Friday, January 25, 2008

Weekend Review, Part 4: Calistoga

It was so nice for a change to not have to get up at the buttcrack of dawn. We slept in until well past 9, then geared up and took up the breakfast recommendation of our wine sherpa from the day prior and tried Center Street Cafe right on the square in Healdsburg. It was outstanding- if you ever find yourself in Healdsburg, CA then I cannot recommend it enough.

We were planning on doing a mountain bike ride either in Annadel State Park in Santa Rosa or maybe Robert Louis Stevenson State Park near Calistoga, but the weather was dodgy, and we were undecided, so we decided to go for a nice drive through Alexander Valley and over the mountains to Calistoga, which is at the northern end of the Napa Valley. We figured we would go check it out and then decide what to do from there.

{click pics to enlarge}

Old Faithful Geyser of California

Beautiful drive through intermittent rain showers and sunshine, but by the time we arrived it was clear that this would be a cloudy, chilly, and rainy day. So we decided to check out the Old Faithful Geyser of California. One of only 3 geysers in the world which can be called 'Old Faithful', it normally erupts every 45 minutes to an hour, but when we went in it was erupting every 10 minutes. This was cool, as we got to see it 4 or 5 times while we ambled around and saw all that there was to see on the grounds, including llamas, fainting goats, sheep, etc.

Llama's eye view

Finally found the best framing, but didn't feel like standing
in the cold rain for another 10 minutes to get the money shot

Back in the car and the weather was still crap, so we succumbed to the cross marketing at Old Faithful Geyser and drove about 8 miles to another place called The Petrified Forest, and toured through there. It was pretty neat, with lots of petrified redwoods, although in all honesty not as cool as the trees on offer at Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona.

Cool mist on the mountain

But still worth the $5, if for anything else than to see Guido The Killer Pimp Squirrel in the gift shop.

Guido the Killer Pimp Squirrel

After that it was getting late so we decided to drive back along the Silverado Trail, a road that bypasses Napa Valley to the east of the main drag.

Roadside orchard near Calistoga

Calistoga and this area in general are famous for having natural hot springs, and it was really cool that we could see steam rising in many places from the various springs in the area. They complimented the clouds and made for pretty scenery on a cold and rainy day.

Steam from hot springs & clouds near Calistoga

On a whim I decided to stop of at Franks Family Vineyards, mainly because my dad loves this place in a freakishly cult way, and he told me recently that there is a picture of him, my mom, and their friends on the wall there. I had the idea to take my picture in front of his picture and send it to him, but when we went in the dudes there were beyond cool, and they poured us champagne while we searched for the photo. We are not ones to turn down free, high quality champagne, so we assented. This turned into a free pouring of all their champagnes, and then a few more people showed up and dude took us all in the back for a full on wine tasting.

Me at Franks pointing at the picture of my parents
the picture below the picture of my parents. D'oh!

All I can say is that my dad is right: this is some excellent shit, and if you are ever in Napa this is the first place I would recommend to you. Very cool people and great wine. I think we tried 12 wines in about 30 minutes, so after purchasing myself a birthday present of the best champagne I have ever tasted, we got some food to sober up for the drive home.

Suffice to say, we were beyond exhausted and it has taken a good chunk of this week just to get back to normal, whatever that is.

Here's the full set of pictures from our day in Calistoga.

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