Geysers, a food museum, and sake on our budget tour of Napa Valley

Day 3 budget

We started Friday with a hearty breakfast at Gordon’s Cafe and Wine Bar in Yountville. The restaurant has rustic farm tables to share and makes fantastic omelets. Kate and I split an egg plate and a pastry for $13.35.

After filling up, we strolled the posh, quiet town, walking past the old railroad depot, a gorgeous brick shopping center, and a more than 400-year-old oak tree. We even walked past one of the fanciest restaurants in the world, the French Laundry ― but it’s not the place to dine on a budget trip.

Our budget wouldn’t permit mud baths in Calistoga, either, which cost upward of $50, so we stopped at another area classic ― the Old Faithful Geyser of California. Admission was $7 each (with coupons from the geyser website). We were ushered into a yard with a big mud puddle. Kate raised her eyebrows― I could see she was thinking that we could have spent this money on wine. But soon, the puddle hissed and spit, and suddenly, a shot of water burst up, spraying higher and higher. You could call it reliably amazing.

Thomas J. Story

There was one more foodie temple on Kate’s list, Copia: The American Center for Wine, Food & the Arts. The 1 1/2-year-old cultural center ― part museum, part dining room, part wine and food center ― is in an airy modern building, with a lovely organic garden out front. After paying $12.50 admission each, we toured the gallery of food-inspired art objects. At the sniffing station, I couldn’t tell the difference between barbecue sauce and the aroma of baking bread, but Kate could. Then we attended a seminar on pairing wine with cheese, nibbling on the samples.

The capper for our three-day trip was a different kind of wine: sake. We’d gotten a coupon on the Web for free tastings at Hakusan Sake Gardens, so we tried a half-dozen rice wines, warm and cold. Outside, we followed the sake production line and walked around the Zen garden of sand, rocks, and cypress. It was a soothing way to conclude our bargain foray into the world of luxury. Heading home, Kate and I felt pampered ― and prudent. What a combo.

Day three
($9 in pocket)


Breakfast at Gordon’s in Yountville’s old market building: $13

Walking tour of Yountville: FREE

Seeing Calistoga’s Old Faithful Geyser erupt: $14

Copia for wine and food tasting: $25

Sake tasting at Hakusan Sake Gardens: FREE

Remaining change: $7

Total Spent: $393

Keep Reading: