Rob D. Brodman
Universally adored, guaranteed to perk you up, the antidote to winter blahs ― let's hear it for bubbles. They're round, they're cute, they're fun. And you can find them in all sorts of enjoyable forms in Calistoga, at the northern end of the Napa Valley.
This is one effervescent town. It has housed Old Faithful Geyser of California for eons and is a hot spot for hot-air ballooning. Plus you can slide into mud baths and sample our favorite kind of bubbly delight, sparkling wine. You just might float away.
Calistoga is 75 miles north of San Francisco and 25 miles north of the town of Napa. Downtown runs along Lincoln Ave. between State 29 and the Silverado Trail. For general area information, contact the Calistoga Chamber of Commerce (1506 Lincoln Ave.; 707/942-6333).
Schramsberg Vineyards. Tour the garden and hand-dug caves of one of California's first wineries to make bubbles in the méthode Champenoise style. $25, $45 for food pairings (by appointment Tue-Wed); 1400 Schramsberg Rd.; www.schramsberg.com or 707/942-4558.
All Seasons Bistro. Excellent French- and California-inspired dishes, and a good wine list. $$$; closed Mon; 1400 Lincoln Ave.; 707/942-9111.
Enoteca Wine Shop. Small store has dozens of well-chosen wines, many impossible to find elsewhere. Check out the unusual sparkling choices. 1348 Lincoln Ave.; 707/942-1117.
Indian Springs Resort & Spa. The sprawling complex offers an unfussy approach to the spa experience, with mud baths, a thermal pool, and a Buddhist garden. And the cabins are nice for an over-nighter. Cottages from $185, treatments from $75; 1712 Lincoln Ave.; www.indianspringscalistoga.com or 707/942-4913.Dr. Wilkinson's Hot Springs Resort. Founded by John Wilkinson in 1952 and now run by the doc's children, the spa offers soothing mud and mineral baths. Baths from $67; 1507 Lincoln Ave.; www.drwilkinson.com or 707/942-4102.
Old Faithful Geyser of California. The grassy private park has a picnic area, a snack shop, and a petting zoo. $8; 1299 Tubbs Lane; www.oldfaithfulgeyser.com or 707/942-6463.
FOR A SPLURGE
Ride a great big bubble into the sky with Calistoga Hot Air Balloons ($195 per person for one-hour flight, including breakfast; www.calistogaballoons.com or 888/995-7700). You'll float down-valley with a view of Mount St. Helena and vineyards in the early-morning light. With skies scrubbed clean after winter storms, the views now should be crystal clear. Afterward, enjoy a breakfast of omelets, hash browns, and sparkling wine on solid ground.