Over the years, I’d read about Calistoga Ranch, one of Napa Valley’s most unique hotels. The location, nestled in a wooded canyon with ancient oaks, is spectacular and I put it high on my bucket list of places to stay. Living in southern California, and with an easy short flight, you’d think I frequented Napa, but that’s not the case. I hadn’t been in close to thirty years, so when the opportunity arose to visit, not once, but two times this past summer, I jumped. Better yet, both times I was fortunate to stay at Calistoga Ranch, checking off one of the hotels on my list.
Located off Silverado Trail, between St. Helena and Calistoga, the Auberge Resort property, is in a prime spot for quick outings to some of the best wineries. But, after daily adventures of tastings, there’s no better place to unwind than at the ranch. It’s a different pace than the rest of the valley offering a tranquil, and absolutely gorgeous, retreat.
If you’re not familiar with Calistoga Ranch, it is not an ordinary upscale hotel. Spread over 157 acres, one and two bedroom bungalows are scattered among oaks, towering cedars and some pretty magnificent landscaping. The bungalows, however, are actually individual pods. Specifically, a two bedroom, the room type I had, consisted of four units – a living room, a kitchen and each of the bedrooms (both fully equipped as masters). They are all connected as a unit with a large planked deck serving as an outdoor living space with fireplace, sofas, dining table, and heaters.
Of course, I was curious as to why the owners of the luxe property would want to use pods instead of more typical lodging spaces. There is a very interesting read from SF Gate that explains it perfectly. Because the site was previously used and permitted as a trailer park, the developers decided to work within the limitations of the existing permit rather than endure the long challenging path for approval of a new development. So each pod was built off site and trailered in with individual vehicle identification numbers, much like an RV.
In many ways, the design works in favor of the uniqueness of Calistoga Ranch where the whole experience is about a connection to the outdoors and nature. My friends and I spent a fair amount of time outside on the plank decked living room, enjoying cool mornings with coffee by the fireplace and warm evenings with a glass of wine. Because of strict tree removal restrictions, the units were sited and placed around them, many times with cutouts for the trunks to have space to continue to thrive. It felt like an upscale treehouse, surrounded by leaves and meandering branches.
The entrance and reception at the ranch.
Upon arrival, vehicles are left with the valet and all modes of traversing the property are done either on foot or in one of the many golf carts. Most of the time, I preferred walking to take in the details of the landscape. The design is one of the prettiest I’ve seen with California drought tolerant plants in full glory. I would have loved a walking tour of the grounds to learn more about the plant selection and placement, but I’m equally happy with the numerous pictures I captured for memory. Off the paved path, I took advantage of the three hiking trails accessed from inside the resort property that take you to summits with spectacular views of the valley below.
Dining options are limited, but made up for by the stunning location of The Lakehouse restaurant. Why would you want to dine anywhere else on the property? It’s set at the deepest part of the canyon with a panoramic view of the small Lake Lommel. Since it was summer, we dined alfresco like most of the other guests. Spotting a handful of deer while dining at dusk was a highlight. Dinner is a four course prix fixe menu, or you can dine from the bar menu, which is what we did. The food was excellent. I’m a huge Negroni fan, and their oak barrel aged Negroni was one of the best I’ve had.
After a day of tastings and touring the valley, I can’t think of a better place to return to than the tranquility of Calistoga Ranch. Either lounging by the pool overlooking a small vineyard, taking in a spa treatment, or napping on your private deck, it’s the perfect way to detox and unwind. I can’t wait to return.
580 Lommel Road
Calistoga, CA 94515