Even If You Have to Crawl To Get There
Our second delightful stay with Nick and Gillian for what is likely to become an annual tradition of spring hedonism in the cozy spa town of Calistoga. Having stayed in both their properties--the Craftsman Inn this year and the Wine Way Inn the previous--we can heartily recommend either as a comfortable, even luxurious base camp for your forays into the surrounding wineries, mineral baths, and world-class restaurants of the Napa Valley. Gillian's breakfasts alone are 'Vaut le Voyage' as Guide Michelin would say. On all mornings you'll be met in the warm, wood-paneled breakfast room with crumbly melt-in-your mouth scones of various stripes, rich press-pot coffee or a selection of teas, homemade granolas, seasonal fruits ranged along the built-in shelves. A daily main event varying from custardy, brioche-based french toast through flaky quiches to a mound of perfectly fluffed scrambled eggs, all accompanied by savory local bacon or sausages is served from the sideboard.
After a noble breakfast, you can of course spring forth into your day of discoveries along the Silverado Trail. But I recommend retiring back into the luxurious cocoon of your room for a short nap as the height of hedonism. All the fixtures are new, or look like it; the beds are firm and fresh and the general furnishings in keeping with the overall arts & crafts feeling of unpretentious luxury. Original wood paneling and beams glow darkly in bright, fresh walls throughout and furnishings are a harmonious blend of victorian, craftsman, and early deco styles: some repro, some original. Also--in the best British B&B tradition--there is a welcoming parlor providing a common area to muster in or linger with a mid-day cuppa or late-after noon stem of wine and conversation with your fellow travelers. Not to mention the tray with sherry and homemade biscuits (cookies) waiting in your room.
While the accommodations are of course important, the true test of a B&B is the personal hospitality and "home-from-home" feeling created by the innkeepers. Nick and Gillian provide a perfect balance of accessibility and anticipation without a hint of intrusiveness. Both are deeply knowledgeable about the area and are worth consulting even in you have already planned your campaign among the tasting rooms of the valley. They will cheerfully do their best to accommodate special needs within the limits of their resources. A personal example of this was an upgrade from an upstairs room at the Wine Way into a larger, ground-floor room (Howell) at the Craftsman when I called a week before our stay to ask about accessibility after having ruptured my Achilles tendon. (NB to ADA travelers: most B&B accommodation, and also many of the older hotels, in this area lie outside of the Title III requirements due to excessive costs of compliance within older construction.) This was deeply appreciated; doubly-so as it was offered even after I'd made it clear that the lure of Gillian's menus and our previous experience with their hospitality would have had me baby-crawling up and down stairs regardless. Hence the title of this review.
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