Sonoma County, Mendocino, and Paso Robles are doing their best to attract wine country tourists and they are outspending Napa by a large scale. Not long ago, most folks traveling to California wine country were under the impression the Napa Valley was the only game in town. Could it be that people are opting to go to these other wine regions because they are being led to believe that the Napa Valley is too chic, too expensive, or too crowded. Bottom line, tourism is down in the Napa Valley. So in the works is a plan to have Napa hotels and B&B’s being asked to pay an assessment to fund a tourism business improvement district. This likely means we’ll see a little bit more tax on our Napa Valley hotel bill that should generate some 4 million dollars to promote tourism. Stay tuned.
Talk about no tourists, we spent a couple of days in Calistoga last week and as one tasting room worker said, “things are dark” around here. The popular Brannan’s restaurant was practically deserted except for bar patrons. By the way, Janelle says Brannan’s makes the best Manhatten she has ever tasted. They call it the Branhattan. The secret ingredient we found out is the Punta E Mes Vermouth.
Down the street was a different story at the Calistoga Inn restaurant. There was a waiting line to get into the restaurant where the 19th annual Pauper’s Feast was taking place. I think we may have been the only non-locals in the place. Everyone seemed to know each other. That night a $10 corkage fee was in place and we saw a lot of supermaket wine being cracked open. What a wonderful time we had just people watching and listening to a musical group playing up a storm of holiday jazz. If you happen to be in Calistoga next year around this time, be sure not to miss the Pauper’s Feast.
After 15 years the Napa Valley Grille closes it doors and just down the street a new and very chic restaurant opens up, the Cantinetta Piero. The Napa Valley Grille owners were said to close their doors because of a lease dispute but, any way you look at it, the recession bites again.
The Cantinetta Piero is part of the new Hotel Luca complex. The restaurant looks very inviting and is currently open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The restaurant menu looks reasonable enough but the hotel rates and spa services are very much upscale. One interesting note, the Hotel Luca has two rooms set up with a kitchenette for guests staying for 30 days or more. Price is $100 a night and we believe that includes breakfast. Now that sounds like a deal for someone who has to spend an extended time in the Napa Valley. The hotel is not quite ready for prime time; landscaping and a few other areas need to be completed but they are taking guests. We think for the next couple of months you can negotiate package deals.