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North America Travel: California Wine Country & Whitewater Rafting

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In this post we outline an itinerary geared for first time visitors to Calistoga/Napa/Sonoma with limited time. This is not intended to be a comprehensive overview of the region.

The two wineries selected offer guided tours for guests looking to expand their knowledge of wine and spend some time on a beautiful estate. Following wine tasting, spend some time in quaint Calistoga, experiencing a mud bath and downtown’s gems.

Day two of the itinerary includes a visit to the American River for Category III & III+ whitewater rafting.


Updated April 2021

Details

  • Two day, one night trip
  • Age 21+
  • Requires a car 

Places covered in this itinerary

  • California Wine Country
  • American River

Map of locations


Day 1

10:30 AM Frog’s Leap Winery: Garden Tasting Tour

History of Frog’s Leap Winery 

Frog’s Leap was originally started on a historic property in St. Helena known to be a commercial frog farm in the late 1800s. When John Williams first came to the Napa Valley in 1975, he began making wine for a little-known winery called “Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars.” In 1976, John and his friend Larry Turley made their first barrel of wine at the “Frog Farm” with “borrowed” grapes from Stag’s Leap, and coined the name “Frog’s Leap” as an inside joke. In 1981, John and Larry decided to get serious and the rest, as they say, is history.

Garden Tasting Backgrounder

Frog’s Leap is located in the Rutherford appellation of Napa Valley. For more than 25 years they’ve been well known for advancement of organic grape growing, dry farming and many aspects of biodynamics. A perfect spot to round out your exposure to Napa Valley, a winery larger than Reverie and smaller than Mondavi.

History & backgrounder descriptions come from Frog’s Leap Winery.

12:30 PM Lunch at Oakville Grocery

Oakville Grocery is a great spot to grab picnic provisions on your way to the next winery. This grocery store has a full deli (grab-and-go items & sandwich shop), a wood fire oven pizza, a large cheese, cracker, jam and dessert section and of course, wine. Lots of wine. 

2:00 PM Robert Mondavi Winery: Signature Tour and Tasting

Robert Mondavi established his namesake winery in 1966 with a vision to create Napa Valley wines that would stand in the company of the world’s finest. He chose To Kalon Vineyard in the heart of the Napa Valley as the home for Robert Mondavi Winery. This first-growth vineyard, located in Oakville, California, is renowned for producing some of the finest Cabernet Sauvignon wines in the world, as well as for its Sauvignon Blanc grapes, from which Mr. Mondavi crafted his signature wine, Fumé Blanc.

Signature Tour and Tasting Backgrounder

Most everyone who has ventured into the world of wine has heard of Robert Mondavi. He was really the driving force behind making Napa Valley know around the world and this iconic winery shouldn’t be missed.

This 90 minute, in-depth, winery tour goes from the vineyard to the cellar to the finished wine. Guests walk into the To Kalon Vineyard, visit the winemaking cellars (including fermentation and barrel aging) and receive a seated educational tasting of three wines.

History & backgrounder descriptions come from Robert Mondavi Winery.

4PM Check in to a Calistoga hotel

Hotel recommendations close to downtown

Calistoga Spa Hot Spring
1006 Washington Street, Calistoga, CA 94515
https://www.calistogaspa.com/
$$
Kitchenettes included in rooms
Onsite spa
Large pool
Indian Springs Calistoga
1712 Lincoln Avenue, Calistoga, CA 94515
https://www.indianspringscalistoga.com
$$$$
17 acres of rolling hills and ponds, olive trees and gardens
Activities like picnicking, onsite spa, garden exploration,
bicycling, swimming and soaking in mineral, lawn games
Evening: Mud Bath at Golden Haven Natural Hot Springs

http://www.goldenhaven.com/spatreat.html

1713 Lake Street, Calistoga, Napa Valley, California 94515

Mud Bath Experience Backgrounder

Experience a Calistoga tradition of soaking in hot springs & mud baths. Begin by showing off, getting into a mud bath and soaking. After some minutes, your therapist will apply a facial. Rinse off in a hot mineral shower. Finish the experience by making your to the massage room where a therapist will wrap you in a warm blanket and you will doze off.

FAQs about mud baths: http://www.goldenhaven.com/top_10_mud_bath.html


A few favorite spots in downtown Calistoga: 

Puerto Vallarta Market
1009 Foothill Boulevard Calistoga, CA 94515
Authentic Mexican food
Copperfield Books
1330 Lincoln Street Calistoga, CA 94515
An independent bookstore in the heart of town

Day 2

9:00 AM Depart Calistoga hotel for whitewater rafting

12:00 PM Lower South Fork American River: The Gorge Experience Whitewater Rafting offered by Sierra Whitewater Rafting  

This tour of the American River is perfect for beginners. Over a four-hour, 13 mile journey, you’ll white water raft on Class III & III+ rapids. 

  • What to wear: bathing suit and shorts, t-shirt, old tennis shoes (no flip-flops)
  • What to bring: water, dry clothes and shoes, towel, water, bag for wet clothes, snack
Waiting to begin our whitewater rafting adventure

Lower South Fork American River: The Gorg Experience Backgrounder

  • Meet at River’s Bend at 12pm to sign waivers
  • Safety debrief with guide. Helmet, paddle and personal flotation device provided.
  • Work with team to carry the raft down to the water with in-water orientation
  • Get into raft and begin adventure
  • Pace is relaxed for the first 4 miles with some rocks to jump off and rapids to swim in
  • Raft down the South Fork Gorge through Class III and III+ rapids like Fowler’s Rock, Satan’s Cesspool and Hospital Bar

What This Trip Cost

Accommodation

  • Hotel: $150

Transport

  • 1.5 tanks of gasoline = $60

Activities

  • Garden Tasting: $35 / person
  • Signature Tasting: $50 / person
  • Mud Bath: $74 / person + tip
  • Whitewater Rafting: $119-$128 / adult + $9 river access fees 

Food

  • Lunch day 1: $15 / person
  • Dinner day 1: $12 / person
  • Breakfast day 2: included with hotel fees
  • Lunch day 2: packed our own

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