Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen without Cindy

We took a very quick overnight trip to the Napa Valley to view a house that a family relative is considering purchasing. On the way, we stopped in St. Helena for lunch at one of our favorite restaurants, Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen. Several weeks ago we read in the S.F. Chronicle that Cindy Pawlcyn had been in a car accident. The newspaper report indicated that Cindy suffered minor injuries. We asked our server how she was doing. She stated that Cindy’s injuries were extensive. She spent several weeks in the hospital and will not return to her kitchen for perhaps as long as 4 months. Our meal was excellent, but we felt something was amiss at the restaurant. Cindy is obviously missed by all. We wish Cindy a speedy recovery.

piquillo peppers stuffed

Stuffed piquillo peppers

A Visit to V. Sattui

Sign in tasting room

Sign in tasting room

I am always amazed at the number of folks who visit this winery and buy wine in huge amounts. I wonder, as probably winery owners in the Valley do, how it is that Dario Sattui is able sell all his wine out of his tasting room. None of the Sattui wine is distributed. The tasting room is a bevy of activity. Our server was efficient and knowledgeable. He knew each Sattui wine like the back of his hand. Impressive, to say the least. By the way, visitors can try one complimentary taste of wine, otherwise it is $15 to taste a lineup of several wines. We had previously tasted the Sattui wines as well as the wines from Castello di Amorosa, Dario’s newer winery located near Calistoga. The overall quality of the wines is very high. Winemaker Brooks Painter is the winemaker for both wineries. The St. Helena tasting room has a cheese and deli shop where visitors can purchase food items and head outside for a picnic lunch. No outside wine is allowed (understandable) and no outside food. I think that is a bit stiff on the food control, but it seems to work because the expansive picnic area is very busy. I need to do more digging into the tremendous success of Dario Sattui and his wines.

Calistoga Tidbits

In the late afternoon we walked along Lincoln Avenue, the business area of Calistoga. Since our last visit, there are a couple of new tasting rooms in town and one new restaurant. Do you remember Wappo, a restaurant with an eclectic menu? It closed down several years ago, but recently reopened as 1226 Washington. The menu looks great and, at the W.H. Smith Tasting Room, our server highly recommended it. We will give it a try the next time to Calistoga.

At the W.H. Smith tasting room, we shared a tasting of 6 wines for $15. The wines were all delicious but expensive. The Sauvignon Blanc was $28. The lineup of Pinot Noir wines was fantastic, but again expensive. Our favorite from the Sonoma Coast was above $50.

Solbar Restaurant at Solage

This is the top restaurant in Calistoga. The restaurant is situated in the beautiful and luxurious Solage resort. We had a lovely dinner outside in the warm evening air. The food, wine and atmosphere were excellent. Surprisingly, we found the service lacking. Slow, slow, and slower was our experience. For example, our party ordered a second bottle of wine and it took 10 minutes to arrive. The check including tip came to $390 for four.

The Solbar restaurant at Solage Resort

The Solbar restaurant at Solage Resort

Calistoga Cab Hopper

I would like to recommend this little taxi company that serves the Calistoga area. They are pricy at $5 a mile, but Calistoga is a small area. As it states in the brochure, taking the Hopper is more fun than spending a night in jail. We called the Hopper from the Solbar, and within ten minutes they were there to take us to our destination. I previously posted an article about the presence of Uber in the Napa Valley. However, they are not as yet servicing the Calistoga area of the Napa Valley.

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    Why we like Calistoga Wine Country

    Visitors to the Napa Valley often wonder what town in the Valley they should choose as a base while planning a wine vacation. “What town is the most fun?” we are often asked. Fun meaning good places to lodge, many choices for dining, boutique shopping, and of course wineries and tasting rooms to visit. The four major towns from south to north are Napa, Yountville, St. Helena and Calistoga. Janelle and I have stayed in each town many times over our years of adventures in the Napa Valley. Each town has something unique and delightful to offer. But if we had to make a choice as to which one was our favorite town, we would have to go with Calistoga.

    I don’t think Calistoga has changed much since I was a young boy. My parents would vacation in Clear Lake and we would always stop in Calistoga for a snack on the way to our Lake County camping spot. On our first trip together Janelle and I stayed at Dr. Wilkinson’s Hot Springs Resort, which today looks exactly the same as it did some 40 years ago. A trip down Lincoln Avenue in Calistoga is a trip down Napa Valley’s memory lane.

    Calistoga has always been, and we hope will always be, a laid-back town. The pace in Calistoga is less hectic and the shops and eateries a little more down-to-earth. It is definitely a quaint environment. We visit each December for Pauper’s Night at the Calistoga Inn. The natives come in droves and sing and party to Christmas cheer. It is an experience you won’t get in any other town in the Napa Valley. Unfortunately, the Calistoga Inn had a fire a couple of months ago and will not re-open for several months. I’m afraid there will not be a Pauper’s Night at the Inn this December.

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