Weekdays are the best kept secret in wine country. If ever you feel like playing hookey from work, I highly suggest taking advantage of the peace beneath the willows on Main Street. You will have it (nearly) all to yourself, or at least you will be able to cruise through sans traffic. Spas are made for weekdays, especially with their Monday-Thursday specials. Impossible-to-get-into restaurants are waiting for walk-ins mid-week. What better way is there to spend a day off?
On a recent Monday, my friend and I and zipped up to the Solage Calistoga to try their signature mud slide treatment. We figured we would not have any issues as walk-ins. At the very least, we would be 15-20 degrees warmer than our city selves. As a born and bred New Englander, I associate mid-May with green grass, late blooming daffodils, and the possibility of 70 degree days. The Bay Area is fast approaching its ‘unique’ summer season, and I am kicking myself for not packing more of those winter clothes that I swore I would never need again.
We were in luxurious terry robes within ten minutes of arriving at Solage, just a few minutes from the village. The locker room is large, glossy white, and feels brand new. Directly outside of the locker rooms are his and hers open-air lounges, also dressed in white, with modern seating and endless natural light. I would have been quite content to spend the day in this open space, one palm tree overhead, magazine and ice water in hand.
Around the corner at the Mud Bar, we sat on bar stools and smelled various essences which would be mixed in with our mud. I chose some form of muscle-relievement while my friend choose a stress-reducer, although if you ask me, all of the above is the goal of any kind of spa treatment, mud or no mud. We entered the bathhouse together, where our buckets of mad lay in waiting, along with damp towels and cucumber slices for our eyes, and an ice water in case we grew parched. We slathered the mud on ourselves, as opposed to a traditional mud bath which may not be as sanitary, and we lay down on the wood with natural light streaming in. After a certain amount of time, a gentleman knocked on the door and suggested that we turn on the showers to wash off the mud. The room has about 4 shower heads per person. I chose the heavenly traditional shower-head on one wall, while my friend turned on the overhead showers and remained laying down on the wood while the mud slowly streamed away from her. My skin felt smooth; I was not dry or taut. I also did not smell like mud, but rather hints of bergamot and ginger.
We put our robes back on and were escorted to the soaking tubs. Inside the second room, two oversized tubs were ready and waiting, each with another glass of ice water and a cool towel for our eyes. We submerged into the mineral water and were delighted that it was precisely the perfect temperature. After a rehydrating soak, we moved into the next room where we were each wrapped up like a cocoon on sound/vibration chairs. Personally I felt a little overheated so I kicked off my blanket halfway through. I also found the sound to be a little too loud in my headphones, so I removed them and listened to the staff speaking to each other outside, although I would have rather have listened to silence. I looked over at my friend who looked like her sound/vibration chair had rocketed her into space, where we both stayed for the remainder of the day. The entire experience was one hour, but we both felt like we had massage brains times five; perhaps there was marijuana in our mud.
The atmosphere on property is very relaxed; it is neither stuffy nor strict, as some spa properties can be. The staff are friendly and engaging, the guests are equally warm and casual, and vibe is Calistoga-cool. There are no views to be had, but there are many areas to lounge under the Napa Valley sun. We wiled the rest of the day away in the women’s only pool area, where we lounged under umbrellas with guacamole and crudite. We see-sawed between the 97 degree mineral pool with powerful jets and the adjacent sauna. After not enough time, we returned to the locker room to wash up for dinner.
Redd was the winner for our Monday evening dinner. Sticking to the spa-day theme, we ordered the yellowfin tuna tartare with avocado, cilantro, and chili oil; it is beautifully presented in an oval shape and most definitely had a chili kick to it. The beet salad was exquisitely plated. An orange reduction with orange licquor made up the base, and round trout rillettes rolled in pistachios were divine. Next we had the skate wing with perfectly cooked spring asparagus, and finally, to celebrate a birthday a few days ahead of time, we opted for the newly added orange cake with strawberries, rhubarb, and strawberry sorbet. It was a lovely light dessert.
If you have the time before dinner, let Beringer Winery’s winding drive entice you for a quick visit. The expansive property is a stunner on Main Street, just a hop away from the Culinary Institute at Greystone. I can picture dinner parties and weddings here, and I am already dreaming of a beautiful evening at the Rhine House. Frederick Beringer’s former estate was completed in 1884 by architect Albert Schroepfer with the family’s German home at Mainz-on-the-Rhine as inspiration. The ornate Victorian architecture is unique in wine country, with its historic gables, turrets, and ornaments. If you prefer to host a private event underground, ask the Beringer team about the aging tunnels, dug into the hillside of Spring Mountain in th elate 19th century. I myself prefer to be above ground in the company of pink roses and weeping willows.
Driving home was like floating through a 3-d version of Picasso’s ‘Starry Nights’ with the vineyards casting shadows against the sapphire sky. We felt dazed from the day; a total sense of contentment and calm enveloped our chariot all the way back to the city. Tuesday is so much more manageable after a Monday mud day. Think of it as active recovery from the weekend.