Extravagant hospitality defines the Napa Valley's luxury properties, but Embrace takes the prize in the small-lodging category. With thoughtful touches like wine-touring snack packs and gourmet chocolates at turndown, sociable hosts Brent Riedberger and Chris Johansen make a stay feel special at their 1873 Victorian. Most guests make sure to return from the wineries in time for the convivial early evening wine-and-cheese event on the inn's expansive wraparound veranda.
YOU SHOULD KNOW With only five rooms and many repeat guests, Embrace Calistoga books up well in advance on weekends year-round and the whole week in the summer and early fall.
All five rooms are immaculately maintained, each furnished with a tastefully casual mix of new and antique appointments and original art. Three rooms are very spacious, the other two more than adequate. All rooms have a gas fireplace, flat-screen HDTV, complimentary Wi-Fi, well-padded robes, and an iPad for in-room use.
For the most privacy, consider the downstairs room that has its own entrance. It's also the sole pet-friendly room.
As elsewhere at Embrace, the bathrooms, all with marble floors and decorative mirrors over the vanities, have an eclectic style. All rooms have a shower (in one case a walk-in), fluffy towels, makeup mirrors, and fancy bath amenities.
The King Suite, off the lobby, has a soaking tub.
Although there's a small foyer, the veranda, with sofas, tables, and chairs, is the de facto lobby and a comfortable place to hang out.
Come morning, the inn's four-course breakfasts are marvelous affairs. A recent menu included house-made scones, blueberries and yogurt, and a poached egg atop a succotash-smothered corn fritter. In the early evening, Brent and Chris serve wines and cheese on the veranda. Head off-site for lunch and dinner.
Only a few blocks long and a few blocks wide, downtown Calistoga is easily walkable. Shops, spas, tasting rooms, and several good restaurants are all within a few minutes of each other. The town spreads out quite a bit, but many of its several dozen wineries are a short drive away off Highway 29, Highway 128, or the Silverado Trail. VINE Bus 10 and Bus 29 serve Calistoga from other Napa Valley towns. With short notice, the free on-demand Calistoga Shuttle (schedule varies depending on the day and time of year) will take you anywhere in town, and a few spots beyond.
Brent and Chris enjoy matching guests with the right restaurant. Among their recommendations are Veraison (5-minute walk) for what its chef describes as "good, tasty, contemporary but not too complicated French food," Evangeline (5-minute walk) for California cuisine with a New Orleans twist, and the Solage resort's Solbar restaurant (3-minute drive) for sophisticated modern American.
Susie's Bar (5-minute walk), Calistoga's a-little-too-nice entrant in the dive-bar sweepstakes, is a mellow joint (sports on big TVs, iTunes jukebox, pool tables) with affordable top-shelf liquor. Nearby Johnny's Restaurant & Bar (5-minute walk), off the Mount View Hotel's lobby, is a fun spot to watch sports and sip local wines and craft beer. Get microbrewery beer at Calistoga Inn (2-minute walk) and clever cocktails at the bars at Evangeline (5-minute walk) and Sam's Social Club (2-minute drive, 10-minute walk).
WHY WE LIKE IT
"The Boys," as everyone in town refers to Brent and Chris, aim to please and amply succeed. First-timers eager for advice about wineries and restaurants appreciate their hosts' insights and connections, but the inn also attracts Wine Country habitués seeking unfussy luxury and intuitive interactions. Fun and casual, Victorian in design but contemporary in feel, Embrace Calistoga hits all the right notes.