoga Buster's BBQ will certainly please your hubby. If you really want to stay in small restaurants there is Cook in Saint Helena, which I'd suggest over some of the other smaller places. But a chef friend of mine is in love with food at Aztec market in St. Helena down just past Taylor's. Hey, if you want a great burrito....

                                            1. I second the rec for Frank Family Vinyards..Also you should try Dutch Henry, small, unpretentious, and great wines you can only buy there. It's right between St. Helena and Calistoge on the Silerado Trail. One of my first and favorite winery experiences was Vincent Arroyo also. Something a little different and close to where you're staying is Casa Nuestra. It's a funky little place...think hippie/ rock and roll Elvis memorabilia...we brought food from V. Sattui (artichoke cream cheese yummmm) and had a picnic there. Have fun!

                                              1. My husband and I spent a week there two years ago. Sipped and dined a LOT. Based on your preferences, I would suggest the wineries: Jarvis (not advertised but a gorgeous cave tour off the beaten path - worth it. call for reservation), Sterling just for the gondola ride and view from the patio on top of the mountain, and the one with the art gallery on the southwest end of the Napa Valley (sorry, can't think of the name!).

                                                Restaurants - we LOVED Market on Main St. in downtown Helena. SO fun, great atmosphere, and yummy interesting food. We love gourmet but don't like over-hyped snobby restaurants. I hope Market is still there.

                                                And actually - if you're flying all that way - I would recommend going to Paso Robles area south of SF instead (or in addition). Wine-tasting there is fun and adventurous without the crowds of the Napa Valley (aka freeway) - there are 170 wineries in Paso Robles now and much cheaper to stay (hotels) and some fabulous restaurants too. We're going back again next week!

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: shellie

                                                  Market is still there and it's very good. The mac and cheese is great, and they have a smore's dessert on the menu...It comes out dissasembled with a fire torch thing for you to roast the marshmellows...it's fun and soo yummy!

                                                2. Okay so here are the vineyards we hope to go to (we may not hit them all but...)
                                                  Elyse
                                                  Stag's Leap Winery
                                                  Chimney Rock
                                                  Pine RIdge
                                                  Groth
                                                  Frog's Leap
                                                  Opus One
                                                  Nickel & Nickel
                                                  Cakebread
                                                  Sequoia Grove
                                                  Silver Oak
                                                  Quintessa (tour/tasting - but tell me if it's not worth it because it's expensive)
                                                  Grgich Hills
                                                  Sullivan
                                                  Milat
                                                  Cain
                                                  Caymus
                                                  Joseph Phelps (2 seminars)
                                                  Sterling
                                                  Twomey
                                                  Vincent Arroy
                                                  Bennett Lane
                                                  And maybe a mountain day

                                                  Anything big missing? Anything a TOTAL waste? oh and where else is worth an actual tour? THANKS!

                                                  12 Replies
                                                  1. re: SteveG

                                                    yeah - i'm trying to do barnett/pride or cain whichever i can get into on "mountain day" :) thanks. can skip silver oak since i doubt we'll get to all it was just close and someone said it was a good one to visit. i don't drink their overpriced wines! do you know sullivan? it was also recommended. sterling is really close to where we'll be staying in calistoga so i just thought it would be easy but even the concierge thought the mountain view was way better. thanks.

                                                    1. re: AMFM

                                                      Why Silver Oak? They've expanded way past their original quality vineyards (meaning the good fruit is diluted with less good fruit) and while maybe they used to fit in the same range of price/quality as Caymus/Nickel & Nickel/Opus, I don't think they belong there any more.

                                                      Cain is way up on top of Spring Mountain, so if you go up there that's already partly a "mountain day." If you can get an appointment at Paloma, they probably have a panoramic view of the whole valley from up on top of the western hills, so you could then scratch Sterling which has bad wine and is a pile of bad architecture with a Disney gondola that will take quite a chunk out of a day. I think it was a field trip for us in 3rd grade, which was great, but I have no urge to go back as an adult. Barnett Vineyards has stunning views from parts of the property, but I don't know if those parts will be available to you as a taster.

                                                      Last comment: you mentioned upthread that your friends like big expensive reds, but you're not sure what your preference is. Most of the stuff on your list will have big cabernets with a few other wines, but there are a few like Cain that only produce tannic highly extracted cabernet blends, so if you find yourself leaning away from that style, you should be aware of what's available at each winery before committing yourself to a tasting appointment.

                                                      1. re: SteveG

                                                        Agree about Silver Oak. Take a pass.

                                                        I believe AMFM is planning a Spring Mountain District day cum picnic.
                                                        I don't find the wines from Pride and SMV to be overly tannic, like Cain's; they are quite friendly, Of course the capital error in winemaking for that district would be to overpower that stunning mountain fruit with too much oak.

