July 19, 2012
I think it was Dorothy when she clicked her way back to Kansas who said something along the lines of all she was looking for was right there at home all along.
In Napa Valley, nothing could be more true. People from around the planet travel here to experience our wine country. But when you live here, you often don’t take time to discover the treasures right outside your own front door.
Many of our sisters ask us for tips on where to go and what to do when they visit our home valley. We decided to start revealing our favorite wine and food spots, activities, places to stay and things to do in the beautiful Napa Valley in every season.
Today, we are going to take you on our daycation exploration of one fine day in Napa Valley—summer style.
Good Morning, Sunshine!
We headed up Highway 29 (one of the two North South highways running the entire length of the valley—the other is the Silverado Trail). Our first stop: the newly renovated Oakville Grocery in Oakville for coffee and a treat.
This Napa Valley tradition housed in an old farm house has recently undergone a stunning renovation, but the charm remains the same. Whether you’re stopping for a breakfast on the fly or out to put together a full-on picnic, this is the place to provision. Formerly a quaint but cramped establishment, the renovation is much more user-friendly while retaining the original charm.
We were headed up to Calistoga for a mud bath experience. I had done one many years ago, but my fellow wine sister hadn’t and was curious so I booked us two at 10. Calistoga was originally known as the “Saratoga of the West” and people have been taking in its healing mineral springs and volcanic soils since the time of the Wappo Indians, the indigenous Native American people who called Napa Valley home.
Bring on the dirt!
There are a number of resorts offering a mud bath experience. We decided on one of the oldest-of-the old school, Doc Wilkinson’s Hot Springs Resort, founded in 1946. It’s widely regarded as a Calistoga original. Offering resort cottage lodgings as well as a menu ofno-nonsense mud-inspired spa treatments, this is not your typical posh spa experience—but hey, that’s what makes it so unique.
We checked into the no-frills reception area and were asked to stash our purses behind the counter—no locking of lockers here. We were greeted by our mud bath gals and led to the ladies only wing to strip down and get ready to get muddy.
Not going to lie…the fragrance when entering the mud room was, well, imagine you’ve just fertilized the roses. No lavender and lollipops here…just the earthy scent of mud (mixed apparently with a little peat).
After a quick shower-down, we were guided into the mud—essentially two ginormous tubs full of hot, goopy, odiferous mud. You actually kind of float on the mixture—sort of what I imagine would be like slipping into a big vat of stinky quicksand without dying. You are suspended in the mud, your lady puts a couple of cucumbers on your eyes and an icy washcloth on your forehead and you are instructed to steep for 10 minutes.
Warning: if you are hungover, are sensitive to smells, have a problem with getting mud into your personal places, this might not be the treatment for you.
When the timer buzzed, thank goodness, you are directed to wipe as much off as possible and step into the shower again before a cleansing soak in a bubbling mineral bathtub for another 10. Then, off to the teeny tiny steamroom for more detoxing before the final shower. So happy I actually washed and blow-dried my hair and applied mascara before this treatment. WHAT a waste of time.
After one more shower, scrub and shampoo, we were led to the “recovery room” where we were wrapped in soft sheets to relax before our add-on treatment—a half-hour massage. If you have a preference, be sure to ask for either a male or female massage therapist. The boys are strong but they have hairy forearms.
After about two hours, and feeling a little rubbery, the thought occurred that we were now quite hungry. Although most resorts allow you to lounge by the pool indefinitely post-bath, we decided to get on the road and find some lunch.
Mud makes us feel hungry
Destination: Calistoga’s most high-end resort: Solage and the restaurant called Solbar, perfectly positioned for the long trek down valley on the Silverado Trail back to Napa. Here’s a tip for beating the summertime tourists for a prime table and sans reservation…arrive a little before or after the prime dining hours.
We arrived a bit before noon and asked to be seated outside in their lovely alfresco dining area overlooking the pristine pool and bocce courts. Must orders: Petrale Fish Tacos, Cold Corn Soup and Fried Green Tomatoes garnished with Dungeness Crab Salad. Paired with a glass or two of local Rosé or an artisan cocktail—heaven! And look at how smooth our skin is! Mud is magical!
After our lunch surrounded by local winemakers, healthy bike people, well-behaved, beautifully dressed children and blissfully happy people in general, we headed back south on Silverado Trail thinking about our next destination.
In my opinion, one of the most stunning places to view the expanse of mid-Napa Valley vineyards and the Mayacamas Mountains to the west (separating Napa Valley from Sonoma) is Mumm Napa Valley.
Originally founded by the famous House of Mumm Champagne France in the 70’s, this winery is devoted to the high-end production of bubbly wines—known properly as sparkling wine. (Note: only bubbles originating from the Champagne region of France can be called “true” Champagne. Everywhere else, it is known as sparkling wine, such as Prosecco from Italy or Cava from Spain).
In any event, you can enjoy any number of tasting flights on their gorgeous patio, taking in the view and the sun. We selected the DVX tasting, DVX being their “tete de cuvee” or the highest expression of sparkling winemaking the winemaker can offer. Delightful! $25 pp. and worth it ‘cause we got a little extra splash of one of their amazing vintage offerings.
We had fun eavesdropping on a group of ladies (also from Napa on their own “daycation”) who were having a bit of the bubbles prior to seeing “Magic Mike.” You GO GIRLS! P.S. lady who was getting crabby texts from her boyfriend/husband (unclear)…hope he got over it.
Heading back to Napa on the scenic Silverado Trail, we were thinking food again. Yeah, that’s how it goes…wine…food…wine & food. Designated driver was especially hungry.
Tapas Time Sisters!
Our choice: Zuzu on Main Steet in Napa. Famous for their amazing tapas and paella. You really can’t go wrong with this menu, but we especially love the Flank Steak with Chimichurri Sauce and the Pimenton Spiced Sizzling Shrimp. This restaurant is always packed and reservations are always recommended for most any restaurant in Napa during the high summer/fall season, but we happened to be in luck.
Seated at a table overlooking the downtown park and the Napa River, we finished the day with some of their delicious small plates as the sun went down. Lost five pounds in the mud bath—gained it right back on the way home.
Oh well…such is a Napa Valley Daycation. Stay tuned for our Harvest report in September. And if you are planning to visit anytime soon, be sure to send a note to firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll try to point you in the right direction!