When Craig and I moved to the Bay Area back in 1984, we spent many weekends in the Napa Valley -- touring the wineries, tasting, planning menus, choosing just the right vintage for this or that event.
Yes -- someone should have smacked us. No one did, but we effectively smacked ourselves and went and had children. So instead of themed dinner parties we had Kraft Macaroni and Cheese washed down with whatever swill we could afford that week. And we never had a chance to get away on our own.
A few years later, when we were able get an occasional wondrous weekend on our own -- because grandparents took pity on us and the planets aligned with supreme perfection -- we headed back to Napa.
Calistoga is our favorite town in the Valley -- because we can park the car when we arrive and not have to get back behind the wheel until we leave town. I can relax and have a good time, knowing that "Oh, joy! We didn't die in a fiery crash and leave our children orphaned!" At least not until the ride home. I get a couple days of no worries and fine wine.
There are probably 25 restaurants (most of them excellent) and bars (always fun) within walking distance of our favorite hotel/spa. In real life, we live a fair distance out in the country. So we especially enjoy vacationing where we can walk a block or two - listen to a band, stop in for a cocktail or a plate of calamari -- without making a 30 minute driving commitment.
We stay at The Roman Spa, where we enjoy long, luxurious soaks in the three hot mineral pools and lounging and people-watching on the many nicely appointed patios. The grounds are landscaped with flowers and fountains, and the entire spa is clean and well-cared for. The rooms are one of the best values in town.
Last weekend we enjoyed some incredible meals -- calamari at The Calistoga Inn, champagne and martinis at our favorite bar at Brannan's, scampi at Flat Iron Grill, some of the best Eggs Benedict ever at Miquel's.
The favorite meal for me, though, was lunch of bread, Greek olives and an assortment of cheeses from the well-stocked deli at the Cal Mart. Oh, yes, and wine -- Ravenswood Zinfandel - a great value at about $10. The fresh cherries and strawberries we picked up at the morning Farmer's Market rounded out the meal.
We enjoyed our feast on one of the hotel patios, beside a fountain, where damsel flies and dragon flies flitted about. Even more entertaining than the colorful buzzing critters though, are the wine tasters returning to their rooms - buzzing in their own delightful way - after a day of cruising the Valley.
Good wine, good food and good fun. How soon can we go back?