                                                        Chris does do his heavy oak Bordeaux-thing at Cain, but not with all his wines.

                                                        Schramsberg is amazing. Especially if you like bubbly, even French bubbly.

                                                        P.S. I thought the food at Solbar was miserable, too. Though I did read one very good report on here. I won't be back.

                                                        1. re: maria lorraine

                                                          ended up at pride and barnett - they were both amazing. only had breakfasts and dessert at solbar. breakfasts were expensive but pretty good. dessert was 1 for 2. service was great though and it was a fabulous place to stay.

                                                          1. re: maria lorraine

                                                            went to pride (probably my favorite all around and you were right - amazing views - bet they're insane without the smoke!) and to barnett because of timing. both great. really loved the upper tier barnett too. pricey though! and it was a great picnic from sunshine so thanks!

                                                            only had breakfasts and dessert at solbar. breakfasts were actually pretty good but they were expensive. dessert was only 1 for 2 but the waiter did take the one off the bill. service was great at solage and it's a fabulous place to stay.
                                                            appreciate everyone's recs

                                                        2. re: AMFM

                                                          AMFM -

                                                          My wife and I just got back from Calistoga on Monday. We stayed at the Solage and it was wonderful. Rooms were great, service was great, spa was great, concierge was great, food was AWFUL!!!!! whatever you do, do not eat dinner at SolBar. It was possibly one of the worst meals I've ever had. Their breakfast was just ok but super expensive and you can find cheaper breakfast in the town of calistoga (which is 5 minutes away by bike).

                                                          We had lunch one day at Buster's BBQ which was great and dinner at Ubuntu in Napa which we loved (but may not be for everyone).

                                                          For wineries, we went to Schramsberg (for champagne - the tour was great and the champagne tasting was very good), Von Strasser (delicious zinfandel and early malbec, plus we got to play with their two dogs and had a private tour of their grounds), Frank Family (by far our favorite - had 2-3 champagnes and 2-3 reds in the front room then about 6-7 reds/whites in the back room...make sure to try their room temperaute chardonney it is absolutely incredible), and Envy (good, not great but we may have been tipsy by then).

                                                          I see you are looking for a cab/driver. Ask the hotel to set you up with Napa Tour and Travel (i think that's their name). They did an incredible job and we loved our driver (Steve).

                                                          Have a great time!

                                                          We heard not so good things about Sterling and Bennet Lane.

                                                          1. re: jon

                                                            What did you have for dinner at solbar? We had a private dinner for 18 and the food was perfectly fine for a set 3 course meal.

                                                            Also, in terms of a taxi service, I think Taxi Cabernet is no longer in business, but I just used Black Tie Taxi, which are towncars that charge by distance. 707-259-1000 or 888-544-8294. There aren't many options, and you definitely have to call to have one dispatched.

                                                            1. re: SteveG

                                                              for dinner we had the spicy shrimp lettuce wraps, crabmeat salad with melon and tequila, pizza with sausage and ramps and sliders. spicy shrimp had a horrible consistency (bad shrimp, weird rice noodles inside the lettuce wraps, hard to eat), crabmeat salad was borderline disgusting (note to chef, don't make tequila jello shots anymore), pizza was eh and the burgers were overcooked and the "10 hour onions" was basically charred onion flavored things. service was fine, wine options were expensive. just didn't enjoy it at all.

                                                              1. re: jon

                                                                VERY good to know. there were some ok reports on here (not great but okay) but they weren't recent. glad to hear the place is great. the guys at some of the vineyard said nice things as well which was great. maybe we'll cancel our saturday night ressies! :)

                                                            2. re: jon

                                                              Well, Sterling's wines are disappointing. Go for the views...but there's no need since AMFM will get her spectacular views from the Spring Mountain District wineries.

                                                              I like Bennett Lane wines. Just about a year ago, four out of five of their releases scored 90 or above in the Wine Spectator, FWIW. But I'd probably recommend Montelena over BL, and gosh darn it, Vincent Arroyo is truly something. Small, humble, family-ish, and truly great juice.

                                                              1. re: maria lorraine

                                                                liked bennett lane and vincent arroyo - would've loved to get to montelena but they closed the earliest and we didn't make it. it was great to meet vincent - part of the charm. all your recs were great so thanks so much.
                                                                we also had fun at milat (same family owned charm). i really liked nickel and nickel and the seminars at phelps were great.

                                                                foodwise, cindy's backstreet kitchen, market and press were all good. i actually liked tra vigne pizza for what it was. so thanks!!

                                                                1. re: AMFM

                                                                  Glad I was able to help. Thanks for posting your responses!