Fodor's Expert Review Calistoga Ranch
580 Lommel Rd., Calistoga, California 94515, USA See on Map Fodor's Choice
The spacious cedar-shingle free-standing guest lodges throughout this wooded Auberge Resorts property have outdoor living areas, and even the restaurant, spa, and reception space have outdoor seating and fireplaces. Although the exclusive 157-acre spread feels casual and ranchlike, the accommodations are luxurious, with large bathrooms and romantic outdoor showers.
Even the smallest units, the Deluxe Lodges, come in at a roomy 600 square feet, and all have sundecks and outdoor gas fireplaces. Deluxe Hillside Lodges offer more privacy and have better views. Some of the 1,200-square-foot one-bedroom lodge suites have outdoor hot tubs; the Oak Creek lodges, the most private, have more expansive views than the Bay Forest ones. At 2,400-square feet, the two-bedroom lodges and one estate lodge are ideal for groups. All rooms have coffee makers, bedside Bose radios, and in-room iPads with guest information. Some larger units have full kitchens and washers and dryers.
YOU SHOULD KNOW Although the lodges have plush bedding and the indoor-outdoor configuration remains appealing, the design world has moved beyond the interior look, which may leave guests seeking au courant style feeling shortchanged.
The indoor bathrooms, all with slate floors and vanities with dark-granite countertops, have either slate showers, gleaming white soaking tubs, or both. Stocked with Calistoga Ranch bath products some of whose ingredients are grown on-site, they're nice enough, but the private outdoor showers, some with trees poking through the decks, are the real treat.
Hosts greet guests at a copper-roofed stone-and-wood structure just past a bridge that crosses a seasonal creek. While staffers outside valet park your car and transfer your luggage to a golf cart, ones inside offer wine or water and explain the property's layout and amenities. The ranch's concierge sits nearby, ready to help with reservations for restaurants and activities. One of the exclusive offerings is a 1.3-mile hike to Davis Estates winery for a tasting and wine-and-food pairing. The hike is one-way; staffers chauffeur participants back to the resort in a Mercedes Benz.
YOU SHOULD KNOW There's no self-parking at the ranch, and guests cannot drive their cars past the reception area.
The long rectangular pool overlooks a small vineyard whose grapes go into the Calistoga Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon. Every morning staffers roll up towels and place them on lounge chairs surrounding the pool, which is heated year-round. Bar service is offered from mid-April through October.
In a secluded setting near the back of the ranch, the spa serves only guests. Signature massages include the Swedish-style Classic Ranch, the Therapeutic Deep Tissue, and one that incorporates heated stones. The popular Auberge Attunement, which combines the last two, also involves warm herbal poultices. Facials, body polishes, and other treatments are also available. Individual spa suites have large soaking tubs with outdoor showers whose weathered copper fixtures enhance the out-in-nature feel as do the large communal hot tub and a body-temperature mineral pool surrounded by oaks, firs, and other trees whose branches you can almost touch.
As with all the ranch's public spaces, the fitness center, near the pool, has indoor and open-air sections, with the latter part actually larger than the former. Canyon breezes cool guests working out on Precor, Star Trac, and other machines (including a Peleton bike with an attached screen for live-stream spinning classes). If it gets too hot or cool, ceiling fans and overhead heaters keep temperatures stable. Filtered water, towels, protein bars, and fruit are in plentiful supply. Exercise opportunities away from the fitness center include playing boccie ball, riding one of the complimentary bikes, or hiking on-property trails.
The section of the canyon the ranch straddles rises in elevation from 435 feet at reception to 540 feet at Lommel Lake, so walking the paved portions provides a good workout on its own.
The Lakehouse Restaurant and Lounge serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, with many of the dishes' ingredients coming from the ranch's culinary garden or Wine Country farms. Popular breakfast items include huevos rancheros and eggs Benedict (ranch hens provide some of the eggs for these) and buttermilk pancakes. Fish tacos are among the lunchtime favorites. The prix-fixe dinner menu changes with the seasons, but there are always pasta, beef, and fish or seafood dishes.
It's possible to be seated for dinner without a reservation, but especially in summer and on weekends the manager recommends making one to avoid a potentially long wait.
The restaurant and its bar have views of spring-fed Lommel Lake. On hot summer days, guests often cool off with blackberry margaritas; in winter Scotch hot toddies help achieve the reverse. Year-round hits include the Lavender, made with gin, ginger liqueur, lemon, and lavender, and the Sparkling Raspberry, a blend of vodka, raspberries, framboise, and sparkling wine. A Calistoga Ranch Chardonnay and two Cabernet Sauvignons (one made from the grapes grown near the pool) are among the wines served by the glass.
Calistoga Ranch is ½ mile off the Silverado Trail about 5 miles southeast of downtown Calistoga. Although hiking trails wind to a few neighboring wineries, most guests drive, either in their vehicles or one of the Mercedes Benz models available (first come, first served) for a few hours at a time. You can bike to some nearby wineries. Within the resort, guests get around by foot, bicycle, or staff-driven golf carts.
The Modern American menu at sister property Solage's highly regarded Solbar (8-minute drive) is divided into "healthy, lighter dishes" like pan-roasted salmon with quinoa and "hearty cuisine" along the lines of steak frites. In downtown Calistoga, try Evangeline (10-minute drive) for clever reboots of bistro classics or Brannan's (10-minute drive) for shareable farm-to-table and seafood small plates.
Over in St. Helena, celebrity chef Chris Cosentino whips up wildly inventive Modern American cuisine at Acacia House (12-minute drive). Other good choices include Press (16-minute drive) for steak paired with wine from the extensive list and the splurgeworthy The Restaurant at Meadowood (14-minute drive), for a unique dining experience that perennially earns three Michelin stars.
Head to Solbar (8-minute drive) for signature cocktails like Sex in the Valley, starring Charbay Green Tea Vodka, thyme, mint, and house-made lemonade. Brannan's (10-minute drive) has live music on Friday and Saturday in the early evening; lemon drops (vodka, lemon juice, framboise) and the Hanky Panky (gin, sweet vermouth, fernet) are among the signature cocktails. Over in St. Helena, a margarita topped with sea-salt foam is among the draws at the lounge at Acacia House (10-minute drive), the restaurant of Las Alcobas Napa Valley resort. Japanese and American whiskeys are the specialties of the bar at Two Birds One Stone (8-minute drive), inside a historic building at the Freemark Abbey Winery.
WHY WE LIKE IT
Of Auberge Resorts' three Napa Valley properties—the other two being nearby Solage and Rutherford's Auberge du Soleil—Calistoga Ranch is often the choice of privacy-seeking celebrities, but even if you're not hiding from the paparazzi, you'll appreciate this haven of upscale pampering and pastoral seclusion. Because private vehicles aren't allowed past reception, serenity reigns, and the affable staffers are efficient and always on call.
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