Calistoga, CA

Home: Bothe-Napa Valley State Park hiker/biker campsite

Wine tasting! Or more-accurately, winery-viewing. With a bit of tasting thrown in. Our whole approach to Napa had very little to do with tasting/buying fancy-pants Napa wines (it’s hard for people paying $12/night for their Napa accomodations to have very fancy pants), and more just experiencing the feeling of being in a place with a relatively-long history of making fancy-pants wines. Which meant that Rett’s strategy of choosing a winery by reading a list of the best-looking places made perfect sense to me.

Gotta get the fancy chocolate pairing too, right?

And so Castello di Amorosa was the obvious choice. A Tuscan-style castle, only two miles from the campground. Reservations required, and over $100 for a “tasting” for the two of us is definitely a winery price-level we aren’t used to. Sound risky, and a good chance to be a ripoff, but also maybe right up our alley?

Parked the bikes at the bottom of the hill, and…walked into medieval Tuscany.
Yep, that’s a legit castle.

It turns out that this “medieval castle” was only completed in 2007, which normally would set off alarm bells, indicating something even more plastic and chintzy than Medieval Times Dinner and Tournament®.

The Napa Valley, with a castle in it.

But instead, we found the most-impressive execution of “new thing designed to look old” that we’ve ever seen in our lives. And that was certainly the creator’s intention: many of the materials were brought over from genuinely old Italian castles, and built by craftsmen using historical methods. And we could not just see the results of that effort, we could feel it.

On-site chapel.
Frescoes of the 7 deadly sins inside the chapel.
Rett lighting a candle for her Italian mom.

And the wine was good too! You’d figure that in a place where the entire draw is the setting, they could serve Welch’s Grape Juice and no one would care, but I guess if you commit to such attention to detail when creating the setting, it’s hard to abandon that pride when you get around to making the wine.

A beautiful flower, standing in front of a rose.
Traffic cone storage building (yeah, the illusion was really good, but not perfect).
Just left of this passage was a plastic tent filled with overly made-up people trying way too hard to impress one another. I guess maybe they were playing the role of the nobility?
The stone!
Rusty ironwork everywhere added to the authentic feel.
November Rose.
Recreating a photo from our first bike tour, this time with a real rose.

After our 10:15am(!!) wine tasting and guiding ourselves through every bit of the castle (including the incredible bathrooms), we rode down the valley to a fancy-pants lunch outside St. Helena. Then a grocery run, and a ride back to camp via the Silverado Trail, the road on the east side of the valley that turned out to have a more relaxed wine-country feel than the drive-you-off-the-road chaos of the west side’s CA 128.

When we got back to our site, we met Bill from Colorado, a bike tourer winding up a spin through California, camped at the site across from us. The hiker/biker site at Bothe-Napa Valley is a bit unusual, in that it’s pretty specifically an individual site, with one (small) picnic table, one fire ring, and one food box, rather than a site designed to be shared. And since we weren’t around when Bill arrived, he couldn’t ask us to share, but luckily the ranger let him have a “normal” site for the hiker/biker price. But we had him over to share our campfire, and figured out a space for him to move over to the hiker/biker site for the next night. Given that our previous night’s stay was born out of campsite-sharing, we’re definitely going to welcome every opportunity to do so!



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One response to “Calistoga, CA”

  1. Jan Avatar

    Yep, moving to Colorado from the NW surely has brought about more fall color enjoyment!! It is my favorite season, so beautiful!!

